Responsibility for double standards that demonize Israel and make anti-Semitism fashionable on American campuses is widely shared. Like other institutions too numerous to list, Duke, Northeastern, SUNY Buffalo, Oberlin, Temple, the University of California (especially Berkeley, Irvine and Davis), Rutgers and Columbia profess their commitment to equality, diversity, inclusiveness and freedom of speech while creating safe space for malicious anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.
That dismaying reality is the focus of “Hate Spaces: The Politics of Intolerance on Campus,” a chillingly important video released by Americans for Peace & Tolerance, a Boston-based non-profit organization headed by Dr. Charles Jacobs. Ralph Avi Goldwasswer, who produced the award-winning “Forgotten Refugees,” is the film’s director and executive producer. With sickeningly abundant examples and informed commentary it documents the dismaying reality that the only hate speech currently tolerated — indeed, avidly embraced — on campus is anti-Semitism that obsessively challenges the legitimacy of the world’s only Jewish state.
The hateful delegitimization of Israel, to be sure, is hardly unique to academic institutions. Four decades ago the United Nations led the way when it proclaimed Zionism to be “a form of racism and racial discrimination.” But the current hothouses of venom toward the Jewish State, in a twist of irony amply explored in the video, are colleges and universities ostensibly dedicated to the search for “veritas” — truth. Yet that pledge has been repeatedly perverted by obsessive loathing of Israel and intimidation of Jewish students who support it. Indeed, as the video reveals, “progressive” has become virtually synonymous with “visceral hatred of Israel.” In a morally corrupt academic world where, as a student at the University of California (Davis) noted, “any support of Israel is hate speech,” Israel is calumnied as “the Fourth Reich.”
It is strikingly ironic that the hotbeds for delegitimization of Israel and the harassment of Jewish students that inevitably accompanies it are located in the bubble lands of liberalism on the East and West coasts. Professors in the Middle East Studies departments at Columbia and Northeastern, as in the Berkeley, Davis and Irvine branches of the University of California, have repeatedly insulted and intimidated Jewish students. Even Brandeis University displayed its own version of liberal intolerance when it rescinded the decision to award an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, raised as a Muslim but with the temerity to become a sharp critic of Islam.
“Hate Spaces” reveals a dismaying academic paradox. After decades of exclusionary quotas and discriminatory practices targeting Jews had finally subsided, replaced by pledges of “diversity and inclusion,” Jewish students — especially those who support Israel – are routinely targeted for denigration and intimidation. Among the more despicable examples cited: the denunciation of Israel as the “4th Reich” (UC Irvine); the disruption of a Holocaust commemoration ceremony (Northeastern); the claim that any expression of support for Israel is “hate speech” (UC Davis). Kent State, Rutgers, and Columbia provide additional noxious evidence. Over 70 percent of Jewish students on University of California campuses claim to have experienced anti-Semitism.
These examples are not random. As “Hate Spaces” extensively documents, many have been orchestrated by Students for Justice in Palestine, an organization founded in the 1990s by Hatem Bazian, a Palestinian immigrant who became Senior Lecturer in the Department of Near Eastern and Ethnic Studies at Berkeley. (By 2004 he was calling for an intifada in the United States.) SJP ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, and its alliance with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel, echo Nazi anti-Jewish boycotts, while creating a poisonous campus environment for Jewish students.
The delegitimization of Israel has made anti-Semitism academically fashionable. But the freedom of speech that denigrators of Israel demand for themselves is routinely denied to defenders of the Jewish State. With the tacit approval of cowed administrators, “academic freedom” and “free speech” have been used to intimidate, not protect, Jewish students who express pro-Israel or Zionist opinions. As a UC Davis student bluntly declared, “Any support of Israel is hate speech.” An invidious double-standard prevails: criticism of Islam is bigotry; criticism of Israel and Zionism is justified as “privileged hatred.”
An array of journalistic and academic critics explore the surging tide of academic anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens wonders why self-proclaimed defenders of freedom and equality (SJP) demonize the only Middle Eastern country (Israel) that shares their values. Boston University Professor Richard Landes notes that critics of colonialism, using Israel as their surrogate for Western sins, ignore the long history of Muslim imperial colonialism that began in the 7th century.
The politics of intolerance on American campuses disgrace the students and professors who embrace them, and the administrators who tolerate them. How sadly ironic that the world’s longest hatred, identified by historian Robert Wistrich in his comprehensive history of anti-Semitism, should now flourish in American colleges and universities, our newest “hate spaces.”
Jerold S. Auerbach is Professor Emeritus of History at Wellesley College.