Boaz Ganor

The Iranian Bazaar and Antisemitism on Campuses

Open Letter from the President of Reichman University to the Members of the Academia

Something alarming is unfolding across American college campuses — a pervasive wave of antisemitism and violence has overtaken numerous academic institutions throughout the country. It has manifested in racist chants accompanied by overt calls for violence against Israelis, Zionists and Jews, led by groups of “pro-Palestinian” students and organizations.

The backdrop to these incendiary demonstrations is ostensiblythe war against Hamas in Gaza — a war that was imposed on Israel with the horrific massacre of October 7. That day ,members of the Palestinian terrorist organizations slaughtered hundreds of Israeli civilians — babies, children, women, men, and the elderly — mutilating their bodies, committing brutal sexual assaults, and burning people alive. Hundreds more were abducted and taken into Hamas’s tunnels in Gaza. However, Israel’s military response (which, again, came after one of the most heinous terrorist attacks in human history and certainly the largest and most severe in Israel’s history) is nothing more than a flimsy excuse for the surge of antisemitic incidents on American campuses. The rampant and coordinated incitement we are witnessing is the result of the systematic and deliberate indoctrination by a number of extremist faculty members, as well as by Islamist student movements that have permeated American universities. This has often been backed with funding by Arab states and entities, which in many cases also donate considerable sums of money to the universities themselves. This so-called activism is conducted methodically, under the guise of a noble cause, while abusing the fundamental right to free speech enshrined in the first amendment of the United States constitution.

Let us not be deceived into believing that the wave of antisemitism spreading across campuses is a spontaneous, authentic reaction by American students who oppose the war against Hamas in Gaza. It is in fact a carefully orchestrated plan initiated by Islamist and radical elements in the United States and abroad that exploits the progressive worldview and sense of“white guilt” that characterizes many American students. The evidence of this lies in the historical context: similar violent protests did not erupt on US campuses when tens or hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians were killed in atrocities around the world — whether in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, or Iran, or even as a result of US military operations in response to the attack on Pearl Harbor, or to 9/11. The antisemitic rioters on American campuses are deliberately singling out Israel.

It is crucial to understand that this grim wave of antisemitism is only the tip of an iceberg that threatens the United States itself, jeopardizing its status as a liberal democracy. Many of the instigators of the violent campus protests are second and third generation Arab immigrants to the United States who aim to change the democratic character of Western countries in general, and the US in particular. They seek to replace its constitution and democratic and liberal values with Islamic law, “Sharia”(just as Hamas strives for the establishment of an Islamist theocracy in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and throughout Israel). As the Bible says, “Your destroyers and those who made you waste shall go forth from you;” in other words, the gravest threats often arise from within.

This phenomenon is not new, but it has been gaining momentum in recent weeks with many young Americans mobilizing to join protests without any awareness or understanding of the agenda they are serving. On September 11, 2001, Bin Laden and his cohorts attempted to destabilize the “distant enemy” — the United States, which they saw as a major barrier preventing Islamist extremists from taking over moderate Arab states in the Middle East. Al-Qaeda sought to establish a global Islamic caliphate, a vision shared by ISIS and Hamas, with the latter aiming to replace the State of Israel with a Palestinian Islamic caliphate that would eventually unite with the global caliphate. This context helps explain why Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, expressed support for the anti-Israel protests in the United States on his X account. Khamenei — the Shia Islamist dictator and successor of Ayatollah Khomeini, who championed the “export of the Iranian Islamic revolution” to the entire world — orders the murder of his own people while establishing and financing terrorist organizations across the globe. These groups include Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas, who target Israel, Shia militias in Iraq and Syria that attack American military forces, and the Houthis in Yemen, who threaten maritime traffic in the Red Sea and launch assaults on Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, and Israel. Khamenei refers to the United States as the “Great Satan” and frequently leads demonstrations throughout Iran that call for “death to America”and “death to Israel.” Khamenei sees the violent protests on US campuses as advancing the ultimate goal of establishing an Islamist caliphate, first in the Middle East, and then in the rest of the world. In his view, Israel is an American outpost obstructing his strategic ambitions and goals — an outpost that must be dismantled.

Confronted with the dangerous process currently taking place in the US, university administrations are at a loss, confused, and hesitant to exert their authority to quell the rioters on their campuses. In certain cases, it would appear that some university leaders even sympathize with the antisemitic chants resounding across their lawns.

The surge of antisemitism on American campuses raises a key issue that merits discussion within academia in the US and globally: Where is the red line between legitimate, albeit extreme, criticism and dangerous, illegitimate statements that have no place on university campuses and must not be granted protection under the principle of freedom of speech? This fundamental question is not new, having underscored many debates concerning incitement to terrorism in recent decades. However, at this stage, addressing it is not only necessary but critical.

As a basis for such a discussion, and for the purpose of illustration, let us consider the statements currently being voiced on American college campuses against Israel, Zionism, and Jews. It is important to emphasize that criticism of Israel in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or in general is by no means inherently illegitimate. For example, objections to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the Six Day War in 1967, or condemnations of Israel’s alleged treatment of the residents of the West Bank, or grievances against the blockade Israel imposed on Gaza after withdrawing its forces and disengaging from the area, may be legitimate (though in many cases they can be easily debunked with facts that critics choose to ignore). The same applies to criticism of Israel’s conduct of the Gaza war, which includes claims of “indiscrimination” and “disproportionality,” or allegations of intentional Israeli damage to neutral humanitarian targets, systematic starvation, and so on. Making such claims is, on the surface, legitimate — even when they are false and can be refuted. Even the call to impose sanctions on Israel may be considered a legitimate expression of opinion in a democratic country, protected by the principle of freedom of speech.

However, alongside claims against Israel that may be considered legitimate, there are chants and expressions being heard on American campuses that have no place in academia and are completely lacking in legitimacy. In some instances, these expressions are also illegal — for example, any chants that support terrorist organizations (at least those recognized as such by the US State Department and/or the United Nations); phrases that explicitly or implicitly call for the elimination of a sovereign state, such as the oft-heard campus chant “From the river to the sea” — which many students do not realize advocates for the eradication of the Jewish state; or calls for the destruction of a people or community, which essentially amount to incitement to commit crimes against humanity. The same goes for expressions of support for terrorist acts or the legitimization of murder, hostage-taking, or physical and sexual violence, such as endorsements of the October 7 massacre in Israel or the attempt to rationalize it with the absurd claim that “you need to understand the context.” Above all, any explicit or implicit call for violence, whether directed at Jews, Zionists, or Israelis, is both illegitimate and illegal. These mantras heard on American campuses represent not just a problem for Israel or American Jews, but for the entire United States, the universities themselves, their administrations, and their faculty and students.

When university administrations permit calls for violence against an entire community (in this case, the Jews), they are consciously legitimizing threats to the physical security — and certainly the sense of security — of students and faculty who belong to this group.

Furthermore, when university administrations tolerate incitement to violence and terrorism on campus, or refrain from nipping it in the bud early on, they must recognize the consequences. Once the incitement genie is out of the bottle, it becomes exceedingly difficult to contain, and will almost certainly eventually lead to acts of violence, hate crime, and possibly even the murder of innocents on US soil. Such incitement also emboldens the Palestinian terrorist organizations and their Iranian patrons, encouraging them to continue their barbaric attacks on Israel and around the world.

When incitement proliferates on campuses, it rarely remains confined to a single group. The antisemitic hooliganism targeting Israel and Jews on American campuses is a harbinger of what is to come. This pattern of behavior is likely to escalate and eventually lead to similar acts against other groups, and potentially even to the bloodshed of political or ideological adversaries.

Most importantly, when university management allows incitement based on lies and half-truths under its roof, it fundamentally betrays the essential mission of any university — to pursue truth and impart it to its students.

Dear colleagues, presidents and administrators of US universities: You carry a significant burden of responsibility during these challenging times. If you fail to take a firm stand and allow incited mobs to take over your campuses and intimidate Jewish students, you risk not only undermining your position but also becoming a catalyst for antisemitic escalation. Such inaction could strip away the moral and essential foundations of your academic leadership and, alarmingly, make you passive accomplices in supporting hate crime and the spread of violence.

Reichman University, Israel’s only private university and the country’s largest international campus, offers dozens of undergraduate and graduate degree programs in English and is ready to welcome any student who chooses to leave campuses where antisemitism has been allowed to run rampant. The real loss, should Jewish students feel compelled to leave, will be felt by the American universities, who will soon realize that they have forfeited the contributions of creative young Jewish minds. These students have historically brought great respect to their institutions, winning prestigious international awards and advancing academic research across numerous disciplines.

About the Author
Prof. Boaz Ganor is the president of Reichman University and the founder & former executive director of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT).
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