DePaul College Republicans and Jewish students come together to discuss Zionism

The DePaul College Republicans and Jewish students came together Tuesday, May 28 to dive deep into the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian debate and recent occurrences regarding it on campus. The College Republicans were represented by Nick Gricus, the organization’s current president, and John Minster, former president. They were joined by Michael Adato, a member of the Jewish fraternity AEPi, and his brother Ethan, who attends the University of Iowa. The Adatos clarified that their views do not represent those of the fraternity, as the event’s poster depicted.

The event began with the two groups defining terms like “Zionism” and “anti-Zionism” and how these terms relate to their political and spiritual beliefs. Adato pressed the College Republicans, and Republicans in general, on why they support Israel in its conflict with Palestine. 

“Republicans haven’t really moved much ideologically in the past 30 or 40 years,” Gricus said. “As you see with more freshman Democrats, [they] are actually starting to go more towards the anti-Zionist approach and are starting to tolerate and allow a different side […] I think Republicans have stood by the right for democracy in the Middle East to flourish and have stood by their Jewish brothers and sisters for that right to exist. It’s core to the Republican party; it goes back to the days of Reagan.”

Gricus cited Democrats like Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Barack Obama as people who have “abandoned people who they made promises to.”

This presents the internal debate  in which many Jewish people find themselves. With many Jews having left-leaning political values, the discussion highlighted the ethical debate of Zionism becoming a right-wing topic. Michael Adato shared an anecdote of an older man explaining to him that if he wants more help for Israelis, he should vote Republican. But if he wants his social and fiscal policies to go through, he has to vote Democrat. American Zionist Jews are caught in a bind between supporting Israel or their country. 

“I think that the left seems to [or] allow anti-Semitic tropes or support the Palestinians more than they have in the past,” Michael Adato said. “I don’t think that means the left can’t support Israel, — at least some version of Israel — and the same [goes for] the right.”

The discussion led to the topic of Jason Hill, the DePaul philosophy professor who was criticized after publishing a controversial pro-Zionist op-ed in The Federalist, a right-wing magazine. 

“I think it’s unfortunate that as far as student organizations are concerned, we haven’t been able to get together and have a discussion on it,” Gricus said in regards to the Faculty Council’s decision to condemn the contents of Hill’s article but not him specifically. “The College Republicans and our associate groups have tried multiple times to reach out to organizations, including the DePaul Socialists and DePaul Democrats, to which, no avail. As far as Jason Hill is concerned, we support his right to speak. We pride ourselves on being a pro-free speech organization.”

Gricus acknowledged the criticism his group has faced for their support for Hill.

“I don’t think any professor should be censured because of it or be threatened with violence,” he said. “I think that he’s got the right to write whatever he wants to in an independent magazine. At no point did he try to speak on behalf of the university or anybody else other than himself. In doing that, his rights as a professor should be maintained as well.”

Michael Adato took this time to speak on his own beliefs regarding Hill’s article.

“The controversy around him gave him what I think is a weak attention-seeker, and I think that the controversy that the coalition gave him, well I agree,” Adato said. “I think that what he said was absolutely in many ways racist, and I’m glad that DePaul distanced itself from him […] [Those who began the protest] should not have even started because it’s so ridiculous and stupid, and talking about it, in fact, exposed his absolute misunderstandings of anything about Jewish culture to wage war on people.” 

Gricius then mentioned that he invited the student groups who organized protests against Hill to their discussion, but they declined because of their celebration in his “censure” that occurred at the same time.

The discussion ended with closing remarks from both groups on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and both reminded the audience that without the support from Israelis and Palestinians alike, the debate will not stop soon. 

“There’s a reason they call it the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because this is between Israelis and Palestinians,” Minster said. “No specific negotiator or moderator or whatever you want to call in whatever country it may be is going to be able to get those two sides there if they don’t want to get there themselves.”

Michael Adato responded, “America is going to set the table, but that’s about it, in my opinion.”