News & Updates

WGS Dept. Response to President Wong's Feb 23, 2018 Email

Friday, March 02, 2018

On February 23rd, President Wong of San Francisco State University sent an email to the entire campus community. In his statement, Wong apologizes for the hurt feelings of Jewish students—represented in his email by a about a dozen student members of Hillel—and emphasizes that “Zionists are welcome” on the campus of SF State. The Women and Gender Studies Department is deeply concerned about the motivation, tenor, and potential effects of this statement, which comes as the latest missive in a longstanding debate about Zionism, the impact of Israeli state policy, and the struggle for Palestinian freedom as they affect the social justice mission of San Francisco State University.

Zionism is not equivalent to Jewishness; anti-Zionism is not anti-semitism. Zionism is a political ideology that supports the state of Israel. It does not represent all Jewish people--nor does Hillel represent all Jewish students. Wong’s statement fails to express concern or support for Palestinian, Arab, and Middle Eastern students and their allies that are harmed by Zionism. At the least, the philosophy of Zionism must be a subject of political debate at San Francisco State University, and cannot hold protected status as a discourse of “safety” set apart from other historical, political and ideological movements that impact members of the SFSU community. We are concerned that such material support for Zionist discourse, evidenced in this statement and previous actions by the university president, outweighs concern for the whole of our campus community.

Zionism mobilizes race, gender, and sexuality in specific ways, which continue to be a topic of investigation and contestation in fields such as Women and Gender Studies. The history and contemporary discourse of racialized gender and sexuality for Jewish people in Zionism is a site of debate and political protest today--especially as the Israeli state’s project of “pinkwashing” is decried by queer activists internationally. In addition, there is strong contestation among feminists regarding Zionist ideologies. As the case of Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi illustrates, feminists are identifying and protesting contemporary conditions of emergency in Palestine, and pointing out how Zionism targets women and families in broader projects of racialized population control. This, among other histories of feminist debate, show that Zionism as a political ideology needs to be up for debate at minimum.

In sum, the Department of Women and Gender Studies unequivocally rejects the equation of Zionism with Judaism, and stands by all of our SFSU students and their right to a university committed to intellectual inquiry and social justice.

Some further reading on gender, sexuality, Zionism, and Palestinian liberation:

Abdulhadi, Rabab, Evelyn Alsultany, and Nadine C. Naber. Arab & Arab American Feminisms: Gender, Violence, & Belonging. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2011.

Barghouti, Miriam. "No, You Can't Be a Feminist and a Zionist," The Forward. November 27, 2017.

Boyarin, Daniel. Unheroic Conduct: The Rise of Heterosexuality and the Invention of the Jewish Man. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

Daoud, Nihaya. "Internal Displacement and Health among the Palestinian Minority in Israel," Social Science and Medicine, 74 (2012) 1163-1171.

Lloyd, David. "It is our Belief that Palestine is a Feminist Issue..." Feminists @ Law: An Open Access Journal of Feminist Legal Scholarship, Vo. 4 n.1, 2014 Accessed February 18, 2018.

 Meyerson, Colleen. "Can you be a Feminist and a Zionist? Linda Sarsour Says No." The Nation, March 13, 2017. Accessed February 18, 2018.

Naber, Nadine C. Arab America: Gender, Cultural Politics, and Activism. New York: New York University Press, 2012.

"Palestinian Women's Call for Worldwide Women's Endorsement of BDS," BDS, March 8, 2016.’s-call-worldwide-women’s-endorsement-bds

Pappé, Ilan. The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. Oxford: One World Publications, 2006.

Sabbagh, Suha. Palestinian Women of Gaza and the West Bank. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998.

Sarsour, Linda."Can you be a Zionist Feminist? Linda Sarsour Says No," The Nation. March 13, 2017.

Shalhoub-Kevorkian, Nadera. "Palestinian Feminist Critique and the Physics of Power: Feminists Between Thought and Practice," feminists@law, 4:1 (2014).

Shalhoub-Kevorkian, Nadera. “The Grammar of Rights in Colonial Contexts: The Case of Palestinian Women in Israel”, Middle East Law and Governance 4 (2012), pp. 106-151.

Sharoni, Simona. Gender and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: The Politics of Women's Resistance. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1995.

Shulman, Sarah. “Israeli and ‘Pinkwashing.’” New York Times, Nov. 22, 2011 Accessed Feb. 27, 2018

Sri, Meg. “Why Liberal Feminism Must Embrace the Cause to #FreeAhedTamimi”, Jan 8, 2018 Accessed February 27, 2018.

Ziadeh, Rafael. Hadeel [spoken word album]