Friday, August 7, 2015

Anti-Semitism on Campus: Who Is Responsible?

Gary Fouse

Answer: The Pro-Palestinian Crowd

The world is waking up to a phenomenon that is undeniable. There is a worldwide resurgence in anti-Semitism. In Europe, the problem is played out on city streets, where Jews walk around in Jewish garb at their own risk. Is Europe plagued by a growth in Neo-Nazis sporting swastikas? Not really. The perpetrators of the crimes against Jews, which have included murder in places like France and Belgium, are mostly Muslim immigrants acting out old hatreds.

In the US, the focal point for the rise in anti-Semitism is on our university campuses. From the University of California to the Ivy League, more and more Jewish students are telling stories of being harassed, insulted, and made to feel uncomfortable and unsafe on campus. Swastikas have appeared on bathroom stalls and the walls of campus buildings. I pose a similar question: Do we have neo-Nazis walking around our campuses sporting swastikas and quoting Adolf Hitler? Hardly. The answer is largely (but not exactly) the same as in Europe.

There are two organizations we begin with in order to get at the answer to the question of who is responsible for campus anti-Semitism in the US. Those two organizations are Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and the Muslim Students Association (MSA), the latter of which is a creation of the Muslim Brotherhood. The former organization, founded by a Palestinian who just happens to be a UC Berkeley professor named Hatem Bazian, is a mirror reflection of the MSA chapters. They have many of the same members plus some non-Muslims who share their hatred of Israel. At UC Irvine, an SJP chapter was conveniently established in the wake of the suspension of the Muslim Student Union (for one quarter) after they disrupted a speech by Israeli ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, in 2010.

It is the above two organizations who are fomenting anti-Israel agitation on college campuses across the country. They are aided and abetted by the radical speakers they invite to speak on campus against Israel. These include figures like Amir Abdel Malik Ali, Omar Barghouti, Mohammed al Asi, the aforementioned Hatem Bazian, and fellow travelers like Norman Finkelstein. Many of these speakers are Muslims, but many are not. In fact, some are Jews who hate Israel and do everything they can to hurt the Jewish state and bring about its end.

Which leads me to the question of whether being anti-Israel is being anti-Semitic especially given the fact that some activists are Jews themselves. Certainly not in every case do anti-Israeli word and deed mean anti-Semitism. However, I maintain that much of it is driven by anti-Semitism. When, in 2001 at UC Irvine, Mohammed al Asi, a radical Washington-based imam and supporter of the Iranian regime, said, "You can take the Jew out of the ghetto, but you can't take the ghetto out of the Jew," that was anti-Semitic. When Amir Abdel Malik Ali said at UC Irvine in 2006 that Rupert Murdoch was  a "straight up Zionist Jew", spitting the words out just like the Nazis in Germany used to, that was anti-Semitic. (He has accused many people of being Zionist Jews in the same tone.) In 2010, again at UC Irvine, he told the Jews in the audience that they were "the new Nazis". That was anti-Semitic. When the Muslim Student Union at UC Irvine put a caricature of Ariel Sharon on their mock Apartheid Wall in 2008, drawn in the style of the old Nazi anti-Jewish weekly, Der Stuermer, that was anti-Semitic.

When Rachel Beyda, a Jewish student at UCLA who was campaigning for a position on the student government earlier this year, was grilled as to whether her Jewishness might affect her objectivity on important campus issues (like the Israel-Palestinian question?), that was anti-Semitic. These are not isolated incidents. Ask Molly Horwitz of Stanford. This year, when she was campaigning for student government, she was asked, "Given your Jewish background, how would you vote on divestment?" (against Israel).

In addition to vitriolic speakers, the pro-Palestinian students are aided and abetted by a legion of professors around the country who also share a hatred of Israel. Many of these professors can be found in Middle East studies departments, which are invariably hotbeds of anti-Israel belief as well as anti-Western belief. In addition, there are professors in other departments who lend their voices to the anti-Israel rant on campus. Again, not all are Muslims, and some are misfit Jews. Who are they? I could stay here at the keyboard for a month listing all the names. Our universities are infested with them.

In 2013, there were two ugly incidents at San Francisco State University in which pro-Palestinian students created images advocating the murder of Israeli soldiers. In one, posters were created that read, "My heroes have always killed colonizers". In the other, the President of the General Union of Palestinian Students, a character named  Mohammad G Hammad, created video images of himself with a knife and fantasizing about murdering Israeli soldiers. A few months ago, these students' mentor at SF State, Professor Rabab Abdulhadi, an anti-Israel activist, was supposed to speak at UC Irvine. I showed up with my video camera prepared to ask her some pointed questions about these students. At the last minute, she didn't show and the Muslim Student Union attempted unsuccessfully to stop me from videotaping. (In the end, there was nothing to videotape anyway.)

Then there was a situation at UC Berkeley in 2010 when swastikas started appearing on campus and a group of Jewish students held a peaceful protest on campus-only to be heckled by a professor who then proceeded to give them the finger. The incident was captured on camera and videotape.

Speaking of professors, one of the most recent and notorious examples is Steven Salaita, formerly of Virginia Tech. He was in the process of accepting a position at the University of Illinois last year when certain social media messages from Salaita came to light. In particular, after three Israeli teenagers were abducted in the West Bank (They were later found murdered.) Salaita stated that he wished "all settlers would go missing".  The University of Illinois decided he was not a fit person to teach at their school and rescinded its offer of employment. He is now teaching at the American University of Lebanon.

As to the question of anti-Israel/anti-Semitism, the State Department has a definition that lists several points relative to Israel. They consider it anti-Semitic to deny the Jewish people a homeland free from persecution. Their definition also includes holding Israel to a different standard than its neighbors, virtually all human rights abusers. It also includes equating Israel with Nazis and the Apartheid regime in South Africa. All of those points can be readily found in campus discourse across the nation. The much ballyhooed BDS Movement (Boycot, Divest and Sanctions) against Israel is a thinly-disguised movement begun by Palestinians to discredit and ultimately destroy the Jewish state. It has taken root on college campuses across the nation where student governments waste precious time and energy devoted to an issue that has no impact on campus life.

To reiterate, that discourse is not held by people quoting Mein Kampf and wearing swastika armbands. It is the pro-Palestinian crowd. Still, many of the pro-Palestinians will bring up the old canards about Jews, such as running and controlling the banks as well as the politicians in Washington. Many of them have adapted the complaints used by Nazis and earlier anti-Semites. Yet, they will insist that they are only anti-Zionist-not anti-Jewish. And while all that is going on, certain leftist Jewish professors link arms with those that would drive every last Jew out of the Middle East. As for the Jew hatred exhibited by their pro-Palestinian allies, they ignore it or they deny it altogether. Norman Finkelstein, for one, has denied it twice in my presence in answer to my questions.

All decent Americans must stand up and say No to this resurgence in Jew hatred, which is emanating from our universities. First, they must be aware of it. If you are not paying attention to what is happening on our campuses, you would not be aware because the mainstream media doesn't want to devote a lot of time and space to it. First and foremost, our university presidents and chancellors must be held accountable if they don't take concrete steps to confront anti-Semitism on campus and protect their Jewish students.

Currently, the University of California regents are considering a proposal from UC President Janet Napolitano to adopt the State Department's definition of anti-Semitism. That doesn't kill free speech, as the pro-Palestinian crowd is claiming. It does, however, provide more insight for all students as to how this Israel-Palestinian debate is feeding into hatred against Jews as a people. It would provide administrators with the opportunity, if not the moral duty, to remind their students about the problem of anti-Semitism when hate speech occurs-and to denounce it.  It would be a good start for the regents to adopt the definition.

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