Letter to the Editor: Former student defends commencement speaker

Editor’s Note: Students, employees and other members of the El Camino College community outside the journalism staff are also invited to submit Letters to the Editors for consideration as per The Union’s policy. All letters are subject to editing for length, grammar and style. They must be free of libel and in good taste. Publication or rejection of any letter is at the sole discretion of the editorial board. All opinions are those of the author and do not reflect the opinion of The Union.


Dear Editor,

I am writing to address my concern regarding the recent controversy involving a speech given by a student during the commencement ceremony.

Jana Abulaban, former El Camino College ASO President, gave a speech introducing the commencement speaker for the class of 2023. During the speech, Jana mentioned the struggles she and her family faced as refugees from Palestine and further expressed her opposition to open threats against minority students. 

She encouraged students to stand in solidarity with Palestinian students at El Camino College and other marginalized communities.

I am dismayed to learn that students and members of the community have responded to her speech by calling her antisemitic. It is very important to understand the difference between antisemitism and anti-Zionism when the two can be confused as the same.

Antisemitism is hatred or discrimination against the Jewish community, while anti-Zionism is an opposition to the political ideology that supports the settler colonization of Palestine. 

Opposing Zionism is not the same as opposing the Jewish community, and not once did Jana mention the Jewish community, nor say anything derogatory towards them.

While I understand this can be a complex issue with many different perspectives, it is unfair to diminish her family’s struggles and experiences as refugees and instead label her story as antisemitic, when there was no mention of semitism, and only mention of the life experiences of herself, her family, and country. 

It is important to create a space where all perspectives and stories can be heard and respected.

Safia Ahmed

Former El Camino College Student


Special Editor’s Note: The Anti-Defamation League defines Anti-Zionism as the “opposition to Zionism, the movement for the self-determination and statehood of the Jewish people in their ancestral homeland, the land of Israel.” 

The Anti-Defamation League also states some people use the term to mean opposing Zionism as “the same as opposing Israeli government policy.”