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December 20, 2017 10:48 am

Why Can’t American Students Show Common Sense on Antisemitism?

avatar by Mitchell Bard

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A mock Israeli checkpoint set up during a past “Israeli Apartheid Week” at the University of California, Los Angeles campus. Photo: AMCHA Initiative.

Supported by antisemitic faculty who seek to redefine Jew hatred in such a way that excludes themselves, American students seem to be unable and unwilling to accept the definition of antisemitism. They should take a cue from their peers in Australia, who condemned antisemitism and pledged to counter its rise on university campuses.

The National Union of Students (NUS) in Australia did not accept the nonsensical arguments made in the US, such as suggesting that antisemitism is in the eye of the beholder or that the word is used to silence critics. They agreed on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism:

Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.

Examples of antisemitism cited by the Alliance include:

Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.

Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.

Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.

Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).

Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavor.

Applying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.

Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

Antisemitism is not like the old saying about pornography: you know it when you see it. Instead, we have concrete, objective ways to identify antisemitic behavior and speech.

In the United States, the First Amendment gives people the right to say things that are antisemitic, but that does not preclude us from naming and shaming them for doing so. It also does not require universities to accept hate speech directed at Jews, when it does not tolerate this kind of hate speech when directed at other groups.

One striking aspect of the step taken by the NUS was its broad-based support. While in the United States, the extreme right and left on campus often ally with Israel’s detractors and traffic in antisemitism, the situation was very different in Australia. Student groups affiliated with both the left and right wings of the Australian Labor Party, as well as the ruling Liberal Party and independent delegates, all supported the motion to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism. The only outliers were the Marxists.

Unlike student governments at universities here that have been hijacked by antisemites who seek to demonize their Jewish peers, the NUS committed itself to working with the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) to ensure that the national union’s programs and spaces “are inclusive and welcoming of Jewish voices and perspectives.”

The contrast is particularly stark given efforts by many antisemitic individuals and groups here to torpedo the adoption of the US State Department’s definition of antisemitism as a tool for judging campus abuses. Using the specious argument that critics of Israel will be muzzled, a furious lobbying campaign is being waged against the “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act,” by Israel’s detractors, including many supporters of the antisemitic boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. Many of the same people are also smearing President Trump’s pick to lead the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Education, Kenneth Marcus, who advocated for this legislation before his appointment, and promises to be a vigorous supporter of measures to protect Jewish students on campus.

Students should do all they can to promote the adoption on their campuses of a standard definition of antisemitism, either the one used by the State Department, or the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (which was adopted by the European Union). Defining and combating antisemitism should be a simple matter for universities; sadly, too many administrators, faculty and students lack the intelligence, moral fortitude and integrity to take what should be a sensible and non-controversial approach to keeping their campuses safe and sane.

Dr. Mitchell Bard is the author/editor of 24 books including the 2017 edition of “Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict,” “The Arab Lobby,” and the novel “After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.”

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