Whack-A-Mole: An arcade game with a playing surface containing five holes.
Cartoonish moles pop up randomly through the holes.
Winning the game depends on whacking each mole
as it appears.
Whack-A-Mole (colloquial): a situation in which repeated efforts to
resolve a problem are frustrated by the problem reappearing in a different form.
After a series of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic events on my local university campus, a group of Jewish leaders approached the university to voice our concern. Our efforts led to a meeting between us, the Dean of Students, and the University Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
Anti-Semitic and Anti-Israel Events on Campus
The first event was a demand by a group of radical students that the university increase funding to all students groups, except those that had a “Zionist agenda.” This was a classic case of using opposition to Israel as a cover for an attack on Jews. In this case, the Zionist groups on campus consisted of the sum total of all three Jewish student clubs on campus: the orthodox religious Chabad; the secular Jewish service club, Hillel; and the campus pro-Israel group.
Although the university president did not accede to the student’s demand, neither did he condemn the anti-Semitic nature of it. He remained silent. Jewish students and faculty felt aggrieved. Jewish advocates agreed that a similar demand to demote any other racial or ethnic group, would have received a swift reprimand from all quarters, especially the president’s office.
To make matters worse, the Chairperson of the Ethnic Studies department officially endorsed the demand. She then used the department’s student bulletin board to publicize it. This was followed by a unanimous vote of all the Ethnic Studies faculty members to support the students’ demand to single out and demote the three Jewish student clubs.
That was not a good week for Jewish students on campus. It was not a good week for decency.
Fast forward four years. Once again, the local Jewish community was blind-sided by an anti-Israel and anti-Semitic event. A pair of radical Ethnic Studies professors brought a prominent anti-Semite and anti-Israel advocate to campus for a panel presentation on Ethnic Studies. The panel was officially sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and the University’s Diversity Office. That sponsorship lent the presentation the imprimatur of the university itself, and thereby, its implicit endorsement.
The panelists promoted a number of falsehoods about Israel, arguing that Israel is a settler-colonialist state that practices apartheid against Arabs. They claimed that the goal of the Zionist movement was to “displace” Palestinians.
The panelists waded deeper into anti-Semitic waters. They falsely claimed that the Jewish Anti-Defamation League had spied on “every single progressive movement.” They repeated the absurd canard that Israel trained US police forces to arrest and incarcerate American minorities.
Zionists were said to be bullies who were trying to silence those who teach the “truth” about Palestine. Jews were characterized as white supremacists. The panelists said that the Jews’ argument that the Holocaust was a unique historical event reflects Jews’ sense of superiority over others. Outrageously, the panelists argued that the Zionists agreed to help “colonial anti-Semites of Europe” to get rid of the Jews, as a way to justify the creation of Israel. In other words, the panelists recycled extremist views that blame the Holocaust on the Jews.
One of the two main presenters was well-known for her outrageous anti-Semitic views. The professors who invited the panelists to speak were well aware of their extreme views. Apparently they agreed with them.
As a backdrop to all this ugliness, some Jewish students became targets. Passsers-by repeatedly shouted anti-Semitic slurs at Jewish students in front of the campus’ Jewish fraternity. On one occasion, a spray-painted swastika appeared on the front wall of the fraternity house.
Models of Anti-Semitism: Deficit versus Bigotry
Among those in the local community who raised their voices, there emerged two distinct views about the etiology of the anti-Semitism problem.
In the first, more prevalent view, observers believed that anti-Semitism was due to misinformation and knowledge deficits. These lead to negative anti-Jewish attitudes and actions.
In the second view, the anti-Semitism was a manifestation of bigotry. That is, the anti-Semites were propelled by deep-seated prejudice and anger against Jews.
In the first view, the antidote is anti-Semitism training. Expert trainers may be called in to educate the campus community about the true nature of Judaism. They can teach about Judaism’s long history, its contributions to Western civilization and its humanistic values. They can debunk lies, for example, that Jews exploit others, that they are disloyal to the societies in which they live, and that they believe themselves to be superior to others.
But if the second—-the bigotry view—-is accurate, training alone won’t work. Entrenched, multigenerational prejudice can be suppressed by policies and constant policing. But it won’t be eradicated.
Inadvertently Empowering the Diversity Bureaucrats
Sadly, there is a downside to anti-Semitism training sponsored by the Diversity Bureaucrats on campus.
If anti-Semitism is motivated by bigotry, training will do little to help Jews. But it will help the Diversity Establishment on campus, that is, the many Diversity Administrators. Our campus has six of them, with combined annual salaries of over $650,000. Some larger campuses have many more. Anti-Semitism training will help the Diversity Bureaucrats justify their existence to those who fund the school. Their “successes” will be measured by the number of hours of training provided, the number of personnel trained, and the number of meetings of various committees, initiatives and programs. These will all be presented in reports on “progress” toward equity goals. This might be called the Diversity Administrators’ Full Employment Act.
But while the Diversity Administrators will secure their high salaries and comfy jobs, what will happen to Jewish students? They are likely to fare less well.
And if those who fight anti-Semitism use an inaccurate explanatory model—-in this case, a deficit instead of a bigotry model—-the result is predictable. Anti-Semitism efforts will suppress the phenomenon for a while. As in the Whack-A-Mole game, the moles will disappear underground for a while……only to keep popping up over and over again.