A Little Good News From Campus
It’s been another academic year, and another year in the endless campus war against Israel. Its enemies are relentless and undeterred by facts, law, or morality.
You have undoubtedly read articles throughout the year documenting the challenges students face on campus, and have heard how things are worse and more dangerous than ever. As someone who has been engaged in these battles for more than 40 years — and has colleagues who’ve been doing it even longer — I can tell you that little has changed other than the names of the detractors and some of their tactics.
Even the antisemitic BDS campaign is a recycling of the Arab League boycott, which was directed at Jews three years before the establishment of Israel.
The bottom line is that my grandchildren will face similar challenges so long as Jews have the audacity to insist on living as a free and independent people in their homeland.
That’s really depressing, so let me take a moment to offer 10 pieces of recent good news that you may not have heard about.
1. In 2012-13, student governments proposed 10 BDS resolutions; the following year, the number jumped to 19; and in 2014-15, there were 27. That trend set off alarm bells; however, 2014-15 turned out to be the peak. This year, the number dwindled again to 10, and eight of the resolutions were rejected. In addition, the University of Oregon ruled the previous year’s resolution was unconstitutional. No university has endorsed BDS, and presidents, deans, and chancellors have repudiated the antisemitic campaign. Don’t be misled — BDS proponents are extremists losing the battles and the war.
2. The growing recognition that the BDS movement is antisemitic has made its proponents increasingly desperate and defensive. They don’t have a leg to stand on, and trotting out Jewish supporters is only proof that Jews can also be antisemites and village idiots who wittingly or unwittingly promote antisemitism.
3. After a professor who supports boycotting Israel admitted that he refused to write a recommendation for a student who wanted to study in Israel, he was punished by his university. For once, faculty malpractice was not shielded (though more than a thousand professors said they’d do the same thing) by a mangled interpretation of “academic freedom.”
4. Pitzer College’s faculty voted to suspend the school’s study abroad program in Israel, and President Melvin Oliver not only repudiated them, but he traveled to Israel to strengthen the college’s ties with the Jewish state.
5. For years, Berkeley was known as Ground Zero for the anti-Israel campaign on campus. The university remains a hotbed of hostility; however, it is now home to one of the best Israel Studies programs in the country, and will grow even stronger thanks to a major donation to establish a new chair in Israel Studies. My small role in the program’s development is one of my proudest achievements, and especially gratifying as an alumnus (MPP ‘83).
6. The problem of anti-Israel and antisemitic faculty has become acute, and too often administrators fail to address the issue, preferring to hide behind cries of “academic freedom,” even when any semblance of scholarship is lacking. Thanks to Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) and the Academic Engagement Network (AEN), faculty and administrators are being educated and galvanized to uphold academic standards and fight BDS and other antisemitic trends on campus.
7. Thanks to Alums for Campus Fairness, alumni are also finally becoming more energized and organized to make their voices known to officials at their alma maters, and send a strong message that they will not continue to contribute or stay silent if action is not taken to improve the climate on campus for Jewish students and to fight antisemitism.
8. Birthright Israel continues to be an overwhelming success in bringing thousands of young Jews to Israel and educating them about their homeland. The organization has also successfully fended off efforts to politicize the trips and turn them into opportunities for propagandists to inject their views on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
9. More resources than ever are being poured on to campuses to help educate students, faculty, and administrators. AIPAC, SSI, the Maccabee Task Force, Hillel, StandWithUs, and many other groups are devoting unprecedented amounts of time, money, and energy to ensure the next generation of Jews can identify with Israel and its people, separate fact from fiction, and stand up for themselves and for Israel.
10. Since 2001, the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE) has provided weekly rebuttals to myths propagated by Israel’s detractors in the publication Myths and Facts, long recognized as the pro-Israel activists “bible.” These facts are bolstered by the Jewish Virtual Library, which provides credible background and history on topics ranging from antisemitism to Zionism. The site, along with StopBDS.com, also provides extensive information on the BDS movement.
Regretfully, you won’t have time to dwell on the good news; another campus horror story is just around the corner.
Mitchell Bard is Executive Director of AICE and Jewish Virtual Library.