Many Jewish college students have been struggling with the way Israel is treated on campus. It is becoming more common for adversaries of the state to hold anti-Israel demonstrations and activities on campus.
Quite a few of these activities are not friendly gatherings of students handing out flowers and suggesting that we just give peace a chance. Many are populated by rampant antisemitic commentary and false accusations about the misdeeds of Israel. Counter demonstrators routinely tell stories of being threatened, intimidation is routine.
The demonstrations rarely are balanced. You don’t attend them to hear speakers present both sides. They are hate rallies in which the speakers do their best to whip the crowd into a frenzy. They are part of a movement that is doing its best to delegitimize Israel and make it untenable to voice dissent for fear of repurcussions.
UCLA professor Judea Pearl wrote an essay that is worth reading.
…when an e-mail from a colleague at Indiana University asked: â€œBeing at UCLA, you must know about this symposium … pretty bad.â€ Attached to it was Roberta Seidâ€™s report on the now famous â€œHuman Rights and Gazaâ€ symposium held a day earlier at UCLA (see â€œUCLA Symposium on Gaza Ignites Strong Criticism,â€ Jewish Journal, Feb. 11, 2009).
To refresh readersâ€™ memory, this symposium, organized by UCLAâ€™s Center for Near East Studies (CNES), was billed as a discussion of human rights in Gaza. Instead, the director of the center, Susan Slyomovics, invited four longtime demonizers of Israel for a panel that Seid describes as a reenactment of a â€œ1920 Munich beer hall.â€ Not only did the panelists portray Hamas as a guiltless, peace-seeking, unjustly provoked organization, they also bashed Israel, her motives, her character, her birth and conception and led the excited audience into chanting â€œZionism is Nazism,â€ â€œFâ€”-, fâ€”- Israel,â€ in the best tradition of rhino liturgy.
Point of information: In the late 90’s I worked on campus at UCLA and have a few stories of my own about what was happening then. I was confronted several times by male students who suggested that it wasn’t safe for me to disagree with them. Perhaps I’ll share more about this later.
Pearl continues on and suggests that Jewish faculty members should have anticipated this and done more to try and help to steer the conversation so that it wasn’t so one sided. He writes about the many dilemmas presented by a society that tries to protect rocket launching terrorists and decries self defense.
And he discusses how it has become harder to be an outspoken Zionist for fear of the repurcussions.
These are dilemmas that had not surfaced before the days of rockets and missiles, and we, the Jewish faculty, ought to have pioneered their study. Instead, we allowed Hamasâ€™ sympathizers to frame the academic agenda. How can we face our students from the safety of our offices when they deal with anti-Israel abuse on a daily basis â€” in the cafeteria, the library and the classroom â€” and as alarming reports of mob violence are arriving from other campuses (San Jose State University, Spartan Daily, Feb. 9, and York University, Globe and Mail, Feb. 13)?
Burdened with guilt, I called some colleagues, but quickly realized that a few have already made the shift to a strange-sounding language, not unlike â€œHonk, Honk.â€ Some have entered the debate phase, arguing over the rhino way of life vs. the human way of life, and the majority, while still speaking in a familiar English vocabulary, are frightened beyond anything I have seen at UCLA in the 40 years that I have served on its faculty.
Colleagues told me about lecturers whose appointments were terminated, professors whose promotion committees received â€œincriminatingâ€ letters, and about the impossibility of revealing oneâ€™s pro-Israel convictions without losing grants, editorial board membership, or invitation to panels and conferences. And all, literally all, swore me into strict secrecy â€” we have entered the era of â€œthe new Maranos.â€
I am sad to say that I wasn’t surprised by any of this. It is not so long since I was producing daily updates about the War in Gaza. In return I was repeatedly attacked on the blog and via email with some of the most hateful speech I can think of. I was called a racist and a nazi. I was told that the world would be a better place if I died.
People did their best to try and intimidate me. Intimidation is a central part of their tactics. It is what they do best. If you don’t toe the party line, if you dare deviate then you are attacked from every angle. Physical threats combined with attempts to ostracize you socially and professionally.
I’ll continue to advocate fair and balanced of criticism of all countries. Israel can and should be criticized. But when the Anti-Israel crowd continues to include epithets suggesting that Jews should go to the gas chambers and similar hate speech it is impossible to accept their claims that their criticism is not antisemitic. These types of attacks are attacks on all of us and must be opposed.
Unless we take action we are going to read more stories about intimidation at the universities. It is past time to draw a line in the sand and hold the universities accountable for activities that take place under their purview.
Crossposted on Yourish.
P.S. for those who are interested here is a link to some resources you can use to help educate people.