Dr. Charles Jacobs has an article in Boston's Jewish Advocate entitled "Why the Jews are Losing the Battle for the Campus" in which he reflects on the changing climate towards Jews and Israel on many of America's college campuses. And make no mistake, the two are intimately related.
The warnings have been there. In 2006, the US Commission on Civil Rights found that “many college campuses thought the US continue to experience incidents of anti-Semitism.” Gary Tobin in his 2005 book “Uncivil University: Politics and Propaganda in American Education,” concluded that “anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism are systemic in higher education and can be found on campuses all over the United States.” Across the country too many Jewish and pro-Israel students are patronized, mocked, intimidated and sometimes physically attacked, while anti-Israel professors poison the minds of America’s future leaders. Yet Jewish leaders have by and large not responded effectively.
How did the Jewish community, known for its rhetorical genius, lose a critically important political battle on American campuses? Here is a thumbnail sketch:
In 1990, James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, explained on Jordanian TV how the Arab Lobby can and will match Jewish political and organizational success in America (the clip is on YouTube). Zogby and his allies recognized that the campus and the media, unlike Capitol Hill, are two battle grounds that Arabists could win by allying themselves with the American left. In both venues they already had beachheads and feet on the ground. The campus was in transition politically, influenced by ’60s tenured radicals who had adopted the dogma of post-colonialism, and its Palestinian version, Professor Edward Said’s “Orientalism.”
Moreover, America was experiencing a significant increase in foreign born Muslim students as well as increased Muslim immigration (many from countries with a culture of vicious anti-Semitism). Zogby focused on forming alliances with Marxist professors, die-hard socialist activists, African- American student groups, gay-lesbian groups and, most importantly, Jewish progressives. He also realized that an emerging anti-Israel Left/Muslim axis on campus could be better organized and benefit from an inflow of Arab petro dollars into prestigious American universities. All this was happening while many Jewish leaders, intoxicated by the Oslo agreement, were abandoning Israel programming.
Today, we can see the brilliance of Zogby’s strategy: Anti-Israel sentiment suffuses the campus atmosphere. In the classroom, radical professors express the the dominant narrative that the Palestinians are right and the Israelis are in the wrong. In its mild form, the Palestinians suffer needlessly at the hands of Israeli occupiers; in its more vicious version, Israel is a racist, genocidal apartheid nation. Outside the classroom, anti-Israel groups hold conferences, screen films and conduct theatrical demonstrations that portray Israel in the harshest of terms. Israel’s advocates are rudely interrupted, prevented from speaking; pro-Israel events are disrupted; Jewish students are intimidated verbally or even physically, and are excluded from pro-Palestinian events. Pathetic attempts by Jewish groups to initiate dialogue with Palestinian students are rejected. Any acknowledgment of Israelis’ humanity is seen as a validation of Palestinian oppression. Our epoch’s secular religion – political correctness and multiculturalism – judges people by who they are, not what they do. Israelis are by definition always guilty, while darker skinned, impoverished, indigenous Palestinians are eternally innocent.
Far more than their parents and their community suspect, Jewish students find it challenging and often unpleasant, if not actually frightening, to support Israel on many campuses today.
Dr. Jacobs then goes on to relate a few ( but by no means all) of the more egregious examples, but unfortunately fails to mention the real root of the problem.
I have to chuckle grimly at this.
The strategy Dr. Jacobs outlines for demonizing Jews and Israel was and is very real. But it could never have worked if it wasn't for those Jews on campus (and their parents, community leaders and supporters) whom cheerfully enabled it by supporting the Left. They were happy to ignore the fact that a substantial component of the Left doesn't support them, and as Dr. Jacobs quotes from an e-mail to one Jewish student activist who fled Hampshire College, Amherst, wants them to 'do humanity a favor and die slow.'
Obama's ascension, with the avid backing many of these same Jews, put an official stamp of approval on this. In Obama, we saw someone who paid no price at all for his lifetime of intimate association with open racists and anti-Semites from those who should have been most concerned about it. Leadership and the results of elections are, after all, a product of historical resonance.
In his piece, Dr. Jacobs quotes the example of a noose found on one campus and how differently a university quickly dealt with the concerns of black students. And that's really the key to the whole issue at hand.The reason the university acted as it did, of course, is that they're afraid of how black students would violently react to even a hint of racism.
Think about it - right now, as 'Israel Apartheid Week' goes into full gear on campuses across the country. Just how do you think Black students would react to an on-Campus, university sanctioned event by the Aryan nation or the Klu Klux Klan? Black students have earned respect and ultra-sensitivity to their concerns because they are more than willing to go to the barricades and make your average university rue the day they ever thought about sponsoring that kind of racism.
For the most part, no one at these university is afraid in the least of how Jews at their campuses might react to the racism known as 'anti-Zionism'. For one thing, they're aware from experience that there are far too many self-hating Jews willing to prove their Leftist bonafides by taking sides against their own people. Experience has also shown them that the typical Jewish response even to the most blatant Jew hatred on campus has been, at worst, puerile requests for 'dialogue' or the setting up of a few card tables to pass out leaflets.
'Anti-Zionism' is not a subject to be dealt with by debate or even education, for the most part. To approach it on that level gives it dignity as serious point of view worthy of discussion, rather than the contempt it deserves.
'Anti-Zionism' is the kinky new version of an old, old product - and now, you can get fashion accessories like a kefiyah or a snappy tee shirt to go with it. It involves the denial of self-determination to Jews and Jews only and their dehumanization as apes and pigs, exactly as it says in the Qu'ran. Scratch an 'anti-Zionist' and you will almost always find a Jew hater, or a pathetic, deluded Jew mired deep in Stockholm Syndrome.
Our father's generation knew how to handle Jew hatred much more effectively, perhaps because their generation was far closer to a time when the world essentially turned its back while millions of Jews were slaughtered without even the dignity or amenities commonly afforded animals.
They learned the hard way that people will take the easy way out by giving verbal and even physical assaults on Jews a pass, especially when they are ideologically sympathetic to the perpetrators - unless there's a price tag for doing so by making it a lot more trouble than it's worth for its enablers in academia.
Until America's Jews relearn and act on that lesson and realize that 'anti-Zionism' doesn't stop with Israel, the poisonous climate in today's universities isn't just going to continue - it's going to get far worse.
And as always, it won't stop with the Jews.It never does.