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Battle at Rutgers: When ‘Never Again’ Is Misused

Battle at Rutgers: When ‘Never Again’ Is Misused

Never Again!

These words express the determination of all who vow never to allow another Holocaust against anyone. Yet these words are being abused by a new national tour entitled “Never Again For Anyone,” a program that seeks to link the atrocities committed against the Jewish people by the Nazis to Israeli governmental policies.

Many have heard about the events that unfolded at Rutgers University last Saturday when the “Never Again For Anyone” organizers changed their entrance policy and barred students and members of the community from entering. Some 400 pro-Israel students and community members gathered before the event to stage peaceful demonstrations against it.

The program’s sponsors and campus endorsers, including Rutgers’ student organization BAKA: Students United for Middle East Justice, had advertised that this program was “free and open to the public.” However, that night, in the face of the rapidly growing number of protesters, the decision was made to charge admission to all in attendance. Sara Kershnar, founder of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN), explained to those already inside the event that, “When we saw that there were … Zionists outside, we decided to charge.”

After witnessing the removal of a sign outside proclaiming that no one would be turned away for lack of funds, I saw that many students who were BAKA members and their partners entered the event for free. Since BAKA members were receiving preferential treatment, I asked to join the group. My attempt was denied (violating a Rutgers policy that requires official organizations to accept all Rutgers students), and so I joined the hundreds of students waving their student ID’s above their heads chanting, “Free and open to the public,” the language that had been used on invitations as well as the “Never Again For Anyone” website.

Unfortunately, my friends never made it inside the event, but I was kindly given $5 and pushed to the front to enter.

But this is not about $5, $10 or $20. It is about honesty and integrity.

According to Kershnar, Israel’s policies toward Palestinians mirror the murder, starvation and dehumanization that Jews experienced at the hands of the Nazis and that the intent of the “Never Again For Anyone” national tour was to send a universal message of “Never Again” in the face of what she terms “the ethnic cleansing” of Palestine.

Members of the panel, which included two Holocaust survivors, asserted that Zionists had manipulated the experiences of Jews in Europe to justify Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians. The personal accounts of Hedy Epstein and Dr. Hajo Meyer, both Holocaust survivors (and veteran anti-Israel activists), as well as Dawud Assad, a survivor of the Deir Yassin massacre were incredibly sad and moving. Yet moved though I am by their stories, I reject their baseless conclusion that Israeli policies are akin to those of the Nazis.

Speaking to the 130 individuals who had gained admittance, the program’s final speaker, Osama Abu-Irshaid, a member of American Muslims for Palestine, charged, “You have the offspring of the victims of the Holocaust justifying a Holocaust committed against another people!” Make no mistake, despite repeated assertions that this event would not suggest that Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza constituted a Holocaust, Mr. Abu-Irshaid expressed that this was the case.

There are three issues involved with linking the Holocaust to the current situation in Gaza and the West Bank. First, the Holocaust cannot be compared to any event in human history without insulting the memory of those executed by the Nazis. Politicizing the Holocaust diminishes its significance and minimizes the suffering of its victims.

Second, by comparing it to the Holocaust, the event organizers have also done an injustice to many Palestinians who are truly suffering. Delegitimizing the experience of those who live in Gaza and the West Bank promotes hatred, not healing, the true goal of the event organizers. Yes, Israel is at fault for some of it, but focusing solely on Israel completely absolves Hamas and Fatah, both of which have committed the crimes of which they accuse Israel, as well as terrorist funders across the Arab world and in Iran.

Third, the demonization of the State of Israel is unjustified as it focuses solely on Israel as the root of all problems.

According to the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism, “Criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded in itself as anti-Semitic.”

However, “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” is, in fact, not only anti-Zionist, but anti-Semitic as well.” The “Never Again for Anyone” tour will bring its message to 12 different cities. Campuses and communities across America must understand its message and goal. Its target is not only Israel, but the right of the Jewish people to our history.

We are ready for this fight. Last Monday evening, Reps. Leonard Lance and Frank Pallone attended a dinner sponsored by Rutgers Hillel and local Jewish federations to speak to over 100 student leaders about the significance of the U.S.-Israel relationship. My fellow students and Israel activists are unafraid of passionate debate, but we are prepared to confront all those who undermine Israel and threaten the security of the Jewish people. Never again should anyone misuse the Holocaust to advance a political agenda.

Never again!

Sam Weiner is junior at Rutgers studying Jewish Studies and Political Science. He is a member of Rutgers Hillel and is a member of the board of directors of Hillel International.

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