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November 12, 2015 9:55 pm

Dershowitz: Why Are Opponents of ‘Micro-Aggressions’ Against Minorities Silent When it Comes to Jews?

avatar by Alan Dershowitz

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The University of Missouri. Pictured here is the journalism school. Photo: Wikipedia

The University of Missouri. Pictured here is the journalism school. Photo: Wikipedia

Following the forced resignations of the President and Provost of the University of Missouri, demonstrations against campus administrators have spread across the country. Students – many of whom are Black, gay, transgender and Muslim – claim that they feel “unsafe” as the result of what they call “white privilege” or sometimes simply privilege.  “Check your privilege” has become the put-down du jour. Students insist on being protected by campus administrators from “micro-aggressions,” meaning unintended statements inside and outside the classroom that demonstrate subtle insensitivities towards minority students. They insist on being safe from hostile or politically incorrect ideas. They demand “trigger warnings” before sensitive issues are discussed or assigned. They want to own the narrative and keep other points of view from upsetting them or making them feel unsafe.

These current manifestations of a widespread culture of victimization and grievance are only the most recent iterations of a dangerous long-term trend on campuses both in the United States and in Europe. The ultimate victims are freedom of expression, academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas. Many faculty members, administrators and students are fearful of the consequences if they express politically incorrect or dissident views that may upset some students. So they engage in self-censorship. They have seen what has happened to those who have expressed unpopular views, and it is not a pretty picture.

I know, because I repeatedly experience this backlash when I speak on campuses. Most recently, I was invited to deliver the Milton Eisenhower lecture at Johns Hopkins University. As soon as the lecture was announced, several student groups demanded that the invitation must be rescinded. The petition objected to my mere “presence” on campus, stating that my views on certain issues “are not matters of opinion, and cannot be debated” and that they are “not issues that are open to debate of any kind.” These non-debatable issues include some of the most controversial concerns that are roiling campus today: sexual assault, academic integrity and the Israel-Palestine conflict. The protesting students simply didn’t want my view on these and other issues expressed on their campus, because my lecture would make them feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

The groups demanding censorship of my lecture included Hopkins Feminists, Black student Union, Diverse Sexuality and General Alliance, Sexual Assault Resource Unit and Voice for Choice. I have been told that two faculty members urged these students, who had never heard of me, to organize the protests, but the cowardly faculty members would not themselves sign the petition. The petition contained blatant lies about me and my views, but that is beside the point. I responded to the lies in my lecture and invited the protesting students to engage me during the Q and A.  But instead, they walked out in the middle of my presentation, while I was discussing the prospects for peace in the Mid-East.

According to the Johns Hopkins News-Letter another petition claimed that “by denying Israel’s alleged war crimes against Palestinians” I violated the Universities “anti-harassment policy” and its “statement of ethical standards.” In other words, by expressing my reasonable views on a controversial subject, I harassed students.

Some of the posters advertising my lecture were defaced with Hitler mustaches drawn on my face. Imagine the outcry if comparably insensitive images had been drawn on the faces of invited minority lecturers.

I must add that the Hopkins administration and the student group that invited me responded admirably to the protests, fully defending my right to express my views and the right of the student group to invite me. The lecture went off without any hitches and I answered all the questions — some quite critical, but all polite – for the large audience that came to hear the presentation.

The same cannot be said of several other lectures I have given on other campuses which were disrupted by efforts to shout me down, especially by anti-Israel groups that are committed to preventing pro-Israel speakers from expressing their views.

The point is not only that some students care less about freedom of expression in general than about protecting all students from “micro-aggressions.” It is that many of these same students are perfectly willing to make other students with whom they disagree with feel unsafe and offended by their own micro and macro aggressions.  Consider, for example, a recent protest at the City University of New York by Students for Justice in Palestine that blamed high tuition on “the Zionist Administration [of the University that] invests in Israeli companies, companies that support the Israeli occupation, hosts birthright programs and study abroad programs in occupied Palestine [by which is meant Israel proper] and reproduces settler-colonial ideology throughout Cuny though Zionist content of education.”

Let’s be clear what they mean by “Zionist”:  they mean “Jew.” There are many Jewish administrators at City University. Some are probably Zionists. Others are probably not.  Blaming Zionists for high tuition is out and out anti-Semitism. It is not micro-aggression. It is in-your-face macro-aggression against City University Jews.

Yet those who protest micro-aggressors against other minorities are silent when it comes to Jews. This is not to engage in comparative victimization, but rather to expose the double standard, the selective outrage and the overt hypocrisy of many of those who would sacrifice free speech on the altar of political correctness, whose content they seek to dictate.

Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Emeritus Professor at Harvard Law School and the author of two new books:  “The Case Against the Iran Deal: How Can We Now Stop Iran from Getting Nukes?, “  available on Kindle and other ebook sites and Abraham: The World’s First (But Certainly Not Last) Jewish Lawyer, available on Amazon.

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  • a yid

    Alan, you said “minority” professors as if you weren’t one?

  • Michael Z

    Here’s just how bad things are. Dershowitz–defender of the Jewish people, without doubt–writes:

    “Some of the posters advertising my lecture were defaced with Hitler mustaches drawn on my face. Imagine the outcry if comparably insensitive images had been drawn on the faces of invited minority lecturers.”

    Since when are Jews not a minority?

  • Sven

    It’s a lot easier than Dershowitz makes it: The people who are offended by anything that disagrees with their ideas are a bunch of losers. At some level, they know that what they claim to believe is false and that what they really want is to be protected from having to face reality. They lack the skills and other resources to make it in the world on their own, perhaps because they have been “educated” by people who hold the same loser views.

    Jews don’t warrant that kind of “protection” because as a group they have been disproportionately successful. Losers always resent the winners and there’s probably not much more to it than that.

    • Crazycatkid

      Wow, Sven, my grandparent generation wasnt too successful in not being murdered by the anti-Semites of that day. Jews are hated first and hardly anyone comes to their defense.
      Jews were hated throughout history, murdered on a whim, lied about and blamed for any and all ills. By Christians in the past, by leftists/Islam today under the thin guise of being anti-Israel (the Jewish nation). The success of many Jews is due to hard work despite the ongoing hatred and lies. It is not an easy road in life, believe me. But faith helps. Are we winners? Intellectually perhaps. But how winning is it to be the canary in the coal mine for every every era of putrid perverted hatred that erupts in human history?

  • ego; noun, definition; equating protests against a prospective campus speaker with protests against the killing of unarmed individuals. Sorry you were inconvenienced, Al. Maybe you could compare you experiences of personal discrimination with those of Professor Gates.

  • steven L

    Liberalism: a mind set NOT available to the “Have Not”. This was a well kept secret unfolding only now.

  • Paul Leber

    So what’s new? In the words of Tom Lehrer’s famous sang, “Everybody hates the Jews.” Been true for millennia, true now!

  • D Cripps
  • effects

    Maybe people are just sick to high heaven of whiney, whingy jews

    • Michael

      ‘Whiny’ Jews have contributed more to civilization, and incited fewer wars than any other culture. You should respect your betters.

    • a yid

      No, they are sick of anti-semitic slime like you posting loathsome comments. Go slither back under your rock.

    • Moshe

      If you’re sick of us, come get us. We’re waiting for you.

    • Mark

      Definitely sick to hell of your baseless hatred of us “whingy, whiney Jews.” You need to change your moniker to affected.

    • H. Jones

      Or sick of anti-semites and idiots like you.

    • Berl Dov Lerner

      Thank you for demonstrating what really lies behind the phenomenon of “concern” about “Israel’s war-crimes”.

    • As opposed to the whiney, whingy Muslims and their hypersensitive supporters?Who runs to the UN ,ICC,UNWRA, EU,UNHRC, global media et al , accusing an opponent of the very crime they themselves commit?.

    • KLD

      What about the generalized anti-Semitic scapegoating whines of intolerance by non-Jews like yourself? Even those opposed the settlements; those who Jews who protest the extremist Lahava attacks of Benzi Gopstein are offended by statements like yours and those expressed by Dershewitz. A statement becomes anti-Semitic, when it attacks the faith, not a nation.

  • Kris Kristian

    Amazing, that wherever one goes, it is the black and Musliom students who cause all the trouble.

    Time for the universities of the world, to wake up and warn any students who disrupt lectures by visiting lecturers, or creat hatred and damage to property, as well as demand free university education, to be told that they either behave, and stop demanding that which is not their rights, to get out and find worlk.
    Those studenta will eventually become the leaders. The world has enough problems without those haters.
    In South Africa, they demanded free higher education, rioted and caused tremendous problems.
    At the one university, which has a majority of Muslim students caused damage to university property, to the value of many millions of South African Rands.
    Tiem for these hooligans to be expelled, and not be allowed to enter any university.
    They cannot take the law into teir own hands.

    • Stan Nadel

      No, many of these obnoxious activists are while and not Muslims–some are even of Jewish origin.

  • Peter

    With respect, I see a distinction between the terms Jew and Zionist. I have found non Jewish Zionists and I have come across Jews who are not in support of Zionism. I am however disappointed to hear that students walked out of a talk that they obviously didn’t want to hear. That would indicate that they arrived with the intention of staging a walkout. It would have been fitting of a student body to engage you in debate after hearing you.

    • elizabeth

      with respect
      anti Zionist=Antisemite.

      • Stuart G. Friedman

        I disagree. Zionism is a political ideology. Judaism is a religion. Arguably it is also a culture, but it is not a political philosophy. There are Jews who do not believe in the legitimacy of the State of Israel. This includes several ultra-orthodox sects. Google on “Naturei Kara.”

        I am Jewish and do not agree with Professor Dershowitz with respect to his views Israel or his views on Iran, but they are legitimate positions which should be subject to a public debate. Whatever happened with the notion that a university was a “market place of ideas?”

        I need a “safe space” from censors.

    • Berl Dov Lerner

      Are you suggesting that “Zionist Jews” and “non-Zionist Jews” differ as to their affects on tuition at CUNY?

  • Sam Omekara

    The liberals and deluded leftist students and faculty are on the move. We will outlast them. Truth will overcome lies and evil. American universities are turning to toxic violent Islamic breeding ground. All talks about ” micro aggression “, are nothing but thinly veiled antisemitism. Horrible lifestyle is now celebrated on campuses and demand to be overtly respected and glorified. Shame, that black folks are allowing themselves to be conned into associating with these ‘others’ at presenting themselves as genuine minorities whose views must not be debated.
    Mr Alan Dershowitz remains a formidable counterpoise to their shenanigans. Thanks Alan.

  • We must recognize the influence of the mass media, which has been readily manipulated by the delegitimization campaign and is largely acquiescing with it. In the media’s selective coverage of certain stories and its biased portrayal of Israel, we are witnessing what amounts to an abdication of the media’s role as watchdog, and in this we can discern disturbing parallels to the mass media during the Holocaust, which was essentially silent.
    This corrosive questioning of Israel’s right to exist cannot be underestimated—it is a very serious threat. Many, including the Reut Institute, the non-partisan Tel Aviv think tank, are sounding the alarm that the delegitimizers, despite claims that their goal is to end Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory and promote a two-state solution, are actually aiming for the same goal as the Islamist rejectionists—their objective is to weaken Israel politically and economically through their calls for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions, and to ultimately force a one-state solution in which there is a Muslim majority. The delegitimizers are engaged in a full-out campaign, modeled on the fall of supremacist white South Africa, to erode Israel’s legitimacy by insisting that it is based on segregationist and racist principles. And when delegitimization reaches a tipping point, it can move very quickly.
    I wish that was the end of my list of the challenges facing Israel, but it is not. Perhaps even more potentially devastating is the possibility that Israel’s traditional allies will not stand by when they are most needed. Throughout its existence, Israel could count on the powerful backing and good will of the U.S. and to some extent its Western allies. Under the current administration—and we all hope that we are wrong—that is no longer assured.
    Yes, today is not 1939. Today the Jewish people are arguably more powerful than we have been at any time in the past two thousand years. We are powerful because the Jews of the Diaspora have a voice in the U.S. and Europe but mainly we are powerful because we have Israel and its military might.
    Disunity; yet, at a time when we should recognize our strength, join our voices, and be up in arms in protest, we are essentially ineffective. Those of us who are alarmed and understand the need for immediate action should also acknowledge that regardless of the countless e-mails and articles we forward to friends, and how many conversations we have, we are not accomplishing much other than making ourselves feel marginally better—it is time to stop speaking only among ourselves.
    One would hope that these serious threats to Israel would catalyze a coming together of Jewry worldwide, but that is a quaint and unrealistic notion. The religious and political disagreements continue. Even the once-plausible concept of a common fate is losing credibility. The traditionally steadfast bond between U.S. Jews and Israeli Jews is losing strength, particularly among members of the younger generation. While the distance in miles has not changed, the two communities are drifting ever-further apart. This division has been exacerbated by the current U.S. administration.
    The Obama administration’s relationship with Israel, to be polite, is not friendly. The president of the United States and his secretary of state have chosen to pursue a strategy that de-prioritizes Israel on multiple levels in an effort to appease the much larger, oil-rich nations of the Muslim world, despite the ongoing belligerent animus of this group. It is clear that the president has different priorities than the Jewish people, and that, unlike some of his predecessors in the White House; President Obama does not endorse Israeli exceptionalism.

  • NYC View

    The cultural indignation shown in the face of “micro-aggressions” against “minorities” is not understated. Concomitantly, the silence, affirmative disparagement or outright anti-Semitism exhibited when it comes to Israel and Jews cannot be overlooked. It is indeed an inexcusable hypocrisy, and sadder statement on current social values, that seem to hold the former as a politically incorrect offense, while the later as “progressively” defensible.

  • Wm. J. Levy

    It was the Jews who organized the overthrow of the Czars until the Bolsheviks overthrew them.

    It was the Jews who founded the NAACP in 1909 and who led it and guided it and financed it until it became what it is now-anti-Jew and anti-Israel.

    It was the Jews who formed the tactics of the left and for who the left condemns today.

    Instead of being strong the Jews have allowed themselves to become weak, disunited and weak and vulnerable.

    They died for the blacks but not for themselves.

    Become strong or disappear!!!

    • a yid

      it is very sad, virtually tragic that assimilated Jews without a proper or sufficient connection to our torah and mesorah can become agents for non-Jewish causes seemingly beneficent but prove later to become antisemitic.

  • Howard Kahan

    “White Privilege”. Will someone please enlighten me about this term ? I read something about a black gal that wanted to have this taught at the university level, then it seemed to disappear. In answer to Alan Dershowitz question, its simple. Its because, Who really cares about Jews. Really not too many. Even in the best country in the world,where we never had it so good.

    • Ilya Lavrenti

      White privilege? Why do I feel left out?

  • The Consequences of Appeasement r7

    The decisions made by the government of Israel since The six day war of 1967 leading up to Gaza war with Hamas July 2014, as well as those of the first ten months or so after the turnover of Gaza in 2004 began, have dumbfounded historians ever since.
    The PA leader makes a speech in front of the UN and announces that the Oslo Accord is no longer applicable and that he is not going to abide by its terms. Thereafter, Arab terror and violence, car ramming, knifing, stone throwing and every conceivable method of disturbance and destabilization is being applied.
    The current Arab terror and violence facing the people of Israel, and the Arab claim to forbid Jews from Temple Mount, is a product of restraint to Arab violence and the concern what world reaction would be, while sacrificing Jewish lives, and diminishing the safety and security of Israel and its people.
    The appeasement and concessions of Israel to the Arabs-Palestinians, in particular, has been so often held up as an example of how not to deal with a rising terrorism and violence that it has become a stereotype.
    Had Israel stood its ground and responded to terrorism or any violence with utmost force. Israel would not be facing today’s crisis.
    As many have said – appeasement, concessions and lack of proper response to terrorism is detrimental to Israel its people and the Jewish people worldwide.

    Israel under International Law has the right to build and live in Judea and Samaria and any other territory formerly within the boundary of Palestine. As decried by the San Remo agreement, confirmed by the 1920 treaty of Sevres and Lausanne including the 1919 Faisal Weizmann Agreement; of which terms are survived in perpetuity. Any deviation or prohibition is outright discrimination and a violation of international law against Israel and the Jewish people. As past history has proven, concessions by Israel have only increased violence and terrorism. Israel is an independent democratic sovereign country and it must operate and run the country without being dictated how to run the country and outside interference, just like the U.S. and other countries.
    It is time for Israel to respond with extreme force and zero tolerance to quell terrorism, violence and rioting – no holds barred, zero tolerance. Israel should inform all Arab leaders in greater Israel that if terror and violence continues they will hold them responsible and they will bear the consequences.

    What the Arabs could not win in loosing four major wars against Israel, they won in playing the deceptive peace game. The Arabs all the while are building up arsenals and educating their children to hate, commit terror and violence and to destroy Israel. While enriching; their own personal pockets with the billions contributed by the world to help the impoverished Arab-Palestinian. The G7 and other nations want Arab Oil and for that, they will do anything! The end result ignoring reality will destroy them also.
    What a scheme – and the gullible delusional world is buying it hook line and sinker.

    When will the World at large learn that the Arabs cannot be trusted; they consider all non-believers as their enemies. I hope the world takes of the blinders, before the Arabs take over Europe and than the United States and Canada, etc.

    I wonder, how come in the nations of the world; No one is questioning the 21 Arab States established after WWI with over 5 million square miles of territory, including Jordan’s sovereignty, a country that never existed in history before WWI and which was established in violation of international law and treaties, on land originally allocated to the Jewish people in 1920, which included all of Palestine’s 75,000 square miles of which 80% was illegally reallocated to Arab Jordan. If you question Israel’s rights and territory you might as well question the sovereignty and territory of the other 21 Arab States set up at the same time by the same Supreme Allied Powers that set up the Jewish State.

    The Arab countries terrorized and expelled over a million Jewish families and confiscated all their assets including over 70,000 square miles of real property. Many of the Jews have been living in the Arab countries over 2400 years. Most of the expelled Jewish families were resettled in Israel and today comprise over half the population.

    YJ Draiman

    • a yid

      Thank you!!

  • Sorry Alan, you have no credibility. Twice you supported Obama. Even after the Cairo speech when he made clear he reveres the mass murderer of Jews, Muhammad…you still supported him. Only an antisemitic Jew would support someone who reveres a mass murderer of Jews. Go sit with Hamas and Hezbollah: Obama reveres mass murderers of Jews and you love Obama. You cannot be a credible Jew and support someone who reveres a mass murderer of Jews. You don’t have shred of credibility, Alan.

  • SteveHC

    An EXCELLENT piece.

    THANK YOU, Mr. Dershowitz!

  • Typical of the far left, Freedom of speech means freedom only if you agree with their Radical left wing agenda or else you must remain silent To me it sounds like modern Fascism or Totalitarianism

  • Why Are Opponents of ‘Micro-Aggressions’ Against Minorities Silent When it Comes to Jews?

    Because those opponents are proponents of “Macro-Aggressions” against Israel, and ultimately the Jewish people. And Anti-Zionism is unadulterated Jew-hatred.

  • Scott

    Great article. Too bad no one proofread it. The grammatical mistakes are an embarrassment.