‘Spring into Diversity’ exposes anti-Semitism and anti-Israel popular culture

by Allyson Myers, Staff Writer

Two students gave a talk on anti-Semitism and anti-Israel as part of the “Spring into Diversity” event series.

President of Jewish Student Union Aaron Levin-Fay, and business marketing junior Isaac Lutbak presented “Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israel in Popular Media and Culture” in Templo Mayor on Feb. 23.

Levin-Fay began the presentation by providing a history of anti-Semitism in Western culture, from the Crusades in the twelfth century to the Holocaust. He said the history of anti-Semitism is far-reaching.

“Anti-Semitism dates back to pretty much ancient times, with the Greek and Roman empires,” he said.

The issue of anti-Semitism on campus at San Diego State was recently a topic of conversation in September 2016, when the Students for Justice in Palestine invited a speaker, Miko Peled, who had referred to Jews as “sleazy thieves.” The talk was canceled.

Jewish news organization Algemeiner named SDSU 19 on the list for worst North American college campus for Jewish students for 2016, citing this incident as well as the protests following President Hirshman’s response to anti-Muslim posters that were posted around campus and a student-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.  

Divestment is closely linked to anti-Zionism. While anti-Zionism is distinct from anti-Semitism, Levin-Fay said “anti-Zionism often manifests itself as anti-Semitism.”

Zionism is a movement for the re-establishment, development and protection of a Jewish nation in what is now known as Israel, Levin-Fay said.

“So essentially it’s the belief that Israel has a right to exist where it currently is,” he said.

Levin-Fay showed an image of a protester holding a sign with the star of David, the symbol for Jews and the swastika, the Nazi symbol.

The sign indicated that Israel’s policies are similar to Nazi policies, evoking the Holocaust and the genocide of the Jewish people in Europe.

Levin-Fay said someone can be critical of policies of Israel, but once it becomes defamatory it becomes anti-Semitism.

“(In) modern day anti-Semitism, what we see today is that the themes are that Jews control the media, or they control politics, or that they just generally have a desire to control the world,” Levin-Fay said.

Lutbak  said media reports favor a Palestinian narrative, and cropped or fake images on the internet create a false portrayal of Israel and the Israeli army.

He previously lived in Jerusalem and served in the Israeli army.

Lutbak ended the presentation by discussing ways in which students can promote a positive image of Israel.

He suggested focusing on positive aspects of Israeli culture; for instance, Tel Aviv is known as the most LGBT-friendly city in the Middle East.

“Showing that Israel isn’t the horrible place it’s made out to be is a really good way to show it in a positive light,” Levin-Fay said.