Up to a few years ago, I was writing that the focal point of anti-Semitism in the US was found in our universities and that it was our task to inform the public about what was happening on our campuses. Between the years of 2007-2016, as an adjunct teacher (and a gentile) at the University of California at Irvine, I became active in speaking out against anti-Semitic speech and displays on campus, as well as the intimidation of Jewish students. What was the spark that was igniting campus anti-Semitism? Then as now, it was the constant drumbeat of anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian rhetoric on the part of some students, some faculty, and student organizations like the Muslim Student Union/Association and Students for Justice in Palestine.
Pro-Israel events, meanwhile, can expect to be routinely disrupted, something I have personally observed on more than one occasion including the notorious Oren disruption. Today, the problem of anti-Semitism has metastasized out into the rest of society. Jews are not just being harassed on campuses, but are now being physically attacked on the streets of major cities. But needless to say, it has not left the universities. Across the country, more and more universities in every region of the country are seeing anti-Semitic outbreaks disguised as human rights concerns for the Palestinians, who are allegedly being oppressed by Israel-a proposition that I don’t buy.
I have already mentioned the Muslim Student Associations/Union and Students for Justice in Palestine. Over the years, I have attended countless events sponsored by these groups at UC Irvine and listened and interacted with their invited speakers. Most of the speakers are radical leftists, while many, not all, are Muslim (some are even oddball Jews who hate Israel), and many are virulent Jew-haters. While I believe in free speech-including theirs- I feel it is vital to document and expose their words.
This takes me to the sites of these events, the universities themselves. It would take me several pages to list all the American universities where these outrages have taken place. Public, private, north, south, east, or west, it makes no difference. Some are worse than others. The problem, as I see it, is this: American universities, mostly all dominated by the left, have lost sight of the principle of free speech for all. That should include conservatives, Jews, Trump supporters, Republicans, and, in this case, students and speakers who support Israel. While university administrators pay lip service in condemning anti-Semitism and promising free speech for all, they fail to follow through. The concerns of Jewish students are nowhere near their top priority. In addition, administrators are afraid to confront groups like the Muslim Student Association or Students for Justice in Palestine. They have proven that time and time again.
For years, Jewish students have complained about anti-Semitism, but to little or no avail. Our universities have allowed students and activists to turn the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into one of the top hot-button issues on campus. Often, the anti-Israel, anti-Zionist rhetoric made by invited speakers has crossed the line from legitimate criticism of Israel, which we all concede is free speech, into pure Jew hatred-which to be accurate- under American law is also free speech as long as it doesn’t directly incite violence. Several years ago at UC Irvine, I was present when an imam from Oakland, Amir Abdel Malik Ali, made several hateful statements in a speech and expressed support for Hamas. The chancellor, Michael Drake, issued a statement to the entire UCI community that the speaker was not speaking for the university and condemned the remarks made by Ali. Yet, there was no mention of who the speaker was, what he said, who sponsored him (Muslim Student Union), or who the victimized group was.
Should a noose, which has a powerful impact for blacks given the past history of lynchings in the South, appear on a campus, as it did a few years ago at UC San Diego, the chancellor and vice-chancellor will lead the protests, which is all well and good. But if a swastika shows up on some campus, the university will condemn it, state that an investigation is underway, and move on. You never hear about it again.
As Critical Race Theory spreads into more and more universities, the problem of anti-Semitism can only get worse since Jews are generally not considered a vulnerable minority. Indeed, the California version’s original draft had language not only that Israelis were oppressing Palestinians, but that Jews were simply privileged whites oppressing people of color.
So what is to be done about this toxic climate that exists on our campuses? First and foremost, donors should cease giving to schools that allow this poison. Parents and their children should find more friendly places to attend college. It would also be helpful if more Jewish organizations, who are supposed to fight anti-Semitism and stand up for their Jewish students, would take a more aggressive role against these universities. Specifically, I am referring to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the various chapters of the Jewish Federation, and Hillel. In the case of UC Irvine, they have either been missing in action (ADL) or have been a hindrance to those who want to fight the problem (Jewish Federation and Hillel). A big part of the problem is that the latter two organizations are too close to the university administration and don’t want to make waves. So everybody just stands back and says that the administration and the Jewish students are taking care of the problem. And the problem continues. I wish more Jewish organizations would follow the lead of the Zionist Organization of America and the Amcha Initiative in actively fighting campus anti-Semitism.
Over the years, the Students for Justice in Palestine and Muslim Student Union at UC Irvine have all but destroyed the reputation of the institution when 99% of UCI’s students have nothing to do with the ugliness. UC Irvine is a classic example of how a few bad apples can spoil the whole barrel.
Our universities are badly failing their Jewish students and students in general with their far-left dominance and inability or unwillingness to stand up to anti-Semitic hate-mongers masquerading as human rights activists. Cowardly and/or indifferent administrators have allowed a resurgence in modern-day anti-Semitism to fester and flourish. Now the cancer has once again spread into society at large. History will record that our universities have played a leading role in this latest resurgence in anti-Semitism.
Thanks a lot, Academia.