Hating Jews at Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley’s graduate student labor union (UAW 2865) is voting on whether the State of Israel should continue to exist. No one is waiting with bated breath for the tally of a vote whose implementation would violate both California and United States law. It is one of those exercises in academic hubris laced with ignorance for which Berkeley is famous. After all, students know slightly less American history after four years at the prestigious institution than before they crossed through Sather Gate.
One of the leaders of the anti-Israel movement is Lara Kiswani, whose rhetoric reminds one of the days when leftists sat in their Marxist circle groups and talked about “mechanistic thinking” as an impediment to achieving the socialist utopia. Kiswani’s rhetoric is filled with the same clichés, but let me say that Kiswani’s ability to manifest hatred honestly and simply is as impressive as it is refreshing.
I have gone to academic panels on the Arab/Israel conflict for more than four decades, and I always find the obligatory pandering to democratic values somewhere between boring and insulting.
Now comes Kiswani like a breeze off San Francisco Bay on a hot day. Here she is in her own words: “See, part of the problem with the Palestine question, particularly on campus, is it always gets framed as this two-sided thing and liberal democracy loves to make it seem like everyone has a right to speak, including the oppressor alongside the oppressed. … I don’t think that this form of liberal democracy really has a place in terms of real struggle. … Maybe liberal Zionists here on this campus have a hard time understanding what that means. … As long as you choose to be on that side, I’m going to continue to hate you.”
It takes rare courage to stand in a lecture hall at Berkeley, the home of the vaunted Free Speech Movement, and denounce free speech.
And there is something special about acknowledging that her personal embrace of a just cause gives moral license to decide whose voices will and will not be heard, and to admit that the opposition isn’t her adversary – with whom she might compromise, but her enemy, whom she hates and is entitled to isolate and ultimately destroy.
The concept of hatred for Kiswani is not simply that of the great unifier, as Eric Hoffer called it; it is a component of a moral passion that gives her the right to censor thought and speech and call for the destruction of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination.
Ironically, Kiswani, is the director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, which is funded by the Tides Foundation, an organization that allegedly supports peaceful solutions to international conflict, and seeks to protect the Constitution from the intrusion of organizations with an authoritarian agenda. Apparently, in this case, the Tides Foundation made an exception that human rights and peace do not apply to Jews.
Kiswani’s Youth Director Sharif Zakout yearns for the day his people will return to “Palestine” and rebuild it, begging the question of what he will do with the seven million Israelis and the modern, high-tech society they have created. Perhaps, he would prefer a society that both looks and is run like Gaza or Ramallah.
Kiswani wants to silence voices and manifest hatred, but she should neither be silenced nor hated. She is an authentic, unblemished voice that should be heard loud and clear. Perhaps then some of our so called Jewish leaders, with their diaspora (galut) mentality, will ask her what they can do to solve the problem. Her answer would be telling.
It would probably be the most honest conversation they have yet had on the issue.
Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati, and a contributor to the Franklin Center for Government and Political Integrity.