I have documented academic anti-Israel and antisemitic activity on occasion, but my focus was more on the anti-Israel activity against Jewish and Israeli academics and institutions, including boycotts. I have not really focussed on campus antisemitism against Jewish and pro-Israel students.
It was therefore shocking, if not unexpected, to see this horrifying video produced by Jewish Voices on Campus (via Arlene Kushner):
Prof. Jacobson at Legal Insurrection has been documenting campus antisemitism for a long time now (see here and here for example) and today links to an item similar to the video above reporting on a huge rise in campus anti-Israel activity in the US:
The Anti-Defamation League issued an important report on Monday, Oct. 27, finding a dramatic increase in anti-Israel activity, compared to last year. The ADL attributes the increase to the aftermath of the 50-day Gaza war this past summer.
According to the ADL, this fall semester there have already been 75 anti-Israel events reported on U.S. college campuses. In the same period last year, there were only 35 such events.
The problem is even more alarming than the ADL’s report suggests.
William Jacobson, clinical professor of law at Cornell Law School and founder and publisher of the excellent blog covering legal matters, especially anti-Israel activity on campuses, Legal Insurrection, made the point:
“It is no real surprise that anti-Israel groups are trying to leverage the summer’s fighting in Gaza to their advantage on campus.
“But that is just the latest excuse for what has been a long-running campus propaganda war against Israel. If it was not Gaza it would have been something else. There are groups always looking for an excuse to attack Israel on campus,” Jacobson explained.
METHODS OF CAMPUS ANTI-ISRAEL ACTIVITIES
Those campus anti-Israel activities include mock “Apartheid Walls” intended to represent Israel’s passive security barrier as a weapon of racism; mock checkpoints in which anti-Israel thugs act out the role of Israeli security forces intimidating, harassing and aggressively demanding identification from hapless and often helpless students who are forced into playing the role of meek and innocent Palestinian Arabs, and fake “die-ins.”
There are also the mock eviction notices slipped under the dorm room doors of students. These notices demand the students leave their rooms, pretending that the evil Israeli empire is confiscating their dwelling space. Although there is (at least now) a line usually at the bottom of the notice, informing the student that the eviction notice is not real, the level of anxiety it creates is real, as is the feeling of students having their private space violated.
These tactics, along with the Israel divestment resolutions (all of purely symbolic value as students cannot vote on how a university’s money is invested, but the platform provided to bash Israel can be deeply upsetting nonetheless) and activities promoting the boycott of, divestment from and sanctions against (BDS) movement have metastasized. In the past few years several large academic organizations have focused a great deal of time and energy on whether to boycott Israeli academic institutions.
Jacobson, another observer in the front row, agreed with the ADL that most campuses in the U.S. do not experience problems with openly hostile anti-Israel activity. But, Jacobson explains, “that is not for lack of trying. Groups like Students for Justice in Palestine, often with the assistance and encouragement of anti-Israel faculty, have become more aggressive in the past two years.”
By whatever standard is used, there is little doubt that the problem of orchestrated anti-Israel activity on U.S. campuses is growing and needs to be taken seriously.
And it is not a new phenomenon. As long ago as 2009, after spending two weeks on a speaking tour of North American colleges, Arab Israeli journalist Khaled abu Toameh had this to say about the anti-Israel climate on those campuses: “there is more sympathy for Hamas there than in Ramallah.”
Read the whole article for a depressing and alarming insight into what is happening in US academia.
In the UK matters are at least as bad. The Stand With Us organization does sterling work in countering academic boycotts, BDS in general, and defending Israel in various forums. Of course many individuals (e.g. Ronnie Fraser) have confronted anti-Israel boycott proposals by teachers’ unions like the UCU, often to the detriment of their own career.
Now there is more trouble afoot Britain, this time for Jewish students in Manchester, as they have to contend with a vote to continue twinning Manchester University with the “Hamas greenhouse”, An-Najah University in Shechem (Nablus):
Even by the standards of British student politics, the campus-wide vote due to take place from October 24-31 at the University of Manchester is most questionable and controversial.
The proposal being put to vote is to renew the university student union’s twinning partnership with An-Najah National University in Nablus, a place called by Hamas “a greenhouse for martyrs.”
According to Jewish watchdog organization the Anti-Defamation League, “the student council of An-Najah is known for its advocacy of anti-Israel violence and its recruitment of Palestinian college students into terrorist groups. The council, almost completely controlled by factions loyal to Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah, glorifies suicide bombings and propagandizes for jihad against Israel.”
Unsurprisingly, students connected with Manchester’s Jewish society oppose the motion.
In London’s Jewish News, James Graham wrote that he and other Jewish students supported the proposal’s motion to bring a student from a Palestinian university to study in Manchester.
“What we as a J-Soc [Jewish student union] were opposed to is the twinning with An-Najah, an institution with links to Hamas and that has publicly called for the annihilation of the Jewish people. Instead we were in favor of a three-way relationship between Manchester, an Israeli university and an alternative Palestinian one,” Graham wrote.
What is witnessed in wider society is not reflected proportionally on campus, but rather boiled down and concentrated. Organized student politics, as a result, can appear radical or extreme on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The current campus clashes began, in fact, before students returned to classes in late September and early October. In early August, during Operation Protective Edge, the National Executive Committee of the National Union of Students (NUS) voted in favor of a motion to support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
The NUS – a national confederation of 600 student unions in Britain representing the interests of more than seven million students – backed 23 votes to 18 to commit itself to “ensuring that, as far as is practical, NUS does not employ or work with companies identified as facilitating Israel’s military capacity, human rights abuses or illegal settlement activity, and to actively work to cut ties with those that do,” a spokesperson said at the time.
But the motion went further than that. Support for BDS was tagged to a motion which condemned “Israel’s attacks on Gaza” and “the collective punishment and killing in Gaza,” and backed calls to lift the blockade on the Strip. It also beseeched the British government to cease aid and funding to Israel and impose an arms embargo against Israel,according to Cherwell, a student newspaper of Oxford University.
This would not be in the NUS’ only intervention in the Middle East. Earlier this month, the National Executive Committee blocked a motion to “condemn the IS and support the Kurdish forces fighting against it, while expressing no confidence or trust in the US military intervention” and “campaign in solidarity with the Iraqi people and in particular support the hard-pressed student, workers’ and women’s organizations against all the competing nationalist and religious-right forces.”
Decisions such as these — condemning Israel, but not Islamic extremists — have set a tone for political activity in other students’ unions across the country. At Goldsmiths, University of London, the students’ union voted down a motion to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day, among other anniversaries of genocides and atrocities in Europe, including the Armenian genocide. The motion read in part:
The Student Union recognizes the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust, of the other genocides, of totalitarianism and racial hatred. It further recognizes that commemorating the victims of genocide, racial hatred and totalitarianism, and promoting public awareness of these crimes against humanity, is essential to sustaining and defending democratic culture and civil society, especially in the face of a resurgence of neo-fascism, racial hatred and neo-Stalinism across Europe.
Meanwhile at Cambridge…
At the University of Cambridge, a collective of doctors and professors put their names to a September 28 statement which demanded an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip and “a more far-reaching justice for the Palestinian people, including the displaced refugees.” This change, they argued, “without an end to the violence perpetrated by the State of Israel against Palestinians, an end to the siege of Gaza and to the occupation, and an end to the discriminatory and dehumanizing treatment of Palestinian citizens within Israel.”
Students at the university connected to the Israel Society issued a counter-letter, condemning the academics for “demonstrating a severe lack of nuance surrounding the complexity of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and for issuing an un-academic statement that achieves little save establishing the desire to discriminate against a sole nationality.”
The original letter, however, asserted that Israel “singles itself out” for criticism “through its claims to moral impeccability, its celebrated status as a democracy, through its receipt of massive support from the US and other nations, and through its abuse of the memory of the Holocaust in order to deflect criticism and to discredit the Palestinian struggle.”
Joshua Gertner, co-president of Cambridge’s Israel Society and one of the authors of the counter-letter, told The Times of Israel, “This eye-opening letter from the student body rightly highlights the lack of nuance from these Cambridge academics in their strikingly un-academic torrent of criticism leveled at Israel. It was very important to send a strong message that their unhelpful and misguided sentiment is not blindly accepted by their students.”
n explaining this raft of extremely politicized decisions by the NUS and other students’ unions, Daniel Cooper – one of the co-sponsors of the motion to condemn ISIS – argued that “there is a stranglehold of ‘identity politics’ on the student movement.” He added that “the idea is widespread that if a Liberation Officer opposes something, it must be bad.”…Some “appear not to research issues, work out what they think, engage and take ideas forward. Instead, some are not very interested and vote on basis of who they want to ally with.
In other words many British students are dimwits who vote with their emotions without studying the facts first. Exactly how a university student should NOT behave in fact.
However it is not all bad news, though the good news are few and far between.
The President of Liege University in Belgium condemned an antisemitic invitation to an anti-Israel student event and demanded that it be cancelled:
The president of the University of Liege in Belgium said he was “appalled” at philosophy students for staging a mock Gaza-themed initiation ritual of newcomers.
The invitation to the event, scheduled for Tuesday, was couched in an anti-Semitic language, reading ‘’your goal is to avoid the big bad Jew,” according to the European Jewish Press..
University’s president Albert Corhay demanded the cancellation of the event and added that students involved will be summoned in the coming days.
In a statement, the Union of Jewish Students in Belgium declared: “The student body has a tradition of humorous initiations. Here, however, we are dealing with something else: a Manichaean and anti-Semitic vision of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Kol hakavod to Mr. Corhay for having the courage to stand up to these bigots and for imposing a modicum of decency in his university. If only British deans adn professors woudl act likewise.
In New York too, a boycott motion was defeated at CUNY by the Doctoral Students Council:
On Friday afternoon, the Doctoral Students Council of the City University of New York (CUNY) once again considered a hateful resolution calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
After the same measure was defeated by 41 votes last month, this destructive and divisive resolution once again reared its ugly head. For a second time, the resolution failed to win passage, receiving 31 out of a required 39 votes.
The hypocrites who promoted the resolution are part of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. This well-funded and increasingly organized campaign seeks to isolate, demonize, and ultimately destroy the Jewish state of Israel.
The resolution’s backers claimed they were promoting justice and human rights, that they were seeking sovereignty and freedom for the Palestinian people, that they are trying to end the “occupation.”
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Sensible students and faculty at CUNY organized to stand up for academic freedom and moral integrity by helping defeat this resolution. They were supported by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, StandWithUs, The Third Narrative, The Israel Project, and an on-site rapid response team from Israel on Campus Coalition.
Kol hakavod to all the students and the pro-Israel advocacy groups who supported them in their tireless efforts to defeat this bigoted motion.
Unfortunately, as we have seen in the above article, being defeated once, or even twice, is not enough to deter the bigots and Jew-haters. I’m sure they will raise their ugly heads again in further boycott attempts and anti-Jewish events. We all have to stand guard and give support to the Jewish students and faculty.