The Need for Campus Activism
The level of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiments on our
campuses has been hotly debated in recent months. Some see an alarming surge of
pro-Palestinian prejudices that drown out and intimidate
supporters of Israel — and too often cross the line into anti-Semitism. Others,
including some Jewish campus leaders, minimize these trends and criticize
organizations that have mobilized to counter them.
Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller of UCLA’s Hillel, for example, in
a recent article in this paper, disparaged these organizations and their
materials as “propagandistic,” “polemical,” part of the “anti-anti-Semitism
industry” and of “dubious value.”
Sadly, even though most Americans remain supportive of Israel,
there is abundant evidence that in academia, opposition to Israel’s policies
has mutated into attacks that demonize the Jewish State, undermine its
legitimacy and foment anti-Semitism. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reports
that “campus anti-Semitic incidents were up dramatically in 2002.” “Too often,”
added a recent ADL newsletter, “anti-Israel activism crosses the line into
anti-Semitism … and the bad news is that there is a silent majority on campus
that is simply not speaking out against anti-Semitism.”
It is not surprising that this majority remains silent.
Left-of-center ideology, with its fashionable post-colonialist critiques of America
and Israel, dominate campus culture. Edward Said’s bitter anti-Israel polemics
hold sway in Middle Eastern Studies departments and pervade other disciplines.
Pro-Palestinian views that distort Israeli-Arab history and spread
disinformation have been accepted as fact in many campus circles. Visiting
Israeli professors called their past year in American academia “a nightmare”
because of their colleagues’ intense and often ill-informed bias, Ha’aretz
reported last August.
“An entire year of attacks, even in corridors, staff
meetings and conferences … there is an unquestioned assumption that Israel
and the Israelis are the bad guys,” said Dr. Liora Brosh who taught comparative
literature at a New York State University.
Joint Palestinian-Israeli discussion panels often exclude
the moderate view, though they masquerade as balanced presentations. Divestment
campaigns that blame Israel alone for the conflict and ugly slogans such as
“Zionism is Racism” abound. Pro-Palestinian rhetoric is couched in a potent
brew of popular campus causes for social justice, human rights,
anti-globalization and indigenous people’s rights; and pro-Israeli students who
share these values have trouble disentangling them from the Palestinian
position. They also face an unfriendly environment. As journalist Daniel Pipes
recently pointed out, when well-known pro-Israel speakers lecture on campuses,
they require security protection. Speakers critical of Israel, however, do not.
It is little wonder that many Jewish students feel
uncomfortable and besieged. The one-sided nature of the campus debate also
leads other students, both Jewish and non-Jewish, who otherwise would have no
particular bias, to simply assume that Israel has no case.
Unfortunately, the solutions offered by some campus leaders
do not go far enough to address students’ needs or the larger problem. Their
recommendations — issuing healing messages, encouraging Jewish students to
reach out to Muslims, supporting moderate Arab Muslim students — certainly have
merit, but they do not help students understand Israel’s case and they do not
fill the urgent need to counter the barrage of anti-Israel disinformation.
Israel has compelling ethical and historical justifications
for its existence and its policies. The American Israel Public Affairs
Committee, ADL, National Hillel and grassroots groups such as StandWithUs have
mobilized to make sure this information is part of the campus debate. Their
arguments are mainstream, shared by a majority of the U.S. Congress and the
current Israeli government. All students should be familiar with these
positions even though they may not agree.
Pro-Israel organizations are helping turn the tide on our
campuses, The Forward reported on Dec. 20, 2002. Many campus activists credit
them “for providing increased resources and training to campus activists and
helping them develop more proactive approaches.”
Campus leaders need to be on the front lines encouraging —
not marginalizing — efforts to better inform students and to ensure that all
voices across the political spectrum are heard and respected. Suppressing
conservative pro-Israel views will have the unfortunate effect of keeping the
campus debate one-sided and of inhibiting dialogue. Students of today will be
the leaders of tomorrow. Hopefully, their college years will expose them to the
full range of issues about the beleaguered Middle East so they can make informed
decisions in the future. Â
Roz Rothstein is executive director of StandWithUs. Roberta Seid is director of research and education for StandWithUs.
It’s hard to thrive, or even function, if you don’t feel safe. Emotionally, if there is no love in your life, an inner emptiness gnaws...
Do you know what we need in an age of attention-destroying, context-lacking, rage-inducing consumption of digital story after digital story? A user’s manual for the...
I live in as diverse a Jewish community as there may be in America, in Brooklyn, N.Y., but often look around synagogue sanctuaries and other...
When California Democrats gather for their state party convention in San Francisco on May 31, they will hear from congressional and legislative leaders, from Gov....
“The candy man can ’Cause he mixes it with love And makes the world taste good.” — Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley In late April, I...
I arrived in Jerusalem on Yom HaZikaron, the day of remembrance for fallen soldiers. Despite the day’s somberness, little Israeli flags waved cheerfully from the...
Despite showers and gray skies, close to 15,000 people showed up at Cheviot Hills Park and Recreation Center in Rancho Park on May 19 to...
So many people fail to appreciate the profound and positive impact that nature’s beauty can have on the lives of those who take the time...
In 1972, 16-year-old Janet Dallal’s father was arrested in Baghdad for the crime of being a Jew. He barely survived and was released in the...
Hopefully, by the time you read this, the construction of the next Israeli government will have become clearer. But it’s quite possible that the process...
Four Israelis were buried earlier this month in the wake of nearly 1,000 rockets Hamas and Islamic Jihad fired into Israeli population centers, striking schools,...
SUBTRACT youth’s silver smile KNOCK OFF teenage slouch ZERO guitar fantasies DEDUCT hipster cool TAKE AWAY belief that good things come in time if you...
One verse, five voices. Edited by Salvador Litvak, Accidental Talmudist And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and proclaim freedom throughout the Land for all its...
It’s been well documented that guilt is a word often associated with food in American culture. In his book “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s...
During a May 19 lecture at UCLA, four journalism experts examined the importance of media in a world where the term “fake news” is now...
Lag BaOmer is approaching, and many Israelis commemorate this holiday by having a big bonfire in their backyard. Unfortunately, the benign intentions of those fires...
What does it mean to be a parent, a good friend, or to stand up for what’s right? For more than four decades, award-winning musical...
Hershey Felder, Canada’s gift to the world’s stage as actor, musician and playwright, returns to Los Angeles this month with his one-man show, “A Paris...
The Los Angeles Youth Orchestra (LAYO) has announced the creation of a new musical group, the Contemporary Adventure Ensemble (CAE), which brings some of L.A.’s...
Marcia Falk is best known as a modern maker of richly innovative Jewish prayers as collected in “The Book of Blessings,” which was described by...
Herman Wouk, the best-selling Orthodox Jewish author whose literary career spanned nearly seven decades and who helped usher Judaism into the American mainstream, died May...
Alvin Sargent, whose deft hand at adapting books and plays into smart, subtly characterized scripts earned him two Oscars for best screenplay, died May 9...
Graduation season is upon us, and everyone from kindergartners to Ph.D.s are putting on their caps and gowns. One graduation tradition that has become very...
Serial entrepreneur Jonathan Medved, 63, is the founder and CEO of OurCrowd, the world’s largest equity crowdfunding platform. Since its launch in February 2013, OurCrowd...
During a recent visit to Israel along with his counterparts from around the United States, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti met with Israeli President Reuven...
FRI MAY 24 Housing the Homeless Tommy Newman, director of public affairs at United Way, joins Shabbat dinner at Stephen Wise Temple and leads a...
Joe Biden’s Flawed Approach Dan Schnur describes in his column (“The Joe Biden Gamble,” May 10) using arguments against President Donald Trump the policymaker but...