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The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Being pro-Palestine isn’t antisemitic; neither is being anti-Israeli policy

Quinn Fanta

Free speech is under attack across Texas college campuses due to the ulterior motives of Gov. Greg Abbott.

On March 27, Abbott issued Executive Order GA-44, “Relating to addressing acts of antisemitism in institutions of higher education” with the supposed intention to “fight the increase in acts of antisemitism at colleges… and ensure a safe learning environment for Jewish students and all Texans.”

The stated intentions of the order are entirely reasonable, especially following the surge in actual antisemitic activity seen across the nation since Oct. 7, 2023, when Hamas launched an attack resulting in the deaths of 1,200 people in Israel.

However, when analyzing the executive order, it becomes apparent Abbott has little intention of fighting actual antisemitism, but rather, silencing pro-Palestinian sentiments on college campuses.

This is most apparent when analyzing exactly what the executive order classifies as antisemitic rhetoric. The order directly condemns the phrase “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” saying it has “long been used by Hamas supporters to call for the violent dismantling of the State of Israel and the destruction of the Jewish people who live there.”

The phrase, which existed far before Hamas, has meaning and history beyond the shortsighted knowledge of the governor’s office. The chant has been used by Muslim and Jewish groups alike to call for the end of Israel’s occupation.

Jewish Voice for Peace Austin (JVP Austin) said in an email to The University Star, the chant is rather a “call for freedom and justice which includes the end of Israeli apartheid.”

“It’s not antisemitic to call for Palestinian liberation from occupation and settler colonialism in your homeland, which geographically stretches from the river to the sea,” JVP Austin said in an email.

The unsubstantiated exaggerations in the executive order do not stop at chants. The largest issue with the executive order is it broadly conflates being pro-Palestinian liberation with being antisemitic. This conflation is absurd. There is nothing anti-Jewish about being against the onslaught of Palestinian people.

According to Al Jazeera, as of April 19, at least 34,012 people have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, including nearly 14,000 children. That number does not account for the 76,000 injured and the 1.1 million facing food insecurity. What is antisemitic about saying this is unacceptable?

JVP Austin also said it rejects the conflation of pro-Palestinianism and antisemitism.

“Not only does the weaponization of antisemitism disproportionately impact Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims and other people of color, it also distracts us from real antisemitism that is largely perpetuated by white supremacists,” JVP Austin said in an email.

White supremacism, antisemitism and Islamophobia are all prevalent in recent Texas history. It’s an unfortunate reality that it was a Texas State student who set fire to the Congregation Beth Israel (CBI) synagogue in Austin in 2021.

In Victoria, Texas, the mosque where my own parents were married was set ablaze in 2017. Both of these acts of hatred and ignorance speak volumes about the actual problems that need addressing in Texas.

The fact of the matter is Jewish, Palestinian, Arab and Muslim communities are all incredibly vulnerable right now. Abbott failed to address this fact.

He failed to address it in February when Zacharia Doar, a Palestinian American, was stabbed after attending a pro-Palestinian protest in Austin. He again failed to address it in April when two Muslim students at the University of Texas were physically and verbally assaulted near campus.

To address the vulnerabilities of these communities, it is the responsibility of the Texas State community to affirm its solidarity with both Palestinian and Jewish communities while making opposition to Israeli policy loud and clear.

“The only way to dismantle antisemitism is through solidarity with other oppressed communities, including Palestinians,” JVP Austin said in an email.

After Oct. 7, in the Multicultural Lounge inside the Honors College, the Palestinian flag that had long hung was taken down by a member of the administration. The student-led Pan African Action Committee (PAAC) created the multicultural center in 2016 in an attempt to designate a space for minority and under-represented communities on campus.

Through communication with the administration, the decision to remove the flag was revoked and it hangs again. However, due to complaints, its time may be limited. Students can stand against this decision and the Abbott-style illogic behind it by signing a petition or contacting the college with their concerns.

Some in the administration have argued if the Palestinian flag remains up, the Israeli flag must go up as well. Justification for this is that doing so stands as a symbol of unity when discussing the days following the war. While this may be an appropriate symbol in the future, given the current context, hanging the flag of the oppressor next to the oppressed would only feel like a slap in the face to marginalized communities on campus.

Luckily for San Marcos residents and Texas State students, finding places to learn and take action is becoming easier and more accessible every day.

The Palestine Solidarity Committee on campus started in February but is already filled with students eager to teach and learn. Palestine Solidarity SMTX, a San Marcos-based group, is constantly advocating and speaking at the city council’s citizen comment forum for a ceasefire resolution.

In the wake of Abbott’s attempted assault on free speech, we must refuse to allow political agendas to muzzle voices advocating for justice. Let’s transform this campus into a beacon of genuine dialogue and equity. It’s incumbent upon our community to stand in unwavering solidarity with all marginalized communities while fiercely opposing policies that perpetuate oppression. The time to act is now.

-Zayna Abdel-Rahim is an international relations senior

The University Star welcomes Letters to the Editor from its readers. All submissions are reviewed and considered by the Editor in Chief and Opinions Editor for publication. Not all letters are guaranteed for publication.

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