To the Editor:
Much of the debate over Kwame Ture has revolved around whether he is anti-Semitic. Part of targeting, categorizing and perpetuating prejudice against a group is to make blanket statements and monolithic generalizations about the group. Ture was brought here as part of a series on identity politics. One of the tenets of identity politics is that members of a given community define their identity for themselves; those outside the community should not presume to define the community's identity for them. It is presumptious for non-Jews to define and decide for Jewish students what is or is not anti-Semitic.
We would like to address some of the ways in which Kwame Ture perpetuated anti-Semitism in his lecture.
1) "Jews look for suffering. Judaism requires that Jews bring suffering upon themselves in order to redeem themselves and to redeem the world." This statement is both inaccurate and offensive. First, it is inaccurate because Judaism does not mandate suffering; there is no element of salvation through suffering in Judaism.
It is highly offensive because it claims that persecution and suffering inflicted upon Jews was brought on by the Jews; it is a blame-the-victim tactic. The persecution and suffering felt by Jews throughout history has been neither sought out nor desired.
2) "Judaism is only a religion. If you don't believe in God you are not a Jew." This is also both inaccurate and offensive. It is inaccurate because according to Jewish law, if your mother is Jewish you are Jewish regardless of whether you practice.
This is offensive because it completely denies cultural heritage and ethnicity. There are many factors which define a Jewish identity, all of which have equal legitimacy.
3) "The only good Zionist is a dead Zionist." This statement is offensive and anti-Semitic because hundreds of thousands of Jews are Zionists according to numerous definitions of Zionism. Thus, Ture would like these thousands of Jews dead. He is proposing mass murder based on sweeping generalizations of an ideology and people are debating whether this is acceptable.
These tactics and statements have been used against Jews throughout history. Ture's speech was a clear example of anti-Semitism. While we recognize Ture's importance for many students, we hope that students will recognize the significance that Ture's unjustifiable anti-Semitims holds for us.
Copyright © 1996, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 124, Number 18; March 15, 1996
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