December 19, 2018

And in Other Campus News … A Year In Review

Photo by Pexels

Another academic year is upon us, and if you’re feeling dejected about the treatment of Israel on American campuses, here’s a list of lesser-known student activity from last year that can help:

At Duke, a student group calling itself Students for Justice in Syria (SJS) held a protest against Syrian President Bashar Assad and the civil war in in that country, which has resulted in nearly 400,000 deaths. SJS created a mock “Refugee Experience” display, wherein students had a chance to experience the discrimination faced by asylum seekers who are seeking to flee the violence-stricken country. 

The student government at Vassar passed a resolution condemning Italy and the European Union for refusing to allow nongovernmental agencies to help rescue desperate Libyans fleeing that country by sea, leaving these refugees and migrants at the mercy of the Libyan coast guard and cruel smugglers. 

In response to “Diversity Days” at the dining commons at Oklahoma State, a group of students protested a planned “Cuisine of Bolivia” menu, citing human rights violations by Bolivia, which is the first country to legalize work by 10-year-olds, with Bolivian government officials arguing that “children like to work.”

A fundraiser was held by the Free Iran! student group at UC Irvine to help support human rights organizations in Iran. More than $6,000 worth of alcoholic drinks was sold at the event, with organizers claiming that they wanted to show solidarity for a 24-year-old Iranian man who was chained to a tree and suffered 80 lashes for having consumed alcohol at a wedding when he was 14 years old. 

In advance of the World Cup games in Russia, students at Emory University in Atlanta published an editorial in student-run The Emory Wheel against Russia’s multitude of human rights abuses, including imprisonment of dissidents. Protest signs included the faces of Crimean filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who is on a hunger strike after bogus charges of terrorism led to his 20-year sentence, and human rights activist Oyub Titiev, who is facing falsified drug possession charges and is on trial in Chechnya.

At Columbia, a campus talk by the Consul General of the People’s Republic of China was disrupted by more than a dozen students who stood up from their chairs, raised rainbow flags, and condemned a decision by Hong Kong authorities to hide LGBT-themed books at public libraries. The students were promptly escorted out of the lecture hall by campus security, enabling the diplomat to continue his remarks on China-U.S. relations in the wake of a potential trade war. 

Nearly 50 protestors gathered outside of the Faculty Club at UCLA, where a luncheon was being held for the new Prince Alwaleed bin Talal al-Saud Chair in International Sovereignty Studies, an endowed position sponsored by Saudi Arabia. Angry students declared that in establishing the program, the kingdom is only seeking to validate its position that other countries should not interfere in its internal affairs, including the arrests of women’s rights activists and beheadings of criminals, whose headless bodies are then dangled in public as a warning sign to others. 

Impressed by all of these events because they signal a critical shift away from college campuses’ seeming obsession with Israel — and Israel alone? I was impressed, too. I was very impressed that I managed to make it all up and convince some readers that it actually happened. 

Why is all this imaginary? Perhaps because at some point, students thought to themselves:

Syria? It’s sad, but what can we do? It’s the government against its own people.

Saudi Arabia? It’s unfortunate, but we have no business meddling in its sovereign affairs, especially if its faith endorses beheadings (Sura: 5:32-34). To each his own. 

Italy? I visited last summer and didn’t even see any asylum seekers! But the fresh cheese was incredible. 

Russia? OK, it’s awful, but before looking at what it does to their own people, we have to talk about what it did right here in the United States. 

And so on and so on. 

I don’t know what it’ll take for college students to condemn any country other than Israel, but it would have to be unprecedentedly tragic and immoral. And that, perhaps, is the  most tragic hypocrisy of all.  

Tabby Refael is a Los Angeles-based writer.