Last month, the Berkeley chapter of JSTreetU failed to gain entrance to the Jewish Student Union. At the meeting, Tikvah argued that JStreetU’s actions have not substantiated their claims of being both pro-Israel and pro-peace. As a committed pro-Israel organization, the Jewish Student Union has the responsibility to ensure that those claiming to represent our community support the Jewish State. Because JStreetU has a history of acting outside of these goals, the organization fell far short of the votes needed to gain the JSU’s support.
A number of recent opinion articles have accused Tikvah of having disproportionate control in the JSU. Tikvah, however, is allotted one vote. That means nine other student leaders, JSU officers, and member student groups were opposed to JStreet's inclusion. Members of organizations as diverse as the Jewish fraternity and the group for Jews in engineering spoke against JStreet. Instead of acknowledging that their actions are not acceptable for the Jewish students on this campus, JStreetU leaders have attempted to paint themselves the victim.
It wasn’t lost on the many students who oppose JStreet that the JSU already has an organization that claims to be a progressive Israel group. Leaders of that organization, Kesher Enoshi, have used their position as a “progressive” voice in the Jewish community to speak in favor of divestment and to organize campus-wide events demonizing Israel. Now, the leaders of that very same organization are requesting that yet another group they lead--one that exists primarily for the purpose of criticizing Israel--be included as part of the pro-Israel umbrella Jewish organization on campus.
As an organization, JStreetU can be judged only by its actions. In its short existence here at Berkeley, those actions include sponsoring speakers such as Assaf Sharon who referred to Israel’s capital as “a symbol of violence.” Nationally, JStreet continues to be “pro-Israel” solely through being critical of Israel. The organization is rarely able to say something positive about the Jewish State while refusing to put any of the onus for the conflict’s perpetuation on Palestinian leadership. Until JStreetU shows us something different, until their support for Israel extends beyond pressuring its leaders to take actions they believe are against its interests, JStreetU cannot be counted as part of a pro-Israel student organization.
But I hope I’m proven wrong about JStreetU here on campus. I hope they serve to be more than an another arm of Kesher Enoshi’s thinly veiled Israel bashing. I hope they live up to their tag-line and take steps that are honestly in support of the Jewish, democratic state. On that day, I’ll save them a seat in the Jewish Student Union.