Let's have a responsible, mature discussion about Israel and Palestine at UC Davis

We are thoroughly disheartened by the level of rhetoric surrounding the discussion at UC Davis about divesting from some Israeli businesses. A student senate resolution passed recently asking the University of California to divest from Israeli military action. This, students say, is a way of exerting pressure on Israel to change its policies toward the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

That this discussion of a serious international and humanitarian issue would result in anti-Semitic acts, as well as Islamophobic responses, is disappointing.

We are faced with some unpleasant realities. The first is that anti-Semitism, often referred to as “the longest hatred,” is far from a thing of the past. The next unpleasant reality is that, in our current culture, criticism of Israel and its policies is all too often conflated with anti-Semitism.

It is quite possible—in fact, among thoughtful people, very likely—to believe that Israel, a democracy, must be safe from attack and at the same time believe that Israeli policy concerning the separation, containment and treatment of Palestinians is a violation of democratic ideals.

This is exactly the same sort of thinking that allows us to love our own country while still condemning its institutional racism and ongoing military fiascoes.

Criticizing Israel does not make us anti-Semites. It is up to those of us who are capable of making this sort of distinction to take the lead in discussions about the situation between Israel and the Palestinians, and to make clear that anti-Semitism will not be tolerated.

UC Davis is precisely the place where students should be both encouraged and guided toward this sort of maturity. It is up to the rest of us to lead by example.