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Jewish World Review Oct. 14, 2002 / 8 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

John Leo

John Leo
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Consumer Reports

Campus hate parade? | Is America's campus culture becoming anti-Semitic? Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League says no. A recent ADL survey reported that the percentage of anti-Semites on campus is low -- 3 percent of students and 15 percent of faculty. (Why the teachers should be five times more bigoted than their students is an interesting question.)

On campus, a different question is being asked: Can't you oppose Israel's policies without being called an anti-Semite? Of course, but anti-Israel rallies at colleges often bristle with contempt for Jews and anti-Semitic incidents seem to be on the rise. If this were happening to Muslims, there would be a national uproar.

Consider some signs of the times: a pig's head left at the door of the Hillel building at Indiana University, swastikas on a Jewish structure at the University of Colorado, a Hillel center window smashed at the University of California at Berkeley and "F--- the Jews" written on the building.

At the University of California at San Diego, an annual "Anti-Zionism Week" (recently given the more upscale name, "From Oppression to Liberation Week") is supported by student fees. "Very, very anti-Semitic stuff" circulates on the San Diego campus, one Jewish student said, including the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and a fake Talmudic quotation giving permission for Jewish males to violate any non-Jewish female over the age of 3. At the University of Chicago, a Jewish student group said, "Jews are being mistreated and intimidated on campus ... anti-Semitism has been made acceptable, even fashionable, by a long process of academic delegitimizing of Israel and Judaism."

Chris Silver, co-chair of the Israel Action Committee at Berkeley, said something similar: "There is a lot of anti-Semitism that goes on here separate from the massive amount of anti-Israel sentiment that can be found in every department and in every classroom." (Off-campus, too. Amiri Baraka, New Jersey's poet laureate, is in the news for anti-Semitism again, this time for some doggerel implicating Jews in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.)

An op-ed writer at The Detroit News asked, "When did anti-Semitism lose its seat on the bus of political correctness?" He meant, why doesn't the PC culture protect Jews? The answer is that seats on the PC bus are reserved for certified victim groups, but Jews don't count. They have been historical victims for centuries, but they are doing too well in America to qualify as officially aggrieved. And as Muslims have been welcomed into the grievance culture, the status of Jews on campus, the stronghold of PC, has become problematic.

Israel itself is often seen as an intolerable colonial outpost, planted in the historically victimized Third World by the West. The things that most Americans admire about Israel, that it has many of the same features as the United States -- free speech, an open society, democratic institutions -- make it a natural target of America-hating campus sentiment.

Hostility to Israel was a strong feature of the New Left in the '60s as it is of the campus left today. And as Boston Globe columnist Cathy Young pointed out, sympathy for the Palestinians, even when they are blowing up Israel's women and children, "stems largely from the knee-jerk instinct to romanticize the 'wretched of the earth.'"

Anti-Israel activism on campus is mostly the work of Muslim students and the far left. Some of the ugliest incidents have occurred in the San Francisco Bay area, where the left is unusually strong. At Berkeley, Chris Silver says, "Instead of rallying behind Iraq, the hard left here tends to keep focusing on Israel."

Sponsors of an anti-Israel conference this past weekend at the University of Michigan condemn the "racism and discrimination inherent in Zionism" (which seems to mean that Israel is an illegitimate state that will have to go) and refuse to criticize the suicide bombings because "it is not our place to dictate the strategies and tactics adopted by the Palestinians."

The primary carrier of the "Israel is illegitimate" message on campus is the movement to get universities to stop investing in corporations that do business in Israel, as they did in corporations that did business in South Africa during apartheid. Divestment won't happen, but a slanderous point is being made, that Israel is a hopelessly racist state, the one nation is the world that must be singled out for financial punishment.

The divestment movement is the successor to last summer's atrocious U.N. conference on racism, which surveyed the entire world and chose to focus only on one "racist" state, Israel. For the backers of divestment, criticism and political opposition to Israeli policies aren't nearly enough. No, the only open, democratic nation in its part of the world must be isolated as a pariah. Is this what people on campus really want?

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JWR contributor John Leo's latest book is Incorrect Thoughts: Notes on Our Wayward Culture. Send your comments by clicking here.


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