Anti-Semitism on Campus Is Not Just Uncivil, It’s Intolerant: Tammi Rossman Benjamin, Newsweek, Sept. 28, 2016— When more than a dozen Jewish student events about Israel were violently disrupted at schools from coast to coast this year…
Anti-Semitism at My University, Hidden in Plain Sight: Benjamin Gladstone, New York Times, Oct. 1, 2016 — Last semester, a group came to Providence to speak against admitting Syrian refugees to this country.
Dear Dupes: ‘Targeted Boycotts’ Enable Boycott Boycotts: Gil Troy, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 27, 2016 — To those who signed that New York Review of Books letter “For an Economic Boycott and Political Nonrecognition of the Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Territories”: I write with great respect and deep sorrow.
No Apologies for Being Jewish: Ruth R. Wisse, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 6, 2016 — Know Before Whom You Stand.
Crossing the Line 2: The New Face of Anti-Semitism on Campus (Video): Jerusalem U, Feb. 25, 2015
Website says Holocaust-Denying Professor Has Been ‘Asked to Step Down’: B’nai Brith, Sept. 28, 2016
San Francisco State Prof on MEF's Call to End Ties to Radical West Bank U: McCarthyism! Islamophobia!: Winfield Myers, Campus Watch, Sept. 16, 2016
Welcome to College – and the Thought Police: Margaret Wente, Globe & Mail, Sept. 10, 2016
Tammi Rossman Benjamin
Newsweek, Sept. 28, 2016
When more than a dozen Jewish student events about Israel were violently disrupted at schools from coast to coast this year, including San Francisco State University, University of California Irvine and Davis, University of Maryland, Boston University, University of New Mexico, University of South Florida, University of Georgia, University of Chicago and the University of Minnesota, is it “incivility” or “intolerance”? When Jewish students who attempt to express their opposition to anti-Israel boycott resolutions are viciously mocked, vilified and heckled during student government meetings at schools such as Vassar College, Ohio University, UC Santa Barbara and University of Illinois, is it “incivility” or “intolerance”?
When Jewish students are shunned from participating in student government, rejected from progressive social justice activities such as pro-choice rallies, anti-rape demonstrations, Black Lives Matter events and racial justice conferences and ostracized from areas of campus life because of their “Jewish agenda” or presumed support for Israel at schools such as Stanford University, San Diego State University, UCLA, UC Santa Cruz, Northwestern University, Brooklyn College and SUNY Albany—is it “incivility” or “intolerance”?
University leaders who respond to these incidents—and the majority do not—have generally chosen to identify the problem as one of incivility, and attempted to address it by calling on members of the campus community to foster “civil” behavior and discourse. For example, after anti-Zionist student protesters at San Francisco State University disrupted a Hillel-sponsored talk from the mayor of Jerusalem by loudly chanting, “Get the hell off our campus!” “Long live the intifada!” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” for one hour, SFSU President Les Wong issued a statement in which he bemoaned “the state of civil discourse on our campus” and called for “a supportive and collegial environment in which disagreements can occur thoughtfully and respectfully.”
After members of an anti-Zionist student group disrupted a Brooklyn College faculty meeting by chanting slogans such as, “Zionists off campus,” CUNY Chancellor James Milliken announced that he was going to address the matter by defining best practices to foster “a climate of mutual respect and civil discourse.” While each of the incidents described above certainly contains “rude or unsociable speech or behavior,” university leaders who identify the problem as one of “incivility” rather than “intolerance” are making a critical mistake, for three reasons.
Incivility is defensible; intolerance is not. Anti-Zionist student groups whose members have been accused of incivility, along with the civil rights and legal organizations that support them, routinely argue that charges of “incivility” are blatant attempts to stifle political debate on campus and violate the First Amendment. But if the anti-Zionist student groups’ behavior, which itself stifles political debate and violates the First Amendment rights of Jewish students, is correctly labeled as “intolerance,” no such argument can be made. Indeed, the suppression of views and beliefs that is a direct result of intolerant behavior is the archenemy of academic freedom and undermines the core mission of the university.
Incivility is cool; intolerance is not. After the chancellor of UC Irvine (UCI) responded to the SJP’s disruption of a Jewish student event by issuing a statement entitled “Respecting the Lines of Civility,” an op-ed was published in the student newspaper which championed “willfully uncivil” behavior as “the only rational response to calls for civility,” and urged students to “embody critique and ‘free speech’ through acts of willfulness and rebellion.” Had the UCI Chancellor instead correctly identified the SJP’s violent disruption as “intolerance”—that is, a willful suppression of “critique and ‘free speech’” that differs from one’s own—no one would have dared to champion such repugnant behavior.
Incivility is victimless; intolerance is not. Rude and unsociable behavior may have a negative impact on the campus climate, but it does not inherently target particular individuals or groups for harm. Intolerance, on the other hand, necessarily involves the singling out of those with differing views, beliefs or behavior. At many schools it is anti-Zionist activity, whose core goal is the suppression and delegitimization of Zionist expression and those presumed to support Israel, that is the primary source of intolerant behavior, making Jewish students one of the most victimized minorities on campus today.
For these reasons, when university administrators misidentify the harassment, intimidation, suppression of speech and ethnic discrimination of Jewish students as “incivility” rather than “intolerance,” they cannot help but fan the flames of anti-Jewish hostility on their campus. The regents of the University of California clearly understood this when they unanimously approved a landmark statement entitled “Principles Against Intolerance,” which highlighted anti-semitism and anti-semitic anti-Zionism as forms of intolerance that “have no place at the University of California.” Using the term intolerance was no accident. It was a deliberate and important distinction. It is high time for university leaders across the country to follow the UC regents’ lead. There must be zero tolerance for intolerance on our campuses.
New York Times, Oct. 1, 2016
Last semester, a group came to Providence to speak against admitting Syrian refugees to this country. As the president of the Brown Coalition for Syria, I jumped into action with my peers to stage a counterdemonstration. But I quickly found myself cut out of the planning for this event: Other student groups were not willing to work with me because of my leadership roles in campus Jewish organizations.
That was neither the first nor the last time that I would be ostracized this way. Also last semester, anti-Zionists at Brown circulated a petition against a lecture by the transgender rights advocate Janet Mock because one of the sponsors was the Jewish campus group Hillel, even though the event was entirely unrelated to Israel or Zionism. Ms. Mock, who planned to talk about racism and transphobia, ultimately canceled. Anti-Zionist students would rather have no one speak on these issues than allow a Jewish group to participate in that conversation.
Of course, I still believe in the importance of accepting refugees, combating discrimination, abolishing racist law enforcement practices and other causes. Nevertheless, it’s painful that Jewish issues are shut out of these movements. Jewish rights belong in any broad movement to fight oppression. My fellow activists tend to dismiss the anti-Semitism that students like me experience regularly on campus. They don’t acknowledge the swastikas that I see carved into bathroom stalls, scrawled across walls or left on chalkboards. They don’t hear students accusing me of killing Jesus. They don’t notice professors glorifying anti-Semitic figures such as Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt or the leadership of Hezbollah, as mine have.
Nor do they speak against the anti-Semitism in American culture. Even as they rightfully protest hate crimes against Muslim Americans and discrimination against black people, they wrongfully dismiss attacks on Jews (who are the most frequent targets of religiously motivated hate crimes in the United States) and increasing anti-Semitism in the American political arena, as can be seen in Donald Trump’s flirtations with the “alt-right.” They don’t take issue with calls for the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state.
Many of my fellow activists also perpetuate anti-Semitism by dismissing Jews of color, especially the Mizrahi and Sephardi majority of Israel’s Jewish population, descendants of refugees from Southwest Asia and North Africa. Ignoring the expulsion of 850,000 Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews from Arab and Muslim countries from 1948 to the early 1970s allows students to portray all Israelis as white and European and get away with making a “progressive” case for dismantling the Jewish state.
Even hummus has become politicized: Anti-Zionists at my school who demanded that cafeterias stop serving hummus produced by a company with Israeli ownership, also claimed that the product showed cultural appropriation even though Mizrahim and Sephardim have been eating Southwest Asian cuisine since long before the rise of organized Zionism.
In my experience, anti-Semites refuse to acknowledge Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews to minimize the history of oppression against Jews, and in doing so dismiss contemporary Jewish concerns. For example, non-Jewish students at Brown tell me that I cannot appreciate a history of marginalization because, as they see it, Jews have historically been a powerful group, the Holocaust being the only few years of exception. They play down the temporal and geographic scope of that history so that the oppression appears circumstantial rather than global and systemic.
These are serious issues, and social justice movements should be addressing them. I recognize my white, male and other privileges, and, accordingly, I listen to people of color, women and members of other marginalized groups and support them as allies. Likewise, I expect non-Jews at Brown and elsewhere to recognize our oppression to include us in efforts for change.
Jerusalem Post, Sept. 27, 2016
To those who signed that New York Review of Books letter “For an Economic Boycott and Political Nonrecognition of the Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Territories”: I write with great respect and deep sorrow. I know many of you, and have learned a lot from even more of you. I have no desire to polemicize, demonize or ostracize, and I hope you will take my comments as an invitation to the kind of open, substantive debate about Israel (and the Palestinians, they count too here) that rarely occurs in the Jewish community – or the academic world – the two universes most of us share.
I read your 196-word contribution to this complicated conflict, and was appalled by its naïveté, one-sidedness, destructiveness and unfairness – especially to Jewish and pro-Israel students. That such sophisticated thinkers, who have done so much to teach me (and many others) about politics, power, justice, history, culture, America and Judaism, could really believe your careful modifiers emphasizing that this is only a “targeted” boycott “of all goods and services from all Israeli settlements” is so preposterous it makes me doubt your sincerity. That anyone in the anti-Israel lynch mob will respect your genteel distinctions is as believable as Donald Trump when he says “believe me.” Your letter makes you enablers, dupes. To the boycott forces and the media, supporting a targeted boycott supports a boycott.
Moreover, as precise writers, note the second half of your sentence: “and any investments that promote the Occupation.” Follow your words’ logic, as so many of you have taught undergraduates to do. Objective readers, let alone Bash-Israel-Firsters, could consider every investment in any part of Israel an investment that promotes the occupation, because money and support are fungible.
Even without your legitimizing shunning every Israeli, the boycott movement, fueled as it is by an irrational hatred of Israel and Jews, is no more contained than any other gang of bigots. Your slope is slippery – and you cannot claim you haven’t seen it before against Jews and other targeted groups. Boycotts, like bigots, metastasize – first goods, then people. You start by boycotting West Bank goods, then “settlers,” then Israeli goods, then Israeli citizens, and then Jews. (And remember, most Palestinian radicals call all Israelis “settlers” and consider all of Israel occupied).
Similarly naïve is your refusal to denounce the anti-Semitism that follows the boycott movement like carbon monoxide follows smoke. At my own university, McGill, last year’s Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) debate proved, as in other universities, that BDS unleashes bullying, demonization and slander. Simon Paranski, a law student, told CTV that “within an hour of the BDS vote passing, there were posts on social media about Zionist Jew-boys and insulting people of the Jewish faith.” One tweet sneered: “Little Zionist Jewboys not happy that McGill students don’t support their genocide.” Jewish students also reported being menaced.
Moreover, last week, Jewish students told me that the feminist, LGBT and Black Lives Matter clubs at McGill were clear: if they wanted to be involved in those social justice movements, they had to – to hijack Peter Beinart’s wording – check their Zionism at the door…
You should write a second letter, paralleling the one I and over 150 McGill professors signed, saying: “We all need to affirm our commitment to fighting bigotry of all kinds, even when masked behind human rights rhetoric or even if allied with political positions we might support. We fail when our students don’t feel genuinely safe in our university – and the BDS movement has made McGill students feel unsafe, unsupported and unwelcome in their and our academic home.”
Your naïve letter is also counterproductive. You claim you want “to promote… negotiations.” Yet the more Israel is delegitimized, the more unreasonably Palestinians act and the less compromising Israelis feel. The more Left you are, the more you seek sweeping territorial concessions from Israel, the more ardently you should fight boycotts, Israel-bashing, anti-Zionism and antisemitism. Note, Israelis respond to love love, not tough love. When the UN in 1991 renounced its Zionism is racism resolution, and when Bill Clinton emerged as Israel’s cheerleader in chief, Oslo and other compromises followed. And when the UN passed the Zionism is racism resolution in 1975 and 26 years later resurrected that libel at Durban, waves of terrorism bolstering Palestinian rejectionism followed.
Finally, let’s face it, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas don’t care about your words or my quibbles. But as academics and intellectuals your words count on campuses, where many of you are revered. That’s why I accuse you of being unfair to Jewish and pro-Israel students on those campuses facing boycott threats. They needed a more sophisticated, balanced, multi-dimensional letter. And they needed – and still need – a clear, eloquent, denunciation from you of the “kosher” antisemitism and anti-Zionism – perfumed by social justice talk – haunting too many campuses and spreading on the Left.
In that fight, the more outspokenly critical of Israel you are, the more credibility you have – although you will see that the Israel haters, like all irrational bigots, pick and choose. They will happily quote and misquote your harmful letter – ignoring any denunciations of the hatred they have unleashed on some campuses, including my own.
Ruth R. Wisse
Wall Street Journal, Oct. 6, 2016
Know Before Whom You Stand. These words, inscribed above the ark holding the Torah scrolls in many synagogues, assume added significance between Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. During these Days of Awe, Jews of faith take the measure of themselves before the Almighty. The term “penitential prayers” does not begin to convey the range and intensity of the accounting that worshippers give of themselves about every aspect of their lives.
To lay bare one’s deeds before the ultimate Seat of Judgment is very different from the practice of individual introspection or meditation. Here each person stands within the community in a public attestation to dozens of wrongdoings. In the extensive Yom Kippur confessions, worshippers recount sins committed willfully or involuntarily, “by idle talk or by lustful behavior . . . violence or by defaming Thy Name.” All the verbs for transgression are in the first-person plural, we rather than I, making the individual an organic part of the nation. I used to marvel at how young college students, hardly past adolescence, passionately assumed moral responsibility for wrongs they had never committed.
Jews rightly take pride in their culture of self-accountability—before the Ultimate Judge and justly established human authorities. This culture has created and sustained a remarkably resilient people. Lamenting the excesses of the current American electoral cycle, the columnist Ira Stoll imagines how much richer the country’s politics would be if “this spirit of self-examination were exported from the Jewish religion into the rest of American culture.” If democracy requires the patient improvement of life in a community, nothing furthers that goal better than the practice of individual and collective self-scrutiny.
But the millennial-long history of Jewish self-restraint also stands as a warning. It is all very well to focus on overcoming your failings. Yet the search for moral perfection can also render individuals, and nations, prey to those who believe in conquest rather than self-conquest and who join in holding you accountable for their misdeeds. The same confessional posture, praiseworthy when standing before the Perfect Judge, becomes blameworthy when adopted before an enemy that has you before a rigged tribunal.
In the 20th century, some modern European thinkers and political leaders began singling out the Jews for their alleged racial or religious or social culpabilities. Many Jews felt obliged to answer apologetically for these supposed failings, instead of exposing the evil ideology that had chosen them for its target. Jewish Marxists, for example, blamed Jewish capitalists and bourgeoisie, even though defamation was leveled equally at Jewish professionals, artisans, journalists and paupers.
No sooner had the politics of Jew-blame reached its genocidal apotheosis in Europe than it was taken up in the Middle East. Rather than accepting the principle of co-existence and concentrating on improving the lives of their own subjects, Arab leaders refused Jews the right to their homeland in a war that they, the Arab leaders, had initiated. Forcing almost a million Jews from their ancient communities in Arab lands, the same leaders blamed Israel for Arab refugees whom they themselves refused to resettle.
This calumny is by now the basis of political coalitions not only at the United Nations and in Europe but on campuses here in the U.S. So ingrained are the assumptions of Jew-blame that newspapers will often devote more coverage to the shooting of one Palestinian Arab by an Israeli, often unintentionally or in self-defense, than to the murders of Jewish civilians by Arab and Muslim terrorists. What such belligerents do with the aim of eliminating the Jewish state, friends sometimes do in the name of holding Jews to “a higher moral standard.” And, as previously, some Jews join the blame-shifting ranks, castigating the Jewish state for engaging in self-defense rather than apology.
For its obsession with Israel’s putative misdeeds to the neglect of the unspeakable crimes committed by so many U.N. member states, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently declared at the General Assembly that “the U.N., begun as a moral force, has become a moral farce.” He is surely right that ending the obsession with Israel would benefit not only the enemies of the Jewish state but the entire world. The Jewish nation is owed the unconditional respect of its fellow nations and must demand of others what it expects others to demand of themselves.
Jews and Americans share the belief that a culture of self-accountability creates a wholesome society and a more responsible polity. But self-accountable societies can fatally internalize the resentment and violent opposition of others. For the sake of their own survival, they must always be aware of before whom—as well as before Whom—they stand.
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Crossing the Line 2: The New Face of Anti-Semitism on Campus (Video): Jerusalem U, Feb. 25, 2015— 'Crossing the Line 2' is a new documentary that exposes the rise of anti-Semitic activity on North American university campuses. This virulent anti-Semitism is disguised as opposition to Israel's policies, but it calls for Israel's destruction and threatens Jews on campus.
Website says Holocaust-Denying Professor Has Been ‘Asked to Step Down’: B’nai Brith, Sept. 28, 2016—According to American Herald Tribune, a website run by Professor Anthony Hall, the University of Lethbridge has requested that he resign over suggestions that he has promoted Holocaust denial and other antisemitic conspiracy theories.
San Francisco State Prof on MEF's Call to End Ties to Radical West Bank U: McCarthyism! Islamophobia!: Winfield Myers, Campus Watch, Sept. 16, 2016 —Rabab Abdulhadi, the San Francisco State University professor and founding member of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (BDS) behind the odious Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between her school and terrorist-friendly An-Najah University in the West Bank, has responded to the Middle East Forum's petition calling on SFSU president Leslie Wong to end the MOU.
Welcome to College – and the Thought Police: Margaret Wente, Globe & Mail, Sept. 10, 2016—Freshman orientation week isn’t what it used to be. These days, it’s not just about learning your way around the campus. It’s also about learning how to avoid giving unintentional offence. Not all the answers are obvious. For example, is it okay to sing along with music that uses the “n” word if you are white? No, it definitely is not! Nor is it okay for anyone to use the term “you guys” (sexist).