The War for Israel on College Campuses
There are a lot of exciting things about starting college: no more curfews, indulging in food and drink, meeting new people. There are scarier thoughts, too: moving far from home, picking a major, fitting in and starting “real life.”
College can also be difficult, because students are exposed to new ways of thinking — and also an insular campus community. The very nature of such a transition can leave young impressionable minds vulnerable to new ideologies and the opinions of those around them, particularly for students just trying to just fit in.
There are plenty of people who are aware of the vulnerabilities, feed off of them and use them to take advantage of these naive students.
Sadly, on many college campuses, anti-Jewish sentiment is strong and is often masked merely as opposition to Israel. College students are indoctrinated from day one against the Jewish state, and are often exposed to one-sided and false information.
For example, the group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) advertises itself as a human-rights organization, when it is anything but. Its members attend Israel-related events in order to shut down any debate, either by chanting over a speaker, walking out or engaging in antisemitic heckling. Another group, Breaking the Silence (BtS), is an Israeli NGO that tours US college campuses, claiming falsely that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) commits horrific crimes against humanity, tantamount to ethnic cleansing. In truth, the IDF is one of the most moral armies in the world.
This week, the University of Chicago issued a letter to the student body, in which he expressed opposition to “safe spaces” on campus. His intent, he said, is to encourage debate and prevent students from hiding from views they find distasteful.
Ideally, we should not need safe spaces.
Yet, we know that when a group of 50 SJP members angrily chased 10 Jewish students out of a UC Irvine film about the IDF, the university punished the group with a stern warning. There was no opportunity for debate, just the impetus to run.
University of California schools have been among the worst for Jewish students. In 2015, a Jewish student was rejected from UCLA’s student council’s judicial board because she was Jewish. UC Berkeley has also experienced horrific antisemitism.
What’s even more disturbing is that groups such as the New Israel Fund (NIF), a radically anti-Israel NGO that supports a boycott of Israel, backs many of these hate groups on college campuses.
The Jewish community must prepare our youth for college, and help them understand the dangers that exist. Groups like the NIF and their American brethren rely on the naiveté and inexperience of young students, but we know this and have a responsibility to call out the haters and give our students the tools they need to fight back as proud Jews.