Last week, I talked about how Senate meetings have traditionally been canceled while senators were in Israel and our overall never-formally-explained coziness between many SG officials (who happen to be Christians) and Israel.
I received positive feedback as well as critiques; I think everyone can agree that a complex topic deserves a follow-up.
One of my Jewish buddies reached out to me after last week’s column and asked if we could chat over coffee. We met at Marston and talked for almost an hour and a half on what felt like everything: the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the embassy in Jerusalem, Passages to Israel, Birthright, Factfinders, anti-Semitism, Zionism, Christians and so on.
He asked me to reiterate some points he felt I had not made clear in my original column, and I shall.
I’m not anti-Semitic, and I greatly appreciate several of my Jewish friends for preemptively defending me as they shared my column. I do think people should be able to engage in justified critiques of Israel’s policies, much like we do all the time for our other allies, for the sake of driving the peace process forward while respecting the identities and lived experiences of our peers who have cultural and ethnic ties to the land.
What I did not clearly explain in my column is my issue lies with the fact that our Senate leadership is paid thousands of dollars to run our Senate meetings, but at times in the past, leaders abroad on trips (that would have otherwise constituted unexcused absences) have resulted in canceled meetings.
Some readers also commented saying I was making too big of an assertion of linking Christian Zionism to our own Student Government and state government (though a former SG vice president did comment saying he was “a Christian, a Zionist, a democrat”). Maybe I was; maybe I wasn’t. Frankly, if anyone from Student Government wants to write from their own perspective as a Christian Zionist, I would welcome that.
As my friend explained to me, AIPAC reaches out to Christians to help advocate for them on Israeli issues, and SG is typically dominated by Christians. We both agreed it’d be much better if Jewish students simply had more representation in higher leadership positions such as the executive ticket, but that’s for the majority party to figure out. While they may serve as advocates in some way for Israeli issues, these officials don’t really talk about it openly, I feel, which leaves a lot of people confused when they just see pictures online of their representatives overseas.
While those SG officials find their voice, I would, however, like to share my own little bit of insider info. I received screenshots of a Google Sheet titled “Meeting Times With Karli” that was shared with the Senate Information and Communications Gmail and features evaluations of many Student Government officials by Katie Hernandez, former Allocations Committee Chairwoman who interned with AIPAC this summer. I think it was meant for the group Gators for Israel.
Emily Dunson, the Senate Pro Tempore, is evaluated as "I know you have met her but next year SBP."
Cooper Brown, the current Budget Committee Chair, is evaluated as "Expected SBP in two years, has been on edge with going to AIPAC events and Israel trips (he is interested but hasn't prioritized going on our trips).”
By the way, SBP stands for “Student Body President.”
Senator Tyler Kendrick's many affiliations are listed before being identified as "Freshman (being looked at for ticket in three years)." They sure start them off young!
I know some people were really calling me out for pedalling conspiracy theories, but let me just say, there’s a whole lot going on behind the scenes as well. Good luck, Emily, Cooper and Tyler!
Zachariah Chou is a UF political science junior. His column appears on Thursdays.