University of Missouri Sponsors Antisemitism
Something has gone wrong when a major university permits an entire academic department to disseminate antisemitism. That the department in question is a “Peace Studies” department makes it even worse.
Since 2014, the Peace Studies Department (PSD) at the University of Missouri (MU) has hosted four very disturbing events, one every semester. Just last week, for example, PSD teamed with a community group called “Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation” (MMFR) to cosponsor the screening of the viciously anti-Israel film, “The Zionist Story.” The people who introduced the film explicitly called for the replacement of Israel as a Jewish state with a bi-national state, which everyone knows means an Arab-majority state. According to the widely publicized US State Department definition of antisemitism, of course, calling for the destruction of Israel qualifies as antisemitic.
PSD and MMFR, as well as MU itself, all know this full well, given other recent events at MU. In 2015, a swastika was drawn with human feces in a residence hall. The incident prompted a letter from 36 organizations calling on the university to acknowledge and address the problem of campus antisemitism. The letter-writers explicitly expressed their concern regarding “the departmental sponsorship and implicit ideological endorsement of virulently anti-Israel events,” mentioning both PSD and MMFR by name. Moreover, they urged the university to “formally adopt the U.S. State Department’s definition of antisemitism,” precisely because of the clause that deems calls for the destruction of Israel to be antisemitic.
Note that advocating for the creation of a Palestinian state in Gaza or in the West Bank is rightly not deemed antisemitic. Yet despite having this option available to them, PSD and MMFR never sponsor events that advocate for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but only events that call for the destruction of Israel.
Wondering about this, before the recent screening of “The Zionist Story,” I sent a letter to Jeff Stack, a director of MMFR, noting that all three of the speakers they’d sponsored since 2014 had called for the destruction of Israel.
UCLA professor Saree Makdisi, for example, argued in a November 2014 lecture that Israel should be replaced by a binational state, asserting that “all that has to happen is to remove the borders.” MU biology professor George Smith, in an April 2015 lecture, refused even to acknowledge the existence of Israel, referring only to “Palestine,” while arguing that “Zionism is doomed.” And, finally, David Sheen, a Canadian journalist who now lives in Israel and focuses on publicizing alleged Israeli racism toward African immigrants, explicitly stated in a November 2015 talk that he did not support the two-state solution for the conflict.
In light of this record, it seemed pretty clear to me where MMFR stood on the issue, so in my letter to Mr. Stack, I quoted the State Department’s judgment about denials of Israel’s right to exist and asked him point-blank: “Does MMFR recognize the U.S. State Department definition of antisemitism?” I also asked if his group would advocate for the destruction of Israel yet again at the upcoming screening of “The Zionist Story.”
Mr. Stack responded that he was too busy to answer the questions.
It didn’t take long to find out the answer, however. MU professor George Smith introduced the film, referring to Israel not as a democracy but as a “Jewish ethnocracy,” and explaining that “Palestinian Christians all support the resistance to the occupation, and to the Jewish ethnocracy. The question is, do the Jews have the right to sovereignty over this land?”
You’ll easily guess that his answer was “no.” He moreover argued against the two-state solution, calling it unjust to the Palestinians. Why? Because “if we established a Palestinian state alongside Israel, this would leave out the Palestinian Israelis, leaving no settlement for them.” A Palestinian state alongside Israel would somehow be unfair to Israeli Arabs, in other words. The only solution? The destruction of Israel and its replacement with a bi-national — that is, Arab majority — country.
So MU, PSD and MMFR are fully aware of the State Department definition of antisemitism, yet carry on publicly violating it semester after semester. MU is a major public institution that surely receives federal funding, and yet it permits one of its academic departments, in the name of “peace studies,” to repeatedly call for what could surely be only the violent overthrow of the lone Jewish state in the world, not to mention the only democracy in the region. MU at least had the decency to condemn the antisemitism of the swastikas last year. It is time for it stand up and condemn the repeated, and ultimately much more dangerous, antisemitism being promulgated by one of its own departments.