‘Student Voices’ Exposes Anti-Semitism in the College Classroom
The testimonials of more than 100 students from almost 50 colleges and universities in twenty states tell of “being intimidated, harassed or bullied as a Jewish and/or a pro-Israel student,” according to Student Voices (SV). A project of the AMCHA Initiative, which combats campus anti-Semitism, the data at SV spans the past year-and-a-half, and typically originates with student op-eds and articles from sympathetic media.
Although the majority of cited incidents involve Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the Muslim Student Association (MSA), student government groups, and the BDS movement, several of the examples involve professors of Middle East studies, many of whom are themselves BDS activists and supporters.
For example, students at Northeastern University in Boston recount classroom bias and intimidation by M. Shahid Alam, an economist whose research interests include Islamic civilization and Zionism, and who once declared it “a sign of distinction” to be called an anti-Semite:
At Northeastern University, professor Muhammad Shahid Alam demonizes Israel, delegitimizes Jewish history, and infringes on his students’ free speech by shutting down any differing views. A non-Jewish student that dropped his class stated that, “if someone does raise a counterpoint, he uses semantics to twist it around and try to tear whoever asked the question apart.”
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At Rutgers University, a Middle Eastern studies major describes professors who talk about wiping Israel off the map:
Senior Talia Friedman of Teaneck, a Middle Eastern studies and economics major, said she has heard professors refer to Israel as Palestine during classes. “It’s right on the map as the sovereign state of Israel,” said Friedman, a student leader at Chabad and a member of the Rutgers University Student Assembly. “When I tell them that it is the sovereign state of Israel, not Palestine, they say, ‘Right — Israel, formerly known as Palestine.’”
A University of Chicago student, as part of the daily onslaught of campus anti-Israel vitriol, reports on a lecture from Steven Salaita, the former Virginia Tech professor who, after being spurned by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for his hateful, anti-Semitic tweets, is now heading to the American University of Beirut (AUB) for the 2015/16 academic year:
I went to see Steven Salaita, a professor whose job offer was rescinded at University of Illinois, presumably because of a string of strongly worded anti-Israeli tweets like “I wish all the f—ing West Bank settlers would go missing” after three Israeli boys were kidnapped, or “Zionists: transforming ‘antisemitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948.” At the event, Salaita painted a picture that could be interpreted to suggest Jews control academia and silence views they don’t like, while repeating several times that he is not an anti-Semite.
Similarly, a student at the University of Missouri conveys frustration that Saree Makdisi, a University of California, Los Angeles English professor, BDS supporter, and well-known anti-Israel ideologue, was invited to speak on her campus with no opposing viewpoints offered:
Recently, six university departments sponsored a talk by author Saree Makdisi, who has said it is more important to eliminate the Jewish state than to create a Palestinian one. . . . “But when Students Supporting Israel or CUFI [Christians United for Israel] asks these same departments to co-sponsor events, we either don’t hear back or we hear, ‘we cannot help you.’ It’s not fair.”
Meanwhile, at Wellesley College, the Jewish representative for the school’s “multi-faith council” attended an SJP-sponsored meeting and encountered Sa’ed Adel Atshan, a Tufts University lecturer, BDS activist, and proponent of “pinkwashing” – the claim that Israel touts gay rights to downplay its alleged oppression of the Palestinians:
Last week [Rebecca] Berger attended a meeting . . . featuring speaker Sa’ed [Adel] Atshan, a [former] postdoctoral fellow at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies and a lecturer in peace and justice studies at Tufts University. At the meeting, attended by 60 to 70 students, Atshan said that the Jewish state was established in its present location “only because Uganda wasn’t available,” said Berger. “He equated all non-Zionist Jews with Jews of conscience, which makes Zionist Jews something else, I guess,” she said. “It was extremely destructive, and with the posters and the lack of face-to-face dialogue, added to the stalemate on campus.”
No doubt there are countless such instances on U.S. college campuses that remain untold because students are intimidated into silence, or simply choose to keep their heads down and get on with their studies. It doesn’t help that those who do share experiences of classroom bias are often falsely accused by the insular, academic world of “reporting” professors and of being “spies.” But the outside world must learn their stories to help fight the return of anti-Semitism as a socially acceptable bigotry. Such “student voices” need to be heard.