Jewish history is replete with stories of expulsion and exodus. Knowledge of the Holocaust includes the story of immense difficulties European Jews faced in finding open doors to flee and find haven. Even after the Nazi Holocaust, the barriers to migration remained high for Jewish survivors. More recently, Jewish history has continued to be marked by expulsion and exodus — from the new Arab nations built on the ruins of colonial empires in North Africa and the Middle East, from the collapse of the former Soviet Union from Russia and Ukraine, and from the disarray of nations in Latin America, including Argentina and Venezuela.
Member Writings and Interviews
Anti-Semitism may be the oldest hatred, but it still comes up with horrifying surprises. One of them is a spike in anti-Semitism, stoked by a President who seems wildly pro-Israel and even has a Jewish daughter. This crazy dynamicclimaxed yesterday when 11 Jews were murdered in a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Throughout history people have slaughtered Jews for every reason under the sun. But we still need to attend to their reasons.
On the evening after the deadliest act of violence against American Jews, President Trump said that Jews had “endured terrible persecution” for centuries: “You know that. We have all read it. We have studied it.”
But his response to the horrific news that a gunman had killed 11 people and wounded six at Shabbat services at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh made it clear that Trump doesn’t actually understand the nature of anti-Semitism at all.
It has been a rough few weeks for American students who wish to study in Israel. An opponent of the Israeli state refused to write a recommendation for a University of Michigan student who sought to study abroad in Israel, while a state agency of Israel, the Shin Bet, acting for Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, barred another American student from entering Israel to begin graduate study at Hebrew University. Now a graduate instructor at the University of Michigan has compounded the problem, similarly refusing to write for a student.
Few schools offer study abroad program possibilities as extensive as those of the University of Michigan, which includes programs in more than 130 foreign countries, from Argentina to Zambia. To participate, students must complete an application, attend a series of meetings, maintain a minimum grade average, and obtain a short recommendation from a faculty member. It seemed straightforward to an undergraduate named Abigail Ingber, who requested a reference this semester from professor John Cheney-Lippold after taking one of his classes in the Department of American Culture. Although Cheney-Lippold initially agreed to provide the letter, he changed his mind when he realized that Ingber intended to study at Israel’s Tel Aviv University.
Anti-Zionism is a form of racism like any other: The erasing of a nation’s experience, the denial of their right to speak. Often it comes twinned with the old anti-Semitic gestures. Jews are cruel, enjoying domination for its own sake; they are money-hungry and care nothing about others. They are, in fact, a world historical evil, unique among the nations. The fact that American universities are the new breeding ground for this moral idiocy is no surprise, since the academy has so often provided a home for repellent ideologies. Now that Stalinism and Maoism are passé, anti-Zionism has become the latest way to excuse massacres, now rechristened “resistance,” in the name of history.
An associate professor in the American Culture program at the University of Michigan refused to write a recommendation for a student, Abigail Ingber, who seeks to study in Tel Aviv. John Cheney-Lippold informed the student, to whom he had said he would write on her behalf, and who he told he would be happy to write for study in other countries, that “many university departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel in support of Palestinians living in Palestine.” He explained that “for reasons of these politics, I must rescind my offer to write your letter.”