Jesse Zimmerman is one of the two students who were reprimanded by York University for their behavior on Feb. 11, 2009 when a group of students had to escape to the Hillel office where a mob chanted outside their doors that racists should leave campus and that Zionism is racism.
There used to be a video on Youtube, now gone, of Jesse Zimmerman and a mob of supporters outside the Hillel offices chanting against Zionists by accusing them of racism and demanding the racists leave campus. Zimmerman is heard saying, “Zionism does not speak for Jews. Zionism is an embarrassment. Shame on the Zionists.”
Jesse Zimmerman has a blog and on that blog he claims that the accusations against him and others are untrue and unfair. He denies any wrongdoing on the part of the other students as well as himself.
He writes about the reported coverage of that day:
No specific allegations of anti-Semitism appear in the YU Free Press report (Feb. 12), the Globe and Mail report (Feb. 13), or the Excalibur report (Feb. 18). Chants including “Shame on Hillel,” “Zionism is racism,” and “Racists off campus” are reported. (Not messaging everyone can get behind, but hardly anti-Semitic.)
Um, this is called “deflection.”
The press conference which drew the mob led by Zimmerman and incoming student federation president, Krisna Saravanamuttu, was a Drop YFS press conference. Drop YFS was a group formed in December of the previous year in response to what was perceived to be poor management by the leadership of the YFS – the York Federation of Students – during a strike held by contract instructors and teaching assistants.
In other words, this event had nothing to do with Zionism, Judaism, Palestinians or even with racism. It is true that many of the vociferous members of Drop YFS are Jewish and many were active members of Hillel and Hasbara at York, two Jewish groups on the York University campus. However, the Drop YFS students did not bring in their religion, their religious views, or any other biases into their campaign against the YFS leadership. This campaign to remove that leadership was focused on the YFS’s mistakes in the previous months.
And yet, even though this press conference was about the YFS, and even though Drop YFS focused on the YFS and did so before the YFS passed a motion attacking Israel for the Gaza incursion, Jesse Zimmerman is suggesting that it is not anti-Semitism to focus on Jewish factors (yes, even if you just use the word Zionism) instead of battling Drop YFS on the basis of their accusations against the YFS.
He doesn’t seem to realize that in doing so, he is treading on anti-Semitic ground. Why single out Jewish students? There were Jews and non-Jews in Drop YFS and Zionism was not part of their platform. Why chase these students back to an office identified as a Jewish organization’s office and attack people who call for the impeachment of a student government for its missteps “racists” and “Zionists” and demand they leave the campus? Why evoke deep hostility outside their door not on the basis of their claims but on the basis that they are supporters of Israel? How does one conclude that a person on Drop YFS must be a Zionist or a racist. Why bring up Zionism in any context, much less one of racism, when the discussion is about the YFS and their work?
Such actions can only be interpreted as an attempt to single out a particular group and use their heritage as a cudgel with which to attack them publicly – or worse. Since the focus here was upon Jews (and please don’t play semantic games here that only the word “Zionists” was used since there was no way to know whether these individuals were Zionists or not other than the fact that SOME were Jewish and openly supportive of Israel), how can these actions not be considered anti-Semitic?