“So, where are you from?”

Paul Wong
Brenda Abdelall

“Ann Arbor’

“No, I mean where are you from-from.”

There’s something to be said about how everyone tries to label everything. From clothing to personalities, from relationships to political views, everyone needs to have a succinct term to attribute to people. This allows for us to compartmentalize our minds and organize our thoughts. That girl with the two-toned bag: Probably a sorority chick. That dude in the beret: Shady. That EECS kid: What a dork.

Either way, these methods of identifying an individual lead us to stereotype and pass judgments that are not only what our minds but also society have already formulated. When people ask what I am, I wonder if it really makes a difference. So I say, “I’m Arab.” Would it make a difference if I said I was Egyptian or Saudi Arabian? What if I said I was Phoenician? We can even go so far as to say that I am a Semite (and yes, Arabs are Semites). Regardless of what I say, does it really make you look at me differently?

Essentially, yes. These classifications shape what we think of the individual and how we perceive their thoughts and ideologies. Stereotypes and generalizations emerge and we find ourselves classifying everything around us. Being Arab-American, I could tell you all about stereotypes. I guarantee that I wouldn’t get the same, “Oooooh, really?” response from people if I told them I was Hispanic, black or mixed. Only when I say, “Arab” I get this shocking look as if to say, “There’s no way you’re an Arab.”

Certain classifications can be used against an individual and lead for their entire argument to be discredited. If someone came up to me and started talking about Greenpeace and saving the environment and I later learned that he or she was a republican, I would laugh in his or her face. The entire argument would be negated in my mind on the basis that I associate republicans with anti-environmental policies.

On this campus, there are students that have attempted to associate students that support Palestine as anti-Semitic. This is obviously done with the goal of discrediting a movement and the ideologies of those students. When I hear the word anti-Semitic, I would immediately insert that individual in the compartment of hate in my mind. That is the precise goal of those attempting to label pro-Palestinian students: To immediately associate the individual with hate and racism, thus nullifying and diminishing their views.

To be critical of the Israeli government is not to be anti-Semitic. That would mean being against the policies of America would be anti-American. I once heard the analogy that if being critical of Israel is to be anti-Semitic, then is being critical of apartheid South Africa to be anti-white? Obviously not. One can be critical of their governments; that’s the spirit of democracy.

That would probably explain why there are a growing number of Israeli Jews that have spoken out against the racist policies of the Israeli government. There are organizations growing at an exponential rate that include groups such as, Jews for Peace in Palestine and Israel, Courage to Refuse (a growing group of IDF soldiers that have petitioned against occupation and oppression) and other such organizations that have come out against the Israeli government. We surely can’t call these individuals anti-Semitic.

There are certain labels that we throw around aimlessly. However, there is a line in which clich

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