All Israel
guest column

Jew hatred on US campuses

Protest at a college campus over anti-Semitism. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Colleges are notorious for having their finger on the pulse of all things trending. But what seems to be the most growing trend of all could also be the most worrisome, and who knows better about it than the Jewish campus group Hillel. 

Just last year, Hillel tracked more than 500 anti-Semitic incidents, including harassment, discrimination, attacks and marginalization of Jewish students, who may or may not have been supportive of Israel.  

Imagine a truck emblazoned with an image of Hitler showing up on your campus. One actually did, on Oct. 22 at UC Berkeley, a university which allegedly had recently set up “Jew-free zones.” The truck, sponsored by a political advocacy group called Accuracy in Media, displayed a large image of Adolf Hitler giving a Nazi salute and captioned: “All in favor of banning Jews, raise your right hand.” 

The truck campaign was actually meant to provoke those who favor anti-Semitism as a response to nine law students at Berkeley School of Law attempting to “bar Zionist speakers from campus.” 

Ironically, the truck’s creative attempt at bringing attention to the issue ended up having the opposite effect and was condemned by the Anti-Defamation League, Hillel and other Jewish community groups. Students reacted by saying how scary and disturbing it was.

But, perhaps, nothing is scarier than a campus which sets up Jew-free zones. Such a venue is essentially promoting automatic guilt by association with an ethnicity. It has no tolerance, no humanity, and sends the clear message that Jews are not welcome in a particular space. 

This is all too reminiscent of some American country clubs in the 1920s, which banned Jews from joining, letting them know that they were unwelcome and unable to participate in certain aspects of American social life.

None of this, as it relates to educational institutions, is a new phenomenon, though. American universities have a long history of Jewish persecution and unfair practices, including strict quotas for Jewish enrollment: In 1935, Yale accepted only five Jewish students out of a group of 200 who had applied. Harvard had a similarly restrictive quota. 

Getting back to the aforementioned trend, a group called StopAntisemitism, which monitors such incidents, disclosed that “55% of students surveyed report being a victim of campus antisemitism, 72% report that university administrations fail to take antisemitism and personal safety seriously, 55% of students reported needing to hide their support for Israel, while 73% report hiding their Jewish identity on campus.”

It seems that universities – the one place that is supposed to champion open thought, tolerance and expanding the mind – have become the place where Jewish speech, identity, support for Israel and one’s personal safety can no longer be taken for granted and are no longer guaranteed. 

Such trends point to a renewed boldness of the type of prejudice which existed 100 years ago within many areas of American society and which has, once again, become fashionable – if not directly, then indirectly by associating all Jews with the Jewish homeland, even if they’ve never set foot in it or support its political policies. 

Consequently, the whole Zionist label is nothing more than a convenient cover for resurrecting Jew-hatred on campuses, which have become a hotbed of intolerance in many social arenas.

Of course, many of the accusations hurled at Jewish students and groups emanate from the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israeli and Jewish businesses). BDS is, in large part, supported by pro-Palestinian groups that disseminate blatant lies concerning Israel, such as that it has apartheid policies, practices genocide against Palestinians and – probably the most well-known false accusation – occupies Palestinian land. 

For students who are willing to blindly accept those claims without researching the history of the Jewish state dating back to biblical times – or its present-day policies – the temptation to run with libelous propaganda is extremely appealing. These low-information young people who adopt this libelous agenda have a penchant for searching out what they believe to be social injustice.

Rather than do what they can to correct the malicious deceit, professors often initiate and support such claims, without having done their own research to set the record straight. 

Sadly, some of these professors are, themselves, Jewish educators who teach courses which denigrate Israel and promote activism against the homeland in an effort to “liberate Palestine.”

Two such Jewish professors [UCLA Professor David Myers and Daniel Sokatch of the New Israel Fund] suggested that Israel is a “key pillar” in a “global movement” to subvert democracy and implied that “the tiny Jewish state exerts disproportionate power in world affairs and it is exercising such power through collusion with actors who seek to enshrine white supremacy (or a local variation of fascism) in their own domains.” 

The conclusion for many college students who know little or nothing about Israel, is that there is a nefarious plot, supported by Israel, to not only oppress Palestinians but to actually destroy democracy and achieve world dominance. Who wouldn’t want to stop such dark and ominous aspirations?

It’s no wonder that a recent article in The Times of Israel said that U.S. students reported a jump in mental scarring from campus anti-Semitism but see no end to it. Stating that students are afraid to wear symbols that identify them as Jewish, such as a Star of David or kippa [skullcap], they walk around in fear of being attacked. One student said she’s afraid to walk to her classes alone for fear of being harassed for being a Jew. 

According to the article, one in three college students personally experienced anti-Semitic hate during the 2021 academic year, and not just once – with such incidents coming with physical, psychological or societal consequences. 

U.S. Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, a Jew himself, stated that the U.S. is in the midst of an epidemic of hate but said, “I’m proud to live openly as a Jew, and I’m not afraid. I will not live in fear.” 

Although failing to address anti-Semitism on campus, the place from where much of this sentiment emerges, the fact that he felt the need to call out the obvious growing trend bears witness to a growing understanding that such a serious problem can no longer be ignored.

While there are no immediate solutions for American Jewish students to feel safe on their university campuses, they might want to consider the many wonderful universities in the Jewish homeland – which do offer courses in English for students from abroad.  

One thing is for sure – wearing a Star of David or kippa won’t be a cause for worry anymore!

ALL ISRAEL NEWS is committed to fair and balanced coverage and analysis, and honored to publish a wide-range of opinions. That said, views expressed by guest columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of our management or staff.

A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.

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