Jarrod Tanny
Jarrod Tanny

Jewish studies — you have failed

2017 – Charlottesville: an outpouring of anger and grief from Jewish studies faculty

2018 – Tree of Life: : an outpouring of anger and grief from Jewish studies faculty

2021: Threats and violence in the diaspora against Jews because of what Israel is (allegedly) doing. The response – a collective letter blaming Israel for all that has ensued.

Jewish studies – you have failed

I have been saying this for three years, that the left only cares about attacks against Jews when it comes from white supremacists. And now we know with the utmost certainty that this is also true of Jewish studies scholar-activists.

Jewish studies – you have failed.

If the assailants are brown, if they are wearing Palestinian keffiyehs, or if they are holding BLM signs, they get a pass. Jews in America and Europe are fair game, because in the hierarchy of “structural racism” we “white Jews” are the oppressors.

You may claim that this is about Israel. And you are free to issue your virtue signaling one-sided documents blaming the Jewish state for a complicated conflict in the middle east.

But guess what? Not only will that not solve the conflict, it actually endangers diaspora Jews. And we have seen this concretely this week.

All that said, this isn’t the worst of it. No, the worst of it is the utter silence when diaspora Jews are actually attacked by “Palestinian freedom fighters”.

There have been more Jewish casualties in the diaspora this week than Charlottesville and Tree of Life, and there has not been a single word from you, collectively speaking. Not one word from the signers of this one-sided statement.

Sure, nobody has died. But is cold-blooded murder the threshold for you to speak out? A cursory glance at inter-War Europe, even Nazi Germany in its early years, amply demonstrates that vandalism, bullying, and physical assaults precede murder. But they still constitute hate crimes.

All you had to do – at a bare minimum – was to insert a paragraph into your condemnatory statement of Israel that “attacks against diaspora Jews are inexcusable.” That’s it.

But even that, apparently, is too much to ask.

Why is it so much to ask, when you, committed scholar-activists, have issued countless statements over the past 5 years, standing up for Muslims, Black people, Latinx, Asian Americans. You have stood up publicly for literally everybody. Except for the Jews. Or rather, except for the Jews, when the perpetrators are not white supremacists.

Why? Perhaps David Hirsh is correct that this is the price of admission into Woke circles – you have to demonstrates that left-wing antisemitism is kosher. Well, you have done that. Congratulations.

Or maybe you are in fact self-hating Jews, as I argued – with reluctance to use the term – in an op-ed I wrote.

You have betrayed your community, you have betrayed your students, and you have made a mockery of our field in the academe, because there exists no other field that is so disdainful of the community is studies.

And one last time – when I say you betrayed your “community” I don’t mean Israelis, though of course your abandonment of Israel is clear and has been clear for quite some time.

No, I mean your community in the diaspora. The Jews who walk among you are being forced to take the “Palestine litmus test” for their worthiness. Of course, many who have been attacked this week were not even interrogated. It was just assumed that they failed the anti-Zionist litmus test because they were visibly Jewish.

I had intended to write an op-ed painstakingly deconstructing all that is wrong with the condemnatory statement of Israel, how blaming Israel while ignoring Hamas’s rockets of terror is not only immoral but speaks of a deep historical ignorance.

But I concluded that was pointless, because your failure to stand by Israel pales in comparison to your failure at home.

So I will say it one last time.

As a collective, Jewish studies, you have failed.

About the Author
Jarrod Tanny is an Associate Professor and Block Distinguished Scholar in Jewish History in the Department of History, University of North Carolina Wilmington.
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