Saturday, January 11, 2014

How to Fight Back Against Campus Anti-Semitism

Gary Fouse

The latest FBI statistics (2012) once again show that when it comes to religious hate crimes, the biggest victim group is Jews. Contrary to the claims of the Muslim activist groups like the Council on American Relations (CAIR), offenses against Jews dwarf those against Muslims and have done so every year going back all the way to 2001, the year of  9-11 and beyond. Over history, there have been many reasons for Jew hatred. Today, the prime cause is the Israel-Palestinian conflict, which has created a world-wide pro-Palestinian movement that seeks to deligitimize the Jewish state. The result has been a worldwide resurgence in anti-Semitism.

The focal point in the United States is on our university campuses, led by anti-Israel professors and student groups like the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). As an adjunct teacher at the University of California at Irvine Extension, I have been witnessing this phenomenon since 2006. I have also come to the conclusion that the universities will not confront this hate on our campuses when it comes to Jews as they would vis-a-vis other groups, such as African-Americans, Hispanics or Muslims. The reason is simple: The prime movers behind this drive are Muslims, and universities do not want to arouse their ire.

In addition, with rare exceptions, the established national Jewish organizations like the Anti-Defamation League, Jewish Federation chapters and Hillel have failed to confront the universities and demand an end to a climate of intimidation on campuses. Nowhere is this more evident than within the University of California system. The previous president, Mark Yudof, himself Jewish, refused to take any concrete steps, calling it all free speech. In the past year, he sent a commission out to study the problem then refused to act on their recommendations when pro-Palestinian groups pushed back. He also refused to accept recommendations from the California Assembly, when they crafted Assembly Resolution 35 in response to complaints of anti-Semitism on California campuses.

So we are left with the dilemma of what to do. In my view, it comes down to taking a pro-active approach as opposed to merely reacting to the continuing outrages. Not that the latter is not worthwhile. It is important to attend the anti-Israel events, document what is said, and report it in order to educate the community as to what is happening on our campuses-especially as it impacts Jewish students, who, for a variety of reasons, may not want to speak out about the issue. However, there is more that can be done.

First of all, it is high time that those directly impacted by a hostile campus environment in which they are insulted, assaulted, or otherwise intimidated, not only speak out, but take legal action. It is up to Jewish organizations who supposedly care about anti-Semitism to assist them legally, provide legal counsel, and hold the universities to account in the pocketbook, as well as in damage to their national reputations. National organizations could make public statements encouraging Jewish students not to attend certain universities where this environment for Jews exists.

In the past several years, three complaints about anti-Semitism on campus were filed with the US Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights against the University of California system. They have all been dismissed. Further action with DOE is pointless, in my view.

Secondly, it is time to bring our own speakers to campus, not just to advocate for Israel, rather to educate the student body at large as to what is happening in regards to anti-Semitism on campus as a result of this anti-Israel campaign, which is well-organized and funded nationally and internationally. Most students on campus are not anti-Jewish-certainly not those at UC Irvine- but they need to be aware that Jew hatred is on the march. Sadly, they also need to be fully educated about the historical precedent for this kind of hatred and where it leads.

In recent years at UC San Diego and UC Irvine, we have seen the campuses turned upside down over complaints of anti-black speech or actions. That is well and good. Unfortunately, when Jews are insulted as a people by radical speakers or swastikas appear on walls, we don't see the same reaction. One reason is that certain Jewish organizations don't want to make waves with the university when the source of the Jew hatred is from Islamic quarters. This has to change.

The situation is getting worse, and Jews need to take a strong, pro-active stand-aided by people of other faiths who see the problem for what it is. If this trend is allowed to continue, we are going to see a tragedy on one of our university campuses one day. When that happens, a lot of responsible people who should have spoken out will have to hang their heads in shame.

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