Benjamin Folkinshteyn

But Whither the Jews? Penn Carey Law’s Shameful Silence.

Earlier this past summer, Dean Sophia Lee of Penn Carey Law expressed vocal disappointment on behalf of the law school in connection with the US Supreme Court decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard. She proclaimed that “[a]s a law school, we will remain committed to realizing equality and justice within and beyond our walls.” She further added that the law school “recognize[s] that these values are achieved only through action: equality will not emerge automatically from inequality, and justice will not take root without deliberate effort.”

Yet only two months later, there is nothing but silence regarding the evil perpetrated in Israel by Hamas terrorists on October 7. That silence was not unexpected. Nor is the moral cowardice and the hypocrisy used to double down on this silence to promote a newly announced policy of “neutrality” on issues which do not “directly” affect the students or the school itself. Indeed Dean Lee argued in an email to alumni that a public statement would be a distraction from the school’s “important work [of] educating the lawyers and leaders of tomorrow”. Frankly, if the law school cannot take a stance against barbaric acts of terror, it should just get out of the business of educating lawyers and leaders of tomorrow altogether.

Elie Wiesel once said that “what hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor but the silence of the bystander.” Taking a position against indiscriminate inhumanity toward the innocent by a terrorist government should not be difficult. The many alumni who are calling for Penn Carey Law to take a stance are not asking the school to stifle free speech or to do something extraordinary. All we are asking is that the Jews be treated the same as everyone else – measured by the same yardstick, shown the same level of compassion as other ethnic groups in their moments of crisis. Let the Jew haters, their enablers and sympathizers shout anti-Jewish venom and false moral equivalencies from the rooftops – we are all for that! – it makes it easier to identify the bigots. But do not tell us that we should not believe our own eyes and trust our own ears.

Over the last several decades, armed with the war cry that “anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism” and with the support of many in academia and beyond, college and law school campuses have become cesspools of anti-Jewish bigotry. Every time the tiny minority of Jewish voices objected to these developments, they were rebuffed and shamed by school administrators, professors and students: that the Jews are too sensitive, that what they are seeing and hearing is not what it seems, that “From the River to the Sea,” “Long Live the Intifada,” “Israel = Nazis,” and “Zionism equals Racism” are really just anti-Zionist arguments for peaceful coexistence. (And, lest we forget, equating Zionism with racism and denying the Jewish people the right to self-determination was Soviet propaganda.)

We cannot abide by the gaslighting. And we cannot abide by the hypocritical silence of Penn Law in the face of such invective — an institution that (in the past) seems to have prided itself on speaking out against injustice and inequity remains utterly and unforgivably silent.

Many on Penn Law’s campus and the alumni board criticize the Jewish response to the indescribable tragedy of October 7 as lacking in empathy and too parochial in its focus solely on lives in Israel snuffed out of existence, not the suffering in Gaza. But why are the Jews the only minority that is asked to focus on the needs and demands of others whenever the Jews work up the courage to ask for justice? Why is it that now it is OK to say “All Lives Matter” (true story!) when we are rightly decrying the rape, kidnapping, beheading and orgiastic slaughter as tools of war and terror aimed at the only Jewish State, and the only democracy in the Middle East?

And we can and do mourn the loss of lives of civilians in Gaza used as human shields by the duly elected Hamas-led government in a war that Israel did not start nor wanted. We do not celebrate their deaths. We do not parade their bodies in public squares. We do not dismember the dead. And we do not integrate military installations with hospitals, schools and houses of worship.

Some years ago Golda Meir supposedly said that “[i]f the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence[; i]f the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel.” She has been proven right over and over again. The events of October 7 and subsequent apologia thereof are a culmination of anti-Jewish hatred smelted in the crucible of academia and abject international failure to speak the truth about terrorism, anti-Semitism and Arab obstructionism. Instead of creating a paradise on the Mediterranean, the duly elected Hamas-led government in Gaza impoverished its population and put into action a war machine to accomplish the goals of its charter, a Judenrein land from the river to the sea. And it has since promised to do so repeatedly until Israel is no more. But to many it is still all the Jews’ (ahem, Zionists’) fault.

We are a people that survived millenia of hatred, dispossession, pogroms, blood libels, mass murder and genocide. Two weeks ago, baby slaughter, brutal rape, kidnapping and beheading were added to that list. What else does Penn Carey Law need to see before it realizes that silence is not an option?

About the Author
Benjamin Folkinshteyn is an attorney in private practice in the Greater New York area. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
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