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Stanford Student Senator: Not Anti-Semitic to Question Whether Jews Control Media and Banks

A Stanford student senate hearing on a bill to fight anti-Semitism ended in controversy after one of the senators argued that questioning whether Jews control the government, media, and banks is not anti-Semitic, The Stanford Review reported on Tuesday. The senator’s statement preceded the adoption of a series of amendments that largely gutted the bill.

“[The resolution] says: ‘Jews controlling the media, economy, government, and other societal institutions’ [is] a fixture of anti-semitism that we [inaudible] theoretically shouldn’t challenge,” Gabriel Knight, a junior, was quoted as saying. “I think that that’s kind of irresponsibly foraying into another politically contentious conversation. Questioning these potential power dynamics, I think, is not anti-semitism. I think it’s a very valid discussion.” Knight later backtracked slightly, saying that he understood that the “Jewish community could be offended by that.” According to the Review, he added that describing the statement that Jews control a society’s major institutions as “anti-Semitic” is making a “political statement,” which the senate should be cautious about doing.

The bill was introduced by senator Molly Horwitz and originally called for the “three D’s” of delegitimization, demonization, and double standards against Israel to be regarded as anti-Semitism. The same criteria has been adopted by the U.S. State Department and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

Student senators affiliated with Students of Color Coalition (SOCC), an umbrella group that supports divestment from Israel, attempted to dilute the language of the bill, including by questioning whether the ADL was qualified to educate the students on anti-Semitism. Some, Knight included, argued that the bill on anti-Semitism needed “some language to acknowledge Palestinians’ rights to self-determination” along with the rights of Jewish people.

Two prospective candidates for next year’s student senate, Elliot Kaufman and Matthew Wigler, have called on Knight to remove himself from consideration for candidacy.

Horwitz, who called Knight’s statement “offensive,” defended the use of  the ADL’s standard for defining anti-Semitism, arguing that “saying that you don’t like the ADL, which is probably the only organization that specifically works on [issues of anti-semitism] is like saying that the NAACP is unfit to talk about racism.”

Seven amendments to the bill were ultimately passed, including one that removed language defining Zionism “as the belief in Israel’s right to exist and the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in their ancestral homeland” from the preamble, and another that specifically rejected defining the use of double standards or delegitimization against Israel as anti-Semitism.

Cardinal for Israel, the Stanford pro-Israel campus group that cosponsored the bill, announced that it would withdraw support for the bill until the “three D’s” were restored. The bill has been tabled for now, while Horwitz and other supporters consider their next steps.

When Horwitz ran for Stanford’s student senate last year, she was asked how her Jewish identity would affect her vote on divestment from Israel, which led to charges of anti-Semitism.

Addressing a Facebook post by Oberlin College Professor Joy Karega, which purported to show Jewish banker Jacob Rothschild boasting of his family’s control over the world’s media and banks, Prof. Abraham Socher wrote in the Oberlin Review:

The most infamous of these conspiracy theories was The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a bizarre, incoherent transcript of supposed secret meetings by powerful, shadowy Jews plotting to take over the world by manipulating the world economy and fomenting war. It drew on 19th-century French royalist documents and was published by ultra-nationalist Russian anti-Semites in 1903. Henry Ford — and, later, Hitler — promoted it, and it’s still a favorite of cranks worried that a nefarious New World Order is about to take over. As a key anti-Semitic document in the 20th century, The Protocols were instrumental in persecutions, riots and, eventually, genocide. The Protocols conspiracy theory was parallel to — and sometimes combined with — the claim that the Rothschilds, a famous Jewish banking family, were also guilty of planning world domination. A Google search will quickly lead you to claims by neo-Nazis that The Protocols are a “Rothschild handbook,” often focusing on the 87-year-old English philanthropist Jacob Rothschild.

Which brings us back to Professor Karega-Mason’s Facebook posts. In a screenshot of a December 2014 post, she posted a meme of a reptilian-looking Jacob Rothschild — he looks a little like Mr. Burns on The Simpsons — with the text, “Hello there, my name is Jacob Rothschild. My family is worth 500 trillion dollars. We own nearly every central bank in the world. We financed both sides of every war since Napoleon. We own your news, the media, your oil, and your government.” In her post, Professor Karega-Mason comments, “Yep. This family and several others. Which is why I’m not concerned with or interested in any discussions or plans of action that don’t get at things from the top-down.” One can only hope that Professor Karega-Mason is unaware of the actual history of “plans of action” against the nefarious Jews who control the world.

Socher’s essay was written in response to the controversy generated by Karega’s Facebook postings, which were first reported by The Tower in February.

For a more comprehensive overview of the politics of the Stanford student senate, as well as its vote in favor of Israel divestment last year, read Miriam Pollock’s How the Haters Handed Defeat to Students at Stanford, which was published in the April 2015 issue of The Tower Magazine.

[Photo: Kristina D.C. Hoeppner / Flickr ]