Universities and antisemitism

Universities and antisemitism

Evidence of antisemitic incidents on university campuses across North America, Europe, and Australia since 2000 has been recorded by a number of sources. Though the circumstances surrounding the reported incidents are disputed, many maintain that campus activism supportive of the Palestinians and critical of Israel has created an atmosphere of anti-Jewish intimidation that erupts periodically in hate speech and even violence. Others acknowledge that antisemitic incidents have occurred, but dispute the extent of them, and contend that commentators have conflated political anger with ethnic or religious hatred in an attempt to chill legitimate debate. [Butler, Judith. [http://www.lrb.co.uk/v25/n16/butl02_.html "No, it's not anti-semitic"] , "The London Review of Books", August 21, 2003. "Here, it is important to distinguish between anti-semitic speech which, say, produces a hostile and threatening environment for Jewish students - racist speech which any university administrator would be obliged to oppose and regulate — and speech which makes a student uncomfortable because it opposes a particular state or set of state policies that he or she may defend. The latter is a political debate, and if we say that the case of Israel is different, that any criticism of it is considered as an attack on Israelis, or Jews in general, then we have singled out this political allegiance from all other allegiances that are open to public debate. We have engaged in the most outrageous form of 'effective' censorship."]

Laurie Zoloth, former director of Jewish Studies at San Francisco State University, has written of her distress at walking across campus past maps of the Middle East that do not include Israel, and posters equating Zionism with racism and Jews with Nazis, turning the campus into a "Weimar Republic with brownshirts you cannot control."Zoloth, Laurie. "Fear and Loathing at San Francisco State" in Rosenbaum, Ron. "Those who forget the past". Random House, 2004, pp. 1-3.]

Stephen Walt, professor of international affairs and former academic dean of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, and John Mearsheimer, R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, have described the widespread allegations of antisemitism in Columbia University's Middle East Studies program as part of "an overt intimidation campaign" against faculty critical of Israel, spearheaded by a "propaganda film" ("Columbia Unbecoming"), and constituting a "classic illustration of the effort to police academia."Mearsheimer, John J. and Walt, Stephen. "Policing Academia" in [http://ksgnotes1.harvard.edu/Research/wpaper.nsf/rwp/RWP06-011 The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy] , Kennedy School of Government Working Paper Number:RWP06-011, March 13, 2006, p.24.]

Recent events at universities


In Australia, Daniel Wyner of the Australasian Union of Jewish Students, says that the "vilification we feel as students on campus ... [is] coming almost entirely from the left." Grahame Leonard, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry] , says July 2006 had the most antisemitic incidents since records began in 1945, and that many of the incidents were on campus. In Sydney, some Jewish students have started to wear hats over their kippahs. Deon Kamien, Victorian president of the Union of Jewish Students, told "The Age": "It's not something I can put in words. A lot of students who would feel very comfortable wearing a kippah or T-shirt with Hebrew words on it now feel they are being targeted as Jews — not supporters of Israel, but Jews. When they walk past socialist stalls (on campus) they are called f---ing Jews." [Zwartz, Barney & Morton, Adam. [http://www.theage.com.au/news/in-depth/an-unholy-alliance/2006/09/03/1157222010013.html "An unholy alliance"] , "The Age", September 4, 2006.]


In September 2002, former Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu was prevented from delivering a speech at Concordia University in Montreal after a student protest turned violent. Some protesters harassed the predominantly Jewish audience that had arrived for the speech, and there were reports of Holocaust survivors being assaulted. [Graeme Hamilton, "Nazi-hunter criticizes actions of Concordia", "National Post", 16 October 2002, A2.] Figures such as World Jewish Congress secretary Avi Beker described the incident as indicative of an "anti-Semitic campaign" on North American campuses, [Anne Dawson, "Canada accused of failing to fight anti-Semitism", "National Post", 19 November 2002, A9.] and journalist Lysiane Gagnon accused the university's pro-Palestinian students union of "refus [ing] to blame those who broke windows, threw chairs around, spat at and shoved the Jewish students who wanted to hear Mr. Netanyahu". [Lysiane Gagnon, "Here's to you, Mr. Robinson", "Globe and Mail", 2 December 2002, A19.] The student union's vice-president of communications refuted Gagnon's charge, saying that his organization had on many occasions "publicly condemned any acts of physical violence [...] especially those acts that were anti-Semitic or anti-Arab in nature". [Yves Engler, Letter, "Globe and Mail", 5 December 2002, A26.] Chadi Marouf, director of the Concordia's Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights organization, said that only a small minority of protesters had engaged in violent acts. Marouf also described Netanyahu as a "war criminal", and argued that the protest itself had been justified. [Graeme Hamilton, "Nazi-hunter criticizes actions of Concordia", "National Post", 16 October 2002, A2.]

An advertisement in the "Globe and Mail" on December 17, 2002, signed by 100 people, said that Canadian Jewish students are traumatized by on-campus antisemitism and dare not speak out in support of Israel or Judaism.Gerstenfeld, Manfred. [http://www.jcpa.org/phas/phas-gersten-f03.htm "The Academic Boycott Against Israel"] , "Jewish Political Studies Review" 15:3-4 (Fall 2003).] Signatories included Irving Abella, David Bercuson, Ramsay Cook, Michael Bliss, Margaret Atwood, Peter C. Newman, Neil Bissoondath, Francine Pelletier, and June Callwood.Farr, Moira. [http://www.universityaffairs.ca/issues/2003/may/print/culture.html "When cultures collide on campus. Defending free speech at university in tense times"] , "University Affairs, May 2003.]

Signatory Nora Gold, a sessional instructor at the University of Toronto's faculty of social work and a scholar of antisemitism in Canada, says that, ten years ago, her research into antisemitism was either dismissed or regarded as exaggerated, but people are now looking at it more closely. "The problem is there are nuts on both sides fighting for the downfall of the other. But there are also reasonable people on both sides. You look for balance, and there hasn’t been enough of that in the discussion."

During the debate triggered by the advertisement, Susan Bloch-Nevitte, communications director at the University of Toronto, acknowledged that there had been incidents there that could be viewed as antisemitic.


In France, Patrick Klugman, President of the Union of French Jewish Students (UEJF), wrote in "Le Figaro": "On some university campuses like Nanterre, Villetaneuse and Jussieu, the climate has become very difficult for Jews. In the name of the Palestinian cause, they are castigated as if they were Israeli soldiers! We hear 'death to the Jews' during demonstrations which are supposed to defend the Palestinian cause. Last April, our office was the target of a Molotov cocktail. As a condition for condemning this attack, the lecturers demanded that the UEJF declare a principled position against Israel!"

United Kingdom

In the UK, the "Report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Anti-Semitism" reported that the far-right British National Party says it is active on 15 British campuses.

The report also states that "when left wing or pro-Palestinian discourse is manipulated and used as a vehicle for anti-Jewish language and themes, the anti-Semitism is harder to recognize and define ..."PDFlink| [http://thepcaa.org/Report.pdf "Report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Anti-Semitism"] |430 KiB , September 2006, p.38.]

The inquiry heard that University College, London invited members of the Islamist party Hizb-ut-Tahrir to give presentations, although it has been banned from several countries because of its antisemitism. Hizb-ut-Tahrir has also been active at Queen Mary, University of London; Kingston University; and UCE Birmingham.PDFlink| [http://thepcaa.org/Report.pdf "Report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Anti-Semitism"] |430 KiB , September 2006, p.39.]

The report describes how "tensions and incidents on campus often peak around students' union votes concerning Israel and Zionism," listing by way of example several incidents precipitated by a 2002 University of Manchester students' union motion to declare that anti-Zionism was not antisemitism, and that Israeli goods should be boycotted. During the voting phase, according to the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester, a leaflet from the General Union of Palestinian Students quoting a neo-Nazi forgery entitled "Prophecy of Benjamin Franklin in Regard of the Jewish Race," was handed out to students lining up to vote. The leaflet described Jews as vampires, and said that if they were not expelled from the United States, they would "enslave the country and destroy its economy."PDFlink| [http://thepcaa.org/Report.pdf "Report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Anti-Semitism"] |430 KiB , September 2006, p.40.] When the motion was defeated, a brick was thrown through the window of one Jewish student residence while a poster with the words "Slaughter the Jews" was stuck to its front door, and a knife was stuck in the door of another.

United States

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL)'s 2002 audit of "Anti-Semitic/Anti-Israel Events" on college campuses across the U.S. included accounts of violent incidents. [Anti-Defamation League, [http://www.adl.org/CAMPUS/campus_incidents.asp "Anti-Semitic/Anti-Israel Events on Campus"] , May 14, 2002, accessed January 9, 2006.] An April 9, 2002, rally held by the Muslim Student Association at SFSU displayed posters bearing a picture of soup cans reading "Made in Israel" on the label, listing the contents as "Palestinian Children Meat," with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as the manufacturer, and the words "slaughtered according to Jewish Rites under American license." [ [http://www.sfsu.edu/~news/response/csuletter.htm Letter from SFSU President Robert A. Corrigan to California State University Chancellor Charles B. Reed] , SFSU website, July 25, 2002, accessed January 9, 2006.] [Richman, Josh. [http://www.forward.com/issues/2003/03.04.04/news11.html "ADL: Antisemitic Incidents Soar in N. California"] , "The Forward", April 4, 2003, accessed January 9, 2006.]

On May 7, 2002, a group of pro-Israel demonstrators at SFSU were confronted by pro-Palestinian counter-demonstrators after a rally. Both sides were described as "exchang [ing] taunts that descended into slurs", and the pro-Israel students were escorted back to the Hillel building under police protection. The university president subsequently remarked that "a small but terribly destructive number of pro-Palestinian demonstrators, many of whom were not SFSU students, abandoned themselves to intimidating behavior and statements too hate-filled to repeat". Members of this group were reported to have yelled, "Hitler didn't find the job". [William Booth, "On Campus, a Reflection of Middle East Anger", "Washington Post", 19 May 2002, A3.] This was adamantly denied by Palestinian activists present at the rally, who accused the pro-Israel demonstrators calling the Arab students "sand niggers" and "terrorists." According to Leila Qutami of the SFSU's General Union of Palestine Students, "We were called 'Arab losers' and told to stick flags up our asses. And those are the things that are mentionable". One Jewish member of the pro-Palestinian counter-demonstration was quoted as saying that she heard "a couple of inappropriate, anti-Semitic things", but that these were not representative of her organization's opinion. She blamed the presence of anti-Semites in the pro-Palestinian cause on "the confusion of Zionism with Judaism". [Featherstone, Liz. [http://www.thenation.com/doc/20020617/featherstone "The MidEast War Breaks Out On Campus"] , "The Nation", June 17. 2002/]

There also were significant tensions between Jewish and Palestinian student groups at the University of California at Berkeley in 2002. During Passover, a cinder block was thrown through the front windows of the university's Hillel centre and the words "Fuck the Jews" were written on the centre's recycling bins. The culprits were never found, and these acts were condemned by Palestinian student leaders. [Michelle Locke, "Mideast conflict sparks protesters at UC Berkeley", "San Diego Union-Tribune", 12 November 2002, F10.] Palestinian students also argued that they were subject to harassment on campus, and were labeled as terrorists or anti-Semites for voicing their opposition to Israel. [Tanya Schevitz, "UC Berkeley's conflicts mirror Mideast's pain", "San Francisco Chronicle", 5 April 2002, A1.] The tensions were especially strong on April 9, when two rival events took place at the same time: Jewish student groups held a vigil for Holocaust Remembrance Day, while Students for Justice in Palestine held a National Day of Action in conjunction with the anniversary of the Deir Yassin Massacre. [Charles Burress, "Cal chancellor calls for calm as rivals plan events today", "San Francisco Chronicle", 9 April 2002, A1.] Some Jewish students criticized the pro-Palestinian group for distributing pamphlets that drew parallels between the Holocaust and Israel's military assault on Palestinian territories, while Palestinian students again complained that they were frequently slandered as anti-Semitic. A member of Jews for a Free Palestine who tried recite a Hebrew prayer at the Palestinian event was drowned out by students from the Israel Action Committee, who repeatedly shouted "shame". [Liz Garone, "Berkeley Students Rally for Palestine", "Washington Post", 10 April 2002, A3.]

Three years later, on February 16th, 2006, members of the UC Berkeley Jewish fraternity chapter, Alpha Epsilon Pi, were victimized by a racial slur when a member woke up Monday morning and discovered the word "kike" painted in white on the deck of their house the night before. The fraternity reported that although they had been targeted by racially charged comments before, Sunday’s incident was the worst instance of anti-Semitism they had experienced; “It’s just really sad, in this day and age, that anti-Semitism can still exist on such a progressive campus,” said Joe Rothberg, president of the fraternity. “It’s just depressing.” [Lum, Jessica. "Jewish Fraternity Vandalized with Slur." The Daily Californian. Wednesday, February 15, 2006. [http://www.dailycal.org/sharticle.php?id=23195] ]

Todd Gitlin, professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University, has written how two students of his wondered whether it was true that 4,000 Jews had failed to show up for work at the World Trade Center on September 11. "The worst crackpot notions that circulate around the Middle East are also roaming around America," he writes, "and if that wasn't bad enough, students are spreading the gibberish. Students!"Gitlin, Todd. "The Rough Beast Returns" in Rosenbaum, Ron. "Those who forget the past". Random House, 2004, p. 264.]

In late October of 2007, five swastikas were drawn on several buildings in the dormitories of the George Washington University. [ [http://www.nbc4.com/news/14451924/detail.html "No Arrests Made in Apparent GW Hate Crimes"] " NBC4 News"] One of these swastikas was found on the door of a Jewish student. University officials condemned the occurrences.

A staff member at Brown University has was attacked on March 15, 2008 when two Molotov cocktails were thrown at his apartment. The staff member was safe and continues to work at the Hillel at Brown, but moved out of his apartment. Law enforcement and university officials took the matter very seriously. [Jayakrishna, Nandini. [http://media.www.browndailyherald.com/media/storage/paper472/news/2008/04/09/CampusNews/Hillel.Staffer.Moving.On.After.Attack-3312416.shtml "Hillel staffer moving on after attack."] "The Brown Daily Herald". 9 April 2008. 9 April 2008.]

Graffiti depicting a Star of David between the Twin Towers as an airplane flies toward them was found outside a classroom at UC Santa Cruz. Below the image of the towers was the number 666, a symbolic number representing the Antichrist. University faculty and administration quickly condemned the act as a hate crime. [Brown, J.M. [http://www.mercurynews.com/breakingnews/ci_9116311?nclick_check=1 "UCSC probes anti-Semitic graffiti."] "San Jose Mercury News". 1 May 2008. 2 May 2008.]

ee also

*Bench ghetto
*Scholars for Peace in the Middle East
*Campus Watch
*The David Project Center for Jewish Leadership


Further reading

* [http://www.spme.net/ Scholars for Peace in the Middle East]
*Beckwith, Leila; Bejamin, Ilan; Benjamin, Tammi; Rosenberg, Moshe. [http://www.spme.net/cgi-bin/articles.cgi?ID=1847 SPME Report: Report of the meeting of SPME Faculty Representatives from three University of California campuses with head of the UC Academic Senate on addressing anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism] , Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, February 16, 2007.

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