On Oct. 25, Dr. Mohammed Dajani spoke to LIME, an Israeli-Palestinian student dialogue group that I mentor at Syracuse University. Dajani, a Palestinian peace activist, garnered international attention in 2014 when he was vilified for taking a group of Palestinian students to the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz in present-day Poland.
Member Writings and Interviews
For the past few decades, we have witnessed the rise of anti-Semitism from the left. From Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in the United Kingdom to college campuses across America, the phenomenon is real, and it is dangerous. Yet, all too often, some Jews — both individuals and organizations — who inhabit the liberal or left end of the spectrum have tried to explain it away with the classic “yes/but” rationalization: “Yes, it’s wrong, but if only Israel would… then the anti-Semitism would disappear.” Maybe their fear of losing their left-wing bona fides blinded them to the fact that the only proper response to prejudice of any kind — anti-Semitism included — is unambiguous condemnation.
Now, some of these same Jews are excoriating establishment Jewish leaders who have failed to condemn anti-Semitism from the right. They lambast these leaders for cozying up to Donald Trump and his newly appointed White House chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, who has proudly supported the rise of the so-called “alt-right,” the self-serving marketing term for a group rife with anti-Semites and white supremacists.
9 years ago to the day, Lord Arthur James Balfour, the then Foreign Secretary of the mighty British Empire a letter to Lord Rotschield, a prominent Jewish leader in England, containing only 130 words , but ones which had the potential to change history. Potential as opposed to actual? time to reevaluate , especially in days, when in the House of Lords , a Baroness is hosting a meeting , in which there was a call for Britain to extend an apology to the Palestinian people for this letter/declaration.So many angels through which we can look at these 130 words, analyze and counter analyze them, but here I will contain the discussion to only three of these angels.
Portland State University (PSU) President Wim Wiewel, in a timely statement in early June 2016, spoke out against a divestment motion pushed by adherents of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The motion was about to be voted by the Associated Students of Portland State University. President Wiewel called the motion “ill-advised and divisive,” and worried openly about the tenor of the conversation stirred by BDS on campus.
Wiewel said: “The tone and tenor of the BDS movement has made members of our community feel unsafe and unwelcome at PSU, and it is not acceptable to marginalize or scapegoat them. Antisemitism cannot and will not be tolerated on our campus.”
Earlier this month, retired federal judge Barbara Jones and former prosecutor Paul Shechtman issued a 24-page report summarizing their investigation into allegations of anti-Semitic behavior among CUNY students. The report was comprehensive and its defense of student organizations’ free speech sound, but its details also raised troubling questions about the state of affairs on CUNY campuses—and, by extension, at most colleges and universities.
The report made two principal findings. First, it clarified (there had been some debate about the incidents) the anti-Semitic conduct by some CUNY students. A November 2015 rally at Hunter College co-sponsored by the faculty union, the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), drew support from a variety of identity-politics student groups, including the Students for Justice in Palestine. Encountering a small group of pro-Israel students, protesters shouted “Jews Out of CUNY” and “Death to Jews”; one CUNY student told Jones and her staffers that “as he was leaving the rally, a person behind him said, ‘We should drag the Zionist down the street.’ ” He had to ask CUNY security officers for protection. Jones and Schectman made clear that if CUNY could identify any of the protesting students, they should be punished for issuing verbal threats.
On a university campus, a student group invites a speaker. Several other groups oppose that speaker’s views. During the first minutes of his speech, they pull out megaphones, repeatedly yell profanities at him and cause such disruption that he cannot be heard and has to leave.
The protesters publicly defend their actions as justified because they think the speaker and his views are offensive to them. Situations like this repeat themselves over the years.
Israeli academics are being quietly ostracized by their U.S. peers, not out of principle, but out of fear of pro-boycott colleagues. I hope our challenge to BDS-by-stealth at Syracuse U will encourage more campuses to take on their boycott bullies.
Jay Michaelson, writing in the Daily Beast [August 26, 2016], remarks that the University of Chicago’s recent “P.C. crackdown” is about “keeping right-wing donors happy,” although he produces no evidence whatsoever to back up his claim. He characterizes a letter sent by U. Chicago Dean of Students Jay Ellison this past week to all incoming first-year students as “weird,” suggesting the letter proposes “restricting free speech in the name of free speech”.
Other writers similarly criticize the Chicago initiative as misguided and unknowing about the uneven dynamics of participation among undergraduates in American universities, and to see the affirmative support that is required to truly give all equal opportunity to speak. L. V. Anderson, for example, in Slate [August 25, 2016], calls the letter “odd,” and charges the U. Chicago is inadvertently sending a message certain students are more welcome than others!