This letter reflects the opinions of political science freshman John Semancik. It is in response to the Cal Poly students’ demands and clarification for the Drylongso Collective’s list of demands, both authored by the Drylongso Collective. Letters to the editor do not reflect the opinion or editorial coverage of Mustang News.
The incident that occurred at the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity is certainly one of despicable nature and intent; the surfaced photos which depict the attendees of the fraternity event in racially stereotypical costumes, only serves to compound the racist intent of Kyler Watkins’ decision to wear blackface to this event.
I waited with anticipation to see the response of Cal Poly’s various cultural clubs. The response that was given – a statement of demands – featured abjectly anti-Semitic rhetoric. Instead of uniting the already small population of minority groups on Cal Poly’s campus, the statement of demands alienates Jewish students on campus from the larger movement of diversity at Cal Poly. The offending portion of the statement, written by a student collective known as the Drylongso Collective, demands an increase in Associated Students, Inc. funding for all cultural student organizations, except those “that are aligned with Zionist ideology.”
I had originally hoped to write this article from a place of optimism towards the organizations which drafted the statement of demands. After all, it appeared, at least to me, that the statement of demands’ Zionist funding exception was written from a place of solidarity with Palestine in the Palestine-Israeli conflict. This is a completely reasonable stance, especially given what is, in my view, a slew of human rights violations on the part of Israel towards Palestinians. However, the recent “clarification” offered by the Drylongso Collective has brought to light many more issues than it has solved. Due to the unfortunate mischaracterizations in the Drylongso Collective’s response, I have no choice but to believe they are approaching this topic from a place of ignorance.
Before delving into the problems of the statement of demands and the clarification, I find it helpful to define Zionism. Zionism is a Jewish national movement in favor of establishing – or more properly, since the establishment of Israel in 1948, maintaining – a Jewish State in the ancestral homeland of the Jews. Thus, Zionists advocate for a Jewish state in all or part of the region of Palestine. Zionism can also be seen as celebrating Jewish connection to their ancestral homeland.
With these definitions in mind, the statement of demands can be read as either excluding cultural organizations supporting the continued existence of a Jewish state or excluding cultural organizations advocating the right of the Jews to a state in their ancestral homeland. In any case, the implications are problematic.
Having covered the issues of the statement of demands, I shall now continue on to the Clarification for the Drylongso Collective’s List of Demands (I find it privy to point out that the clarification is written from, what is in my view, a point of condescension). The first portion of the Drylongso Collective’s response featured an unusual approach to acquitting themselves of anti-Semitism. First, the Drylongso Collective tried to assuage guilt by stating that Jews consisted of a portion of the collective which wrote the statement of demands. However, the notion that somebody of Jewish ethnicity and or faith cannot be anti-Semitic is a dangerous implication. Internalized oppression is undeniably a concept of modern social justice, and the Drylongso Collective’s disregard for such calls into question their familiarity with the subject.
The second portion of the response attempted to separate Zionism from Judaism. To try to separate Zionism from its Jewish origins is to deny the legitimacy of Zionism as a Jewish cultural movement. Certainly, not all Jews are Zionists (I will shy away from addressing the issue of whether non-Jews can be Zionists, as this is an ongoing debate). However, the insinuation that Zionism is antipodal to Palestinian solidarity is incorrect. The Drylongso Collective details their support of Palestinian solidarity claiming that, due to the oppression of the Palestinians in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, they cannot in good faith support Zionism. This implication that Zionism is somehow to blame for the human rights abuses committed by Israel not only incorrectly places the blame for oppression on a cultural movement, but also absolves the Israeli government of responsibility in such matter.
Finally, as a student of Jewish descent and cultural identification, it becomes difficult to support the statement of demands – which, aside for the anti-Semitic exception, I find to be largely agreeable. Further, the “clarification” demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of Zionism and Jewish cultural identity, more generally. If this statement of demands is not amended in some way to remove this clearly anti-Semitic clause, it will only serve to further divide this campus, at a time when a united opposition to systemic inequality is needed.
*This letter has been edited for clarity.