Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Jew-Bashing at Universities the New Normal
Richard Cavatts In February 2010, a student at the University of California, San Diego, left a noose dangling from a bookcase in the school library. Although the noose was directed at no individual student, the obvious racial overtones of this symbol of the Southern lynch mob provoked predictable outrage. In protest, students occupied the chancellor’s office. A campus teach-in on tolerance was held. Black students publicly expressed their indignation, pain, and fear to a sympathetic campus administration. The chancellor issued an uncompromising statement condemning the incident and pledged to eliminate hatred on campus. Once the racial cauldron bubbled over, a coed came forward and took responsibility for the incident. She wrote a letter of apology to the school newspaper and said that she never intended to make a racist statement. She had no idea of the historic implications of the noose. She herself was a member of a minority group. The administration suspended her. Although by all accounts she was guiltier of abject stupidity than a hate crime, the campus administration asked the city and county attorneys as well as the FBI to file hate crime charges. In May of the same year, David Horowitz spoke on the UCSD campus. During the question and answer period, Jumanah Imad Albahri, a member of the Muslim Student Association, unflinchingly announced her support for killing Jews. The chancellor’s office was not stormed. Albahri was not suspended. The campus administration did not seek prosecution for a hate crime. The FBI was not called. The student government did not even announce that it would no longer commit 37,000 dollars to fund the MSA’s Jew-bashing Israel Apartheid Week. Ms. Albahri was simply expressing her constitutionally protected opinion. Fast forward to this year and Florida Atlantic University. Students for Justice in Palestine plastered mock eviction notices, propaganda circulars designed to mischaracterize Israeli policies in the territories, on the doors of 200 student dorm rooms and elsewhere in residence halls. The seal of the university’s housing authority was imprinted on the bottom of the notice, giving official approval to the propaganda posting which depicted Israelis as wanton oppressors and perpetrators of brutality against civilians. A dormitory door is part of someone’s home. In many states, the law protects the privacy of student dorm rooms the same way it protects the privacy of anyone’s home. No one has any more right to put something on someone’s dormitory door than they have to put it on the door of your home. No one has the right to intimidate you in your home. Intimidation is the purpose of the SJP false eviction campaign, which was carried out on campuses beyond Florida Atlantic. Some students were so shocked by the notice that they took it to be real. Jewish students were particularly offended by the mock eviction notices, which woefully mischaracterized Israeli policies, going up in their place of residence. No one seemed to care about their indignation, pain, and fear. After noting that the posting violated university rules, Florida Atlantic’s senior vice president for student affairs dismissed the entire episode as unimportant as it was not directed at any particular individual. No one will be required to appear before a campus judicial board. No charges of a hate crime will be filed. Can anyone imagine what would happen if some university administrator at UCSD said the noose was unimportant because it was simply hung in the library and was not directed at any particular student? Jewish students are vulnerable because Jewish organizations have abandoned the campus. In California, where anti-Semitism thrives on campus in the form of anti-Zionism, a number of Hillel directors, representing several UC campuses, came forward to say that the issue of harassment and intimidation of Jewish students on the University of California’s campuses is an exaggeration. Contributing to the growth of anti-Semitism is the number of prominent, but unrepresentative, Jews who have given legitimacy to almost every form of the anti-Zionist expression. The anti-Zionists gain strength and legitimacy because the likes of Peter Beinart, Max Blumenthal, George Soros, and Rabbi Michael Lerner can seldom, if ever, find a Palestinian position that does not require their support. This denial of one’s own nation in order to embrace the enemy is one of the consequences of the twisted fate of a minority people living in a hate-filled Diaspora, a people who have produced leaders who identify with their aggressors and come to believe the very stereotypes that dehumanize their people, from whom they wish to separate themselves. Hatred is the great unifier of social movements and identity politics. But on campus, hatred of almost all groups, except Jews, is unacceptable. At Berkeley this year, Reverend Louis Farrakhan spoke to a crowded auditorium of 600 mostly black students. He regaled them with the “secret” history of Jews and the slave trade. For his faux history, condemned by the American Historical Association, Farrakhan received a standing ovation from what are probably the best and the brightest of the next generation of black leaders. But no one would dare sponsor the white incarnation of a Louis Farrakhan. No campus community would tolerate it. So, if you are going to hate someone, remember Jews, especially pro-Israel Jews, are vulnerable. They not only get no protection from campus administrators; they also get almost no protection from their own communal organizations. You cannot openly hate, or even disparage, protected groups: to point out the actions of radical Islam will cause you to incur the accusation of Islamophobia. Gays, lesbians, and transsexuals are off-limits. Tainting the environment against women will have you hauled before a campus Star Chamber. Fat people, maybe, but even they are usually off -limits. Basically, that’s why the campus has Jews. And if you really are going to evict anyone, start with the Jews because not only will no one protect them, but you can count on a number of their own people coming forward to defend your right to cast them out. Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science and a former head of the Intelligence Studies Section of the International Studies Association.