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April 30, 2015 7:01 pm

Antisemitism on Campus: Old Wine in New Bottles

avatar by Abraham Foxman

Email a copy of "Antisemitism on Campus: Old Wine in New Bottles" to a friend

A SJP protest in Washington. The group recently held a demonstration at NYU, accusing Israel of genocide. Photo: Facebook.

As someone who has been critical about the sometimes overheated reaction to what is taking place regarding Jews on campus, I also believe it is vital to monitor the situation closely and to be able to reevaluate as things may change.

I still believe that the vast majority of Jewish students have normal lives on campus where they can be comfortable in their own skins and with their Jewish identities. That is why a recent survey suggesting that more than 50 percent of Jewish students experienced antisemitism in one form or another was disturbing. This survey – which in my opinion was flawed — was not a helpful reading of what is going on.

And yet, something is changing.  We need to identify what it is and deal with it — without declaring the sky is falling.

Historically, many campuses, particularly when it comes to faculty, have a reputation of being left-wing or at least very liberal. Since the vast majority of the Jewish community has identified itself in a similar fashion for decades, there seemed to be no problem.

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Together with this, however, polls of the American people in the last few years appear to indicate an increasing gap in attitudes toward Israel between those who identify themselves as conservatives and those who identify themselves as liberals. The latter are increasingly questioning Israeli policies and expressing interest in a more balanced American approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It is this evolving phenomenon which, I believe, is lending force to the anti-Israel forces on campus. Let’s be clear: There has always been a measure of left-wing opposition to Israel on campuses, whether from faculty or some student groups.

For sure they are more organized today. Students for Justice in Palestine, the main organizing force behind the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns, has refined and intensified its tactics and is popping up on new campuses every month or so.  Regardless of the fact that the BDS campaign has not gained much traction on campus in terms of having any impact against Israel – many, if not most, of the boycott votes have been soundly defeated – it is creating a great deal of noise on campus and beyond, raising a lot of attention, and contributing to the sense of discomfort of Jewish students.

But the biggest change is the fertile ground in which the anti-Israel community is sowing its seeds.

The trends that are appearing relate to the perception of Jewish students and their relations with other minority communities.  There are suggestions that Jews do not qualify for participation in minority community activity on campus, for two reasons:  1) They are deemed people of privilege, not minorities worthy of special attention; and 2) their assumed support for “colonialist, apartheid” Israel puts them in the camp of would-be oppressors rather than targets and opponents of prejudice.

Recent incidents at UCLA and Stanford bring this disturbing phenomenon into focus.  At UCLA, a student leader had her qualifications for a Judicial Board position come under question due to her Jewish identity and affiliation with the Jewish community on campus. At Stanford, a Jewish student running for a position in student government was asked how her Judaism might influence her position on divestment from Israel.

What was so stunning to the student applicants was not that they were asked about their views on Israel – they were aware that, unfortunately, these bodies supported boycott actions against the Jewish State.  Rather, that there was no shame in introducing the candidates’ Jewishness as the critical factor in assessing the candidacy.

It is this linking of attitudes toward Israel and attitudes toward Jews that raises concern about the future of Jewish life on campus.  Larry Summers, when president at Harvard, foresaw this back in 2002 when there was an effort to bring a divestment campaign to the university.

He, most importantly, rejected it, decrying the abhorrent comparison of democratic Israel to apartheid South Africa.  He then went on to explain that while not all who advocated divestment from Israel were motivated by antisemitism, even those who weren’t created a climate making antisemitism more palatable by the assault on the good name of the Jewish State.

In effect, the attacks on Israel on campus are unleashing inhibitions against expressions of anti-Jewish prejudice and beginning to legitimize attacks on Jews on campus.

While much of this is in a nascent stage, it is important to deal with it now on several levels.

First, greater efforts must be made to generate a more balanced view of Israel and the region among minority students. Some are undoubtedly locked in to their anti-Israel perspective for ideological reasons.  But many others are certainly open to hearing a different take on the Middle East.  Not one in which Israel is always in the right, but a complicated narrative about competing interest and needs.

Second, it must be made clear that whatever one’s views on the conflict, treating Jews differently is unacceptable and it is what it is, anti-Semitism. University officials must speak out clearly and unequivocally against even the slightest hint of singling Jews out that way.

Third, we must continually assess the status of Jews on campus in a calm and rational way, distinguishing between the real challenges Jewish students face without sending alarm signals which could undermine the normal life on campus that exists for most of them.

Jews in America have made too much progress over the last half-century to cause us to overreact. Still, we cannot afford to be complacent. We have to address these campus issues now before they expand further and spin out of control, truly creating a widespread worrisome atmosphere.

Abraham H. Foxman is National Director of the Anti-Defamation League.


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  • The rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe is connected to the ideology of radical Islam, which does not recognize such “core values” as freedom of speech, religious pluralism, separation of religion and state, and women’s and minority rights.

  • Hans Kaul

    If I were a student and in the Student Government (SG), I would ask anyone, who is moslem, seeking a position in the SG, whether they support the existence of Israel.

  • esther noodelman

    I ALSO RECOMMEND THAT ABE FOXMAN ALSO RECOMMEND THAT HIS FRIEND JOSEPH LIEBERMAN FINALLY DENOUNCE HIS OATH WHICH HE INITIATED ALONG WITH 59 OTHER SENATORS (60 SENATORS CAN CREATE A LEGAL STATUS) THAT JONATHAN POLLARD SHOULD NEVER,EVER BE RELEASED.
    ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! Dayenu! SET OUR BROTHER FREE ! THE RELEASE OF THIS OATH BY LIEBERMAN WOULD CONVINCE PRESIDENT OBAMA TO DO THE RIGHT THING,A GREAT HUMANITARIAN GESTURE – TO FINALLY GRANT POLLARD CLEMENCY THAT EVERY PRESIDENT HAS THE RIGHT TO IMPLEMENT.. FOR A VERY,VERY,ILL MAN AT THIS CRIICAL HOUR!DAYENU!!!!

  • esther noodelman

    TIME FOR ABE FOXMAN TO LEAD A CRUSADE TO HAVE POLLARD RELEASED.HE CAN GET THE JEWISH ORGANIZATIONS TO COME ON BOARD .HE SHOULD DEMAND THAT THE ISRAELI EMBASSIES ALSO PUSH FOR HIS RELEASE,NOT BLOCK PEOPLE LIKE ME WHO DESPERATYELY WANT OUR BROTHER JONATHAN HOME TODAY,ALIVE! NO JEWISH ORGANOIZATION ALLOWS PUTTING UP NOTICES FOR A RALLY FOR HIS RELEASE. ARE WE DEALING WITH THE OLD SOVIETS OR A RELUCTANT WORLDWIDE JEWISH ABSTINENCE FROM INVOLVEMENT.DO WE WANT ANOTHER ROSENBERG DISASTER ?ABE FOXMAN,YOU MUST LEAD THE WAY TO CLEAR YOUR NAME!

  • Eve Laing

    I recommend Joan Peters “FROM TIME IMMEMORIAL”..With impeccable scholarship that took 20 years to write, Joan Peters writes of the beginning of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the result of which we are witnessing today. The continual propaganda that the Palestinians churn out is overwhelming in it’s scope and it’s negative attitude to Israel. Amazingly, the Palestinian view is believed by the world’s naïve and ignorant masses. Joan Peters started her book in the hope of dealing with Israel as a nation badly treating the Palestinian victims. As she continued to research the book, she was amazed to find so many discrepancies in the records and narratives that she studied, that she realized her initial approach towards Israel was wrong. That the opposite was true. She sets the record right, finally.
    This book should be in the library of every Jewish Organization that wants to stop the disinformation and lies put out by the Islamic world. And for God’s sake, let’s DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS ABOMINATION.

    • Amy Shapiro

      Joan Peters’ book was thoroughly debunked years ago by Norman Finkelstein. It was nothing more than a mish mash of shoddy lies. Holocaust Denial has more credibility than that cockamamie book. Oy vey.

      • Tabitha Korol

        Norman Finkelstein is an anti-Semite, a self-hating Jew, a liar, a revisionist, and, in a way, suicidal. He hates himself, his people, and his heritage, and spends his days fighting his demons.
        Amy, if he is your mentor or idol, you have much to learn. You are reading the garbage of deranged man. I don’t know where you have to begin, but it’s not with people who hate and wish to destroy Israel. Contact me, if you wish, at unsospiro@sbcglobal.net… I’ll try to find you some reading material that’ll help you overcome your dearth of knowledge.

      • esther noodelman

        JOAN PETERS BOOK HAS ONLY BEEN DEBUNKED BY JEW HATERS(INCLUDING JEWS WHO FEEL TOO UNCOMFORTABLE WITH BEING JEWISH..LIKE THE OLD LADIES WHO REPRIMANDEDJACKIE MASON FOR BEING TOO JEWISH.)
        THE TRUTH IS UNBELIEVABLY HARD TO DEAL WITH.HATRED OF JEWS IS UNFORTUNATELY”IN” TODAY,BUT IT DOESN’T BODE WELL FOR US.
        TIME TO BE PROUD OF OUR BEAUTIFUL HERITAGE.TIME TO STAND UP AND BE COUNTED.FIGHT FOR JONATHAN POLLARD’S IMMEDIATE RELEASE ON HUMANITARIAN GROUNDS.RETRIEVE AMERICA’S ONCE GOOD NAMW!!

  • Paul Cerar

    The difference between honest fascists and hypocrite fascists is when the latter get to Hell they will wear sh*t halos!

    Paul Cerar
    Toronto, Canada

  • .

    JEWISH LIVES MATTER ‘ never again ‘we need to create a JEWISH Shomrim group , a community watch group, to help the police. Baltimore burns, OTHER CITIES BURN, Jews wake up you need to help the police and yourself….learn self defense now…

    In heritage month message, Obama says US Jews still face bigotry

    President says he is committed fighting anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, reaffirms unwavering support for Israel

    http://www.timesofisrael.com

  • The main driving force of the anti-Israel campaigns in campus rests on the myth of “occupation.” Assuming — and it might be a bold assumption nowadays — that students and faculty are not yet totally impervious to facts and logic, our main effort should be directed at demolishing the myth of “occupation.”

    Coincidentally, last week was the 95th anniversary of the San Remo Conference, which established the legal and political realities of the modern Middle East. Even a brief understanding of what San Remo represents should be useful:

    http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/16835#.VTwNYfCrEbB

  • Julian Clovelley

    There is a problem, but it is on the Jewish “side” and it appears in one sentence in this article. I would appreciate Mr Foxman giving it very serious consideration because I believe it is the present core of the problem. Let me first however state a bias, that of having spent an enormous amount of time with people in the area of human rights, racial and cultural vilification, and antisemitism seen and opposed from the “Gentile Side”

    The sentence is “it must be made clear that whatever one’s views on the conflict, treating Jews differently is unacceptable and it is what it is, anti-Semitism”

    The core of all nationalisms is the desire to be identified and treated differently on the basis of what oneself has chosen to identify oneself to be. That identification decides primary friendships and loyalties – and can dictate the path of one’s entire life. I say this as an English person who emigrated. Politically speaking, “Jewish” is a nationalist concept

    To the Gentile there are just two main kinds of “Jewish” person – those who are religious in terms of Judaism and those who are not. To a high degree the concept of a “secular Jew” is rather meaningless. I can convert to being a religious Jew – how do I covert to being a secular one? – Think about it

    Here is the crux of it – a person is treated differently because either the observer sees them that way, or the person themselves defines themselves as distinct and different, and seeks different treatment of some kind.

    In the Jewish case the problem really lies with the religious, in that Zionism has created a form of Judaism that is tied to territorial claim and political posture. To respect that the Jews have to be regarded as having a special claim – which by definition is a “difference”. Whilst this claim of superior rights was relatively easy within the boundaries of the 1947 Partition Resolution, aimed at it was of solving an ongoing problem of regional violence in former Ottoman Empire territory, it cannot be ignored in the case of Occupied, Settled and Blockaded territories outside Israel’s borders.

    There is another factor that has to be considered, and that is the recent historical reason underlying the identification of (non existent) difference – It is the Nazi scapegoating of “Jews” that turned them very clearly into an ideologically created and perceived victim group. Part of what is happening nowadays is the progressive realisation that there is no difference between Jews and anyone else, no difference in long term Genealogy, no biological or genetic difference. Not just Judaism but “Jewishness” is pure defective religious Weltanschauung on the Jewish “side” and entirely defective classification on the Gentile “side”

    Antisemitism, to be defeated, must be dealt with on both sides. But Zionism is in the way, because Zionism literalises Biblical texts as real history. Myth of origins becomes a record of actual events and a Divine justification for land ownership on the basis of “race. Most especially as Christianity de-mythologizes and secularises, the pseudo historical fictions in the Torah are seen for what they are – pure myth.

    Anti-Zionism, to not become morphed into antisemitism, MUST be dealt with on the “Jewish side”. As a form of racism, cultism and political program Zionism in its modern extremist manifestation, it is not acceptable. The Settlements, the Occupation are not acceptable, the Blockade is not acceptable – the entire concept of a greater Israel is not acceptable, and the idea of a population defined by a fabricated Genealogical myth and by religious prejudice is not acceptable

    Abraham, I believe in talking to your audience it is the Jewish side of the problem you should be talking about – and that problem is Zionism, and the desperate need for increased secularism, so that the well meaning amongst us can meet halfway

    There are no “Jews” – There are no “Gentiles” – these are human religious and ideological fabrications. Increasingly, by the grass roots members of organisations such as Amnesty International, if not the Boards and committees, they are recognised as fabrications. Jews leaving the religion and the community to marry outside and often to become secular themselves increasingly recognise the divisions as fictitious too. My own family contains “Jewish ancestors” amongst Australian records of the nineteenth century including at least one Rabbi. There are also distant family linked practising Jews.

    But in that context “antisemitism” – that most illogical of racisms when one casts aside mythology and religious nonsense – must be differently understood and dealt with. My question is – are you part of that solution or part of the problem? – for in truth there are no “sides” – there never were. It is all about the incompatibility between religion and reality.

    And that is what we all need to get over. Peace

    • Yale

      “My question is – are you part of that solution or part of the problem? – for in truth there are no “sides” – there never were. It is all about the incompatibility between religion and reality.”

      Mr. Clovelley:

      You are hoist with your own petard. The failure of the European project, which I suspect you support whole-heartedly, has largely been caused by a belief that “there are no sides’ and that “Europe” can exist believing in nothing. The failure of this notion was readily predictable and is now playing out on the streets of many major European cities where Muslim immigrants, who believe their role is to turn Europe into more of the Muslim world, are undermining the prospect for success of the “European project”. That is the reality you wish to ignore.

      Hostility toward Israel in Europe, and toward Jews who continue to adhere to their religious beliefs, is largely caused by moral upset that the Jews and Israel have been right, and they, the enlightened Europeans, have been wrong. What you are proposing is that in the interest of ending European anti-Semitism, the Jews and Israel abandon the right and adopt the European wrong.

      How moral is that?

    • Tabitha Korol

      Zionism is not the problem; ignorance and bias are the problem. Note: By unanimous vote in 1922, the League of Nations set a precedent at the San Remo Conference that cannot be overturned or ignored. After World War I and the division of the Ottoman Empire, the League legally gave Israel and surrounding Palestinian territory to the then-14 million Jews living there and in the Diaspora. Palestine was declared the Jewish “reconstituted homeland” on April 24, 1920. The Jews were always referred to as Palestinians during the British Mandate, before which there were never Palestinians or a Palestinian country.
      International law was confirmed by the British Mandate, the San Remo Peace Conference and the League of Nations. Two years later, in 1922, the League of Nations of 51 countries unanimously ratified the British Mandate. This official documentation stands recognized as legitimate international law today and has never been superseded or replaced and is still binding.
      Islam has waged war against all others for 1400 years, and it continues today, all through Europe, in Israel, and now in America. The “Islamic Genocide Plan” is to annihilate Israel and the West. They are bound by the Koran to continue to wage all kinds of war tactics, from infiltration and changing of laws, to lying to convince the ignorant that they were there first, and to slaughter. Israel has already given land for peace; they took it and set up rocket launchers. When the time comes for America, you won’t want to cede your state either. Texas believes today was the beginning of their war with Islam. It started before 9/11. Wake up, sir. All your philosophy can’t change the facts; Islam wants a global caliphate. period.

    • Genghis Cohen

      In order to condemn Zionism, your entire premise is that Zionism is the cause of antisemitism. You fail to grasp that this is tantamount, not only to holocaust denial, but also to denial of a thousand years of accumulated diaspora experiences primarily in Europe. Those past experiences resulted in an intellectual theory called Zionism. The Holocaust made that theory an essential of survival not only for the religion but, more importantly, for the Jewish people, that is their genetic order. Since Jewish roots are in the lands that were Israel and Judah (dubbed Palestine in 1922) where else would you have these brave people go?

    • esther noodelman

      TO JULIAN CLOVELLY

      MAY I REMIND YOU THAT JUDAISM RELATES TO THE GOD OF ISRAEL, THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL AND THE LAND OF ISRAEL.SO SORRY FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT DEAL WITH THE WHOLE PICTURE!!!!!!!

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