Opinion Submission: Student Union Senate failed WashU’s Jewish community

| Class of 2026

I write this piece with a feeling of frustration following the passing of the resolution by the Student Union for Washington University to divest from Boeing. Yes: 15; No: 5; Abstain: 1. Disappointed, but not surprised. Only a few minutes in, I could already count 11 of 21 senators clapping at the end of any speech calling Israel a genocidal, apartheid, child-killing war machine. It was quite clear how this vote would go. But those who opposed the resolution stood our ground and continued the discussion for four hours. Why? Because it was important that this all be said out loud.  

The University needed to hear our senators repeatedly follow phrases like, “I know people are concerned about this resolution causing a rise in antisemitism on this campus,” and “I know that Jewish students will feel unsafe if this is passed,” with the word “but” to expose their neglect, and in some cases, unequal treatment of Jewish and Zionist students at WashU. The student body needed to witness senators acknowledging that their action would harm Jewish students, accepting this reality, and then going ahead and doing it anyway.

I understand the desire to pressure the Israeli government to take even greater care to avoid civilian casualties, but actions that do not actually accomplish this and only harm the Jewish community at WashU simply aren’t worth doing. 

Before this meeting, the 15 “yes” senators had the outlet to say, “I didn’t know this resolution would be harmful to the Jews on our campus. I thought it was just about divesting from Boeing.” But then I stood at the front of the room as a Jewish student, and explained how rallying hundreds of students behind a resolution that disproportionately demonizes the only opportunity for Jewish self-determination endangers Jewish students at WashU. Supporting a resolution that aims to strip the only country dedicated to protecting Jews of the ability to defend itself against a government dedicated to Jewish annihilation causes Jewish students to doubt their safety here. If one advocates for my Jewish family in Israel to be defenseless against Hamas, how can I feel safe sitting next to that same person in class the next day?  I looked the senators in the eyes, and said, “This is harmful to Jewish students at WashU. We are scared.”  

Yes, someone before me said that they don’t think this resolution was driven by antisemitic sentiments. Yes, someone after me doubted that it would increase antisemitism on our campus. But why do these different narratives necessarily invalidate mine? I shouldn’t be told by others that I’m not feeling alienated or targeted for being Jewish if I truly feel that I am. 

In an age of increased acknowledgment and understanding of victims of emotional and psychological abuse, I demand that my Jewish experience be valued equally to any other victim’s experience. It is incredulous to me that someone who is not Jewish would claim that the resolution isn’t antisemitic after over 2,100 WashU-affiliated people (500+ undergrads, 478 parents, 701 alumni, and 430 community members), most of them Jewish, signed a petition saying that it is. If a person of one race made a racist comment to someone of another race, but then denied that the comment was racist, we would surely reject his claim immediately and defer to the victim to define if it was acceptable to say. Why does that attitude suddenly shift when people discuss hatred towards Jews? 

One senator was especially sympathetic to this question in admitting that he did not fully understand why this resolution was antisemitic in nature or how it might contribute to people feeling afraid to be openly Jewish at WashU. Nevertheless, he was listening to the hundreds of Jews voicing their fears and refused to ignore those testimonies — so he voted “no.” I’m deeply saddened that the 15 “yes” senators lacked the same moral clarity and sense of social responsibility. 

Whether each of those 15 senators believed the Jewish students’ concerns or not, they showed their true colors. Either they discriminately invalidated Jewish students’ suffering by denying the legitimacy of their appeals for safety of body and mind, or they accepted their role in causing Jewish students to suffer and voted “yes” anyway. These were the only two choices after those four hours of pleas from the Jewish community. 

Further, the way in which the sponsors chose to effect change for innocent civilians in Gaza speaks volumes. I think the most astute point brought up by a senator was in reference to the sheer hours of human time that went into this resolution. Considering the negligent effects that senators said this would have on University policy, it was surprising to see how much work they put into passing the resolution. All of this effort could have been dedicated to collecting money to send to starving civilians in Gaza or meeting with WashU administrators to influence actual tangible change in WashU’s supposed impact on Israel’s war against Hamas. Actions like these might actually impact the lives of civilians in Gaza, instead of simply making statements that never reach their ears, nor those of the U.S. and Israeli governments.

The sponsors and Resist WashU leaders purposely choosing this public and dramatic forum instead of taking real impactful action to support innocent civilians in Gaza sent a message to the Jewish community loud and clear: Obsessively spreading hatred of Israel and its supporters through ineffective pro-Palestine work is significantly more important to those pushing the resolution than truly helping those they claim to care for. 

Multiple senators who expressed support for the resolution even acknowledged that the resolution would have no real-world effect on WashU’s continued engagement with Boeing, especially given Chancellor Martin’s steadfast public opposition to divestment. And yet, when given the opportunity to protect their Jewish peers or vote for the resolution that lacked any tangible positive effect, they shamelessly chose the latter. SU Senate voted that certain students’ satisfaction from 15 students publicly declaring their anti-Israel sentiments was worth endangering (both physically and psychologically) WashU’s almost 1900 Jewish students

Despite the understandable distress caused by this meeting full of buzzwords, bigotry, and logically decrepit arguments, I’d like to offer a message of support to my fellow Jewish students and anyone who believes that there should be a Jewish state in the Jews’ ancestral homeland. I’m not convinced that the results of this meeting represent the sentiments of the wider student body. For one, only 2 of 21 senators were Jewish, a far smaller proportion than the one-in-four proportion of all WashU undergraduate students who are Jewish. 

It has also become somewhat popular in universities for student governments to pass anti-Israel resolutions. Therefore, excluding the senators who introduced and/or passionately supported the resolution, I could imagine a reality where some votes were a response to immense pressure from the social trends of American universities and the intimidation of the loud, angry crowd supporting the resolution. 

Multiple senators implied that this resolution has no concrete effect on Israel’s continued campaign against Hamas, so there’s no need to worry about it jeopardizing the safety of the Arab, Christian, and Jewish citizens of Israel. The only substantive effect this resolution might have is intimidating and alienating Jewish students on our campus, and it is this effect that we can and must resist. 

If we continue to openly support the Jewish right to self-determination in Israel, as well as American Jews’ right to express their identities freely, we render this entire proceeding null. The best way to bounce back from this attack is to continue to be proudly Jewish and Zionist at WashU, both as individuals and as a community. 

Meanwhile, we can all hope for the immediate return of the hostages, dismantling of Hamas’ terror capabilities, and safety and wellbeing of non-combatants on both sides of the conflict.

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