UPDATES: TWO INTERESTING UPDATES. Both are below the main blog post
- “Does the new anti-Semitism on campus contradict university policies about ‘safe spaces’?” asks Rusty Vance. A response from Charles Lipson
- An encouraging comment by Prof. Ron Hassner about the institutional pushback, including the formation of Jewish and Israel Studies programs. Hassner is a professor of political science at the Univ. of California, Berkeley.
This week, the New York Times ran a student’s story about the anti-Semitism he saw at Brown University (link). If the story applied only to Brown, if it were rare at other universities, it might not be worth much time or attention.
Unfortunately, the conditions he depicts at Brown are now commonplace at other American universities and are even worse in Europe.
They represent a confluence of Palestinian activism and the left’s rising distaste for the Jewish state. It is a toxic brew.
Anti-Semitism is on the rise at American universities and is pervasive at European ones
The coalition behind it is always the same: the major activists are radical Palestinians (some students, some off-campus), plus activist Muslims, plus the “grievance coalition” of various left-wing groups and minorities who define themselves primarily by their racial or ethnic identity and see themselves as victims and all others as their oppressors, now and historically.
As is usual throughout history, the Jews are depicted as evil. Sometimes the activists remember to say they only hate Israel. Often, they forget and say they hate Jews. Jewish students report blunt anti-Semitic statements to them for the first time in memory at US universities.
Left-wing Jews, generally secular ones, are frequently part of the coalition, figuring they can seek absolution for their putative sins by accepting the radicals’ anti-Jewish mantra.
The radicals themselves are not an ideologically-coherent group. At bottom, the Sharia-law types hate the gays, who are a crucial part of the coalition. The Palestinians think (correctly) that other Arabs and Muslims have betrayed them repeatedly. But “the enemy of my enemy is friend,” and, since the Jews are their designated enemy, they are at least temporary friends.
The story could be told time and again. Indeed, the anti-Israel activists rev up each spring for “Israel Apartheid” week at campuses all over the United States. No mention of the abysmal human rights throughout the Muslim world. Just attack Israel.
Their chant, “Palestine, Palestine, must be free, from the River to the Sea!” implies a Palestinian state occupying all the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, with Israel disappearing entirely. All the marchers chant it in unison. That is the ultimate goal of delegitimation.
Here is the story at Brown
A speaker on transgender rights is invited to campus. Hillel, the organization for Jewish students, agrees to be on of the co-sponsors.
Instead of celebrating this “big tent” of different sponsors, the Social Justice Warriors attacked.
Here is the money paragraph, written by a Brown student. It shows the disgusting program of Israel-haters at universities.
Anti-Zionists at Brown circulated a petition against a lecture by the transgender rights advocate Janet Mock because one of the sponsors was the Jewish campus group Hillel, even though the event was entirely unrelated to Israel or Zionism. Ms. Mock, who planned to talk about racism and transphobia, ultimately canceled. Anti-Zionist students would rather have no one speak on these issues than allow a Jewish group to participate in that conversation.
The whole opinion piece is here: Anti-Semitism at My University, Hidden in Plain Sight by Benjamin Gladstone (link)
There is more to the story, but that’s the heart of it. And it is a malignant heart, pumping the vitriolic righteousness of modern “social justice warriors” and ancient Jew-hatred.
Want a glimpse of how bad–and bizarre–the campus anti-Israel movement is? Here’s “Pinkwashing,” a movement beyond self-parody
The hate-Israel groups actually sponsor speakers to shout against “pinkwashing.” The term is a variant of “whitewashing,” given the color pink to denote it is gay and directed solely against Israel.
Here’s the idea, if you can believe it.
Israel treats gays well and there is a thriving gay scene there. Some ultra-religous Jewish groups oppose it, but most Israelis are tolerant.
Do left-wing Gay activists in America say, “That’s a good thing”? No.
Do they march against Hamas and other Islamacist groups executing gays for being gay? No. Do they rally against Palestinian political groups throwing gays off rooftops? No. Of course not.
It’s all about delegitimating Israel, all the time. The Pinkwashing people use the following paranoid syllogism
(A) Israel is evil.
(B) But they are treating gays well.
(C) Therefore, they must be doing it to deceive us and whitewash all their evil Jewish-Zionist deeds.
This is a paranoid anti-Semitism in its purest form–and Palestinian groups repeatedly host these speakers on campus. That is one reason the transgender issue at Brown was so important to the left. It was crucial for them to make sure that gays know they should not be linked in any positive ways to Israel. Better for them to support the regimes that throw them off roofs.
UPDATE #1: An interesting question on SAFE SPACES: Rusty Vance asks, Aren’t the actions and policies described above “in direct opposition to the policies of many universities to make all their students ‘safe.’ “
Response: Rusty, you make an excellent point. The answer, as it turns out, tells you a lot about what universities actually mean by “safe spaces.”
The key is to understand that universities do not mean safe places for pro-Israel students, or conservatives, or Republicans, or–God Forbid–people who believe in free speech. Nor do they mean “safe” in the normal meaning of the term–safe from threats and intimidation.
They mean psychological and intellectual cocoons, free from certain viewpoints or even the presence of other racial or ethnic groups or sexual orientations. So, there could be a safe space for lesbians and perhaps even for straight women, since universities would consider those protected minorities (even if women were a majority of the students). There could be a safe space for black students. But, in practice, there could not be a safe space for heterosexual, white men. Why? Because the underlying idea here is that such individuals are (a) not individuals; they are only understood as members of assigned groups; and (b) these particularly people would be categorized implicitly as the “dangerous oppressors.” They do not deserve protection. They could only save their souls–in a secular way–by making common cause with the oppressed and accepting all their causes, arguments, and demands.
In short, “safe spaces” are specifically ways of protecting certain ideological, ethnic, and racial groups from hearing anything they don’t want to hear, or getting real pushback. Those are the blunt facts. (Charles Lipson)
UPDATE #2: An encouraging response from Ron Hassner, a political science professor at the University of California at Berkeley. His links to specific programs are in bold purple text. Prof. Hassner writes:
We ought to counterbalance this pessimistic narrative with a note of optimism: Because pro-Jewish and pro-Israel voices on these campuses refuse to stoop to that level of discourse, they have sought constructive ways of educating students. And as a result, the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic bigotry on campuses has led to a surprising revival in Israel studies and in Jewish studies on many campuses. In Berkeley’s case, it bolstered the creation of an Israel Institute (link here), the acquisition of a Jewish museum (link here) by the university, revived the dormant Center for Jewish Studies (link here), and even led to the opening of a Kosher dining room in a student dorm (two weeks ago!). These programs all emerged within two years of the last (and unsuccessful) BDS push on that campus. So there is a silver lining here. BDS is not merely failing spectacularly, it is also creating a very constructive backlash. Similar Israel programs have opened across the continent, from Columbia to the University of Texas in Austin, and from UCLA to the University of Wisconsin. The more BDS exposes the ignorance that is at the foundation of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel bias, the more eager students (and not just Jewish students) are to engage with these issues in an open-minded and academically rigorous manner through classes, conferences, workshops, and public programming about Judaism and Israel.
♦ Thanks to Ed Vidal for passing along the article about Brown.
Ed and his family (who are not Jewish) escaped from Cuba. Their love of American freedom and tolerance is palpable.
♦ Additional thanks to Michael Zachary Lopate for the Brown article.
Neither is responsible for the content of this blog post.
♦ Thanks to Rusty Vance for his question
♦ Thanks to Prof. Ron Hassner for his positive update from Cal-Berkeley