Over 1,800 Jewish Writers, Artists, and Professors Sign Open Letter Saying Criticism of Israel Isn't Inherently Antisemitic

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As war rages on in the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel, a group of Jewish writers, artists, and activists are speaking out about words they believe are misused or mischaracterized.

An open letter, titled “A Dangerous Conflation,” published last Thursday by n+1 magazine specifically addresses what its writers see as people conflating anti-Zionism with antisemitism —an issue, they say, that previously existed but has become especially prominent since the October 7 Hamas attack. “We find this rhetorical tactic antithetical to Jewish values, which teach us to repair the world, question authority, and champion the oppressed over the oppressor,” the letter states, which was originally signed by 100 people and now has over 1,800 signatories, including comedian Ilana Glazer and writer Naomi Klein.

The organizers say they hope the letter will prompt people to question their conventional wisdom about the connection between some Jews and Israel and Zionism. (Editor’s note: Teen Vogue was approached to publish the letter in full, but could not complete editorial review within the timeline requested.)

“We are Jewish writers, artists, and activists who wish to disavow the widespread narrative that any criticism of Israel is inherently antisemitic,” the letter begins. “Israel and its defenders have long used this rhetorical tactic to shield Israel from accountability, dignify the US’s multibillion-dollar investment in Israel’s military, obscure the deadly reality of occupation, and deny Palestinian sovereignty. Now, this insidious gagging of free speech is being used to justify Israel’s ongoing military bombardment of Gaza and to silence criticism from the international community.”

The idea to write and publish a letter came nearly two weeks ago for Leah Abrams, Tavi Gevinson, and Rebecca Zweig, Jewish writers and creatives who have been frustrated with the public conversation that's taking shape. “We combined thoughts we’d had over the last weeks based on conversations, but also the public discourse, and just how politicians have been talking about Jewish identity and Israel,” the three tell Teen Vogue via email in a collective response.

They drew inspiration to express their views from existing letters and petitions calling for solidarity with Palestinian civilians and an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, and received additional input and support from author Sarah Thankam Mathews and writer Marianne Dhenin. Then they shared the letter with friends and asked them to circulate it among their networks to encourage people to sign on.

One signatory, artist and author Mattie Lubchansky, says they received a copy last weekend from two friends who had already signed on, and after reading it, felt moved to add their name. “I thought it got at two things that are very urgent in a clear and moving way," they tell Teen Vogue via email. "One, that anti-Zionism is not antisemitism, and in fact has a place in Jewish life; and two, that our identities should not be weaponized to perpetuate the ghastly things Israel does in our name.”

“The rhetorical tactic we are countering shuts down critique of Israel on many levels,” the letter's organizers say. “The tactic can become a psychological barrier, a conversation-ender, and even a shield for state powers. We hope the letter weakens this cynical argument, even if it’s just in the mind of a reader.”

Some students who have expressed pro-Palestinian views have been doxxed, lost jobs, and been threatened with suspension. “If the college coddles them, revoke their taxpayer funding,” senator and Republican presidential candidate Tim Scott posted on X, formerly Twitter, last week. “We must stand up against this evil anti-Semitism everywhere we see it — especially on elite college campuses.”

Former president and current 2024 candidate Donald Trump endorsed the same idea at a recent event: “Revoke the student visas of radical anti-American and antisemitic foreigners at our colleges and universities.”

Both houses of Congress have passed resolutions disavowing antisemitism, which some say conflates anti-Zionism with antisemitism and attempts to silence dissent on college campuses. The letter’s organizers hope their words will make those who share similar views feel less alone.

“One thing we didn’t get to include before everyone signed but feel is important: For as long as Zionism has existed, there have been Jews who debate or outright oppose it,” the organizers say. “Just saying this can help clear up misconceptions about the relationships between Jews, Zionism, and Israel.”

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Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue