On College Campuses, Saving Democracy From Itself
Every democracy must defend itself against those who exploit its liberties to destroy it from within. The West must realize that naïvely open societies are the meals of plotting wolves, and totalitarian ideologies will exploit every freedom and benefit of the doubt that they are given. The documentary film “The Grand Deception,” by terrorism expert Steven Emerson, demonstrates in frightening detail just how much the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated U.S. society – from the media, to university campuses, to local and federal government. Apologists for Islamists will reflexively label the expose as “islamophobic” but the film is based on well documented cases pursued by the Department of Justice.
Unfortunately, one of the dangers underscored in the film has already materialized: Islamists and their sympathizers increasingly dominate college campuses, and the trend threatens those who want to remain free of sharia law, those who openly support Israel, and those who care about free speech and academic freedom. Groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) are increasingly active on campuses across North America, even though they advocate for Israel’s destruction, admire terrorists, and are making Jewish students feel unsafe.
The toxic environment produced by such organizations is unmistakable. Just a few days ago, a student coalition at Stanford University grilled a student council candidate about her Jewish identity and positions on Israel. Last month, UCLA students, debated whether a student was fit to serve on the student council because of her Jewish background. Last February, at the University of California at Davis, an even more hateful climate produced swastikas on a Jewish fraternity house, a student government vote to divest from companies doing business with Israel, and a proclamation by Student Senator Azka Fayyaz that “Hamas & Sharia law have taken over UC Davis…Israel will fall. insha’Allah.” (This is the same Hamas that opts to rearm for the next war with Israel rather than rehabilitate Gaza from the last one.)
Aggressively disruptive tactics are used by anti-Israel activists to try to silence dissenting views, as happened when Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren was repeatedly heckled at UC Irvine in 2010. And campus speech codes are increasingly used to silence those who dare to defend Israel against the constant and disproportionate vitriol directed at it.
Connecticut College professor Andrew Pessin is the latest casualty of hate groups exploiting the values of free speech and inclusiveness to defeat those very principles on campus. When he dared to exercise his free speech rights to defend the only Mideast state that has such rights, an SJP leader began a smear campaign to label Pessin’s defense of Israel a hate crime. In the skewed moral universe at Connecticut College, Professor Pessin, who actually endorses a two-state solution recognizing the rights of both Jews and Palestinians, is called a racist, while the student campaigning against him – who scoffs at anti-Semitism and supports the genocidal terrorist group Hamas – is embraced as a moral hero. The administration’s handling of this fiasco has been so inept and unfair that everyone who cares about academic freedom, free speech, and/or Israel’s right to defend itself from the murderous attacks of Hamas should sign this petition supporting Professor Pessin, who was forced to take a medical leave of absence because of this ordeal involving personal threats, reputational damage, and other costs.
While university administrators often fail to protect those who defend Israel, the only Mideast democracy and a close ally, they are all too tolerant of hateful Islamist groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) who are sworn enemies of the U.S. and its values. Astonishingly, a Cornell University dean suggested that members of ISIS could be welcomed onto the Ivy League campus to conduct talks and even training programs. It is precisely such clueless naiveté about Islamist intentions that ultimately endangers the United States, where it has infected the highest levels of power.
Indeed, when freedom of speech was literally murdered in the Paris offices of the Charlie Hebdo publication, Obama skipped the solidarity march and described the four Jewish victims of the subsequent Parisian kosher market attack as “folks in a deli”even though the Islamist murderer himself admitted to targeting Jews (rather than just random deli “folks”). Obama consistently denies any religious element to Islamic terrorism by generically labeling it “violent extremism.” Following the same policy on an exponentially more perilous scale, Obama now whitewashes Iran’s support for Islamic terrorism and hides illegal North Korean shipments of missile components to Iran in his desperate effort to close a deal that he admits will give Iran nukes in about a decade (despite Obama’s many prior assurances that he wouldn’t let this happen).
Ironically, the leader of Egypt, a country that is about 90% Muslim, has shown far more courage and honesty in confronting the Islamist threat than Obama has – perhaps because Egypt’s very survival depends on strategic clarity. But distance from the epicenter of the Islamist threat (in the Middle East) doesn’t guarantee security from it, as Europe’s experience teaches.
North Americans who cherish their freedoms must oppose the dangerous trend on campuses today: university administrations that tolerate intolerance while hate groups try to silence those who defend the only democracy in the Middle East. The harassment is still mostly a nonviolent attempt to chill free speech, but how far are we from Charlie Hebdo-style massacres? When students openly welcome Hamas and sharia law on campus and university administrators respond to encroaching Islamist influences with naiveté or indifference, the stage is set for far more aggressive and potentially violent forms of Islamist activism.
This week, Holocaust Remembrance Day should remind everyone how a hateful movement that starts by targeting Jews rarely ends with them. While Islamists may have initially focused their attacks on Israel, today they wage an ongoing genocide against Mideast Christians and Yazidis, and attack the West with greater frequency and lethality. An analysis by the Investigative Project on Terrorism found that over “80 percent of all convictions tied to international terrorist groups and homegrown terrorism since 9/11 involve defendants driven by a radical Islamist agenda.” Just last February, a Florida University professor was deported over ties to the terror group Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
If universities are increasingly dominated by an Islamist agenda, and they are where our democracy’s future is trained, what sort of future awaits us?
Noah Beck is the author of The Last Israelis, an apocalyptic novel about Iranian nukes and other geopolitical issues in the Middle East.