Understanding Antisemitism on college campuses

As a combat soldier in the North, I personally am only aware of the uptick of global antisemitism and college based antisemitism from social media. There are no shortage of videos of college students ripping off flyers with pictures of the hostages, verbally assaulting Jewish students and even marching with antisemitic slogans calling for the annihilation of all Jews and if not just for the Jews in Israel, and in one campus the Jewish students needed to flee into a locked library room out of fear of physical assault. All of this comes in a time where we the Israeli Defense Forces are fighting the most just war against an enemy that continues to massacre civilians, fight from civilian houses, mosques and schools to deploy human shields, attack our hospitals and pose an existential threat to all Israelis. Since the allies declared War on the Nazi forces there has never been such a clear war on which side is moral, and again the immoral side seeks genocide on the Jews, as the Hamas spokesman are even open about their position, use Nazi swastikas, and are defended on the public sphere. How is it that the most immoral attack is being defended, and even worse by American’s leading universities that championed the Civil Rights but three score years ago?

I would like to offer two possibilities, one a logical answer and the other a religious theological answer. On a logical level, since the Holocaust, obvert antisemitic slurs have been banned. Understanding that hate speech leads to hate crimes, such as the Nazi Propaganda in Germany followed by genocide, and one score years later, racial slurs of the KKK in the Southern States were often followed by barbaric lynchings, the US banned racial slurs on many levels. Oral abuse against Jews and Blacks were punished by law. Racists then had to refrain from publishing racist content onto public platforms. The Racists however continued to bottle up their racism for decades as they could not express their racism. Shunning a voice does not defeat it, as October 7th did not create a generation of racists, but finally gave them an outlet to express their anti Jewish sentiment the second Israel decided to defend itself against the Hamas Massacre which killed over 1,200 xivilians and took over 240 civilians hostage, children and elderly alike, not to mention the Hamas themselves boasting their mutilating bodies, raping and use of excessive tortures. All these “moral students” who do not recognize the Israeli right for self -defense, perhaps are a result of 70 years of bottled antisemitism that first were able to lash out when Israel went to all – out War, (despite Israel sending warnings and doing all in its power to prevent Gaza civilian deaths.) These people did not become antisemites overnight but were finally able to express their antisemitism once Israel’s morality was being questioned seeing it for the first time attempt a large scale war against Hamas.

I tend to challenge the logic of these antisemitic student unions, specifically for two reason: How is it that the LBGQT movements support Hamas that seek to murder them as well as oppose to Israel that defends the rights of the LBGQT, holds pro LBGQT rallies, and offers them many civil rights? Secondly, how is it that top American Universities are at the forefront of such antisemitic rallies and distorted morality? As Esther and Mordechai in Iran over 2,400 years ago have themselves faced a quick uptake of Antisemitism and an immediate attempt of genocide against them, Esther tore her clothes and began to fast. She saw there was no logical political rationale for the entire Persian Empire to declare genocide over Haman’s personal Vandetta against Mordechai, whom himself previously saved the King from a Coup. When there is no logical reason, one must seek the religious answer, as the Jews in Persia have forgotten their calling to Zion and specifically to the Temple, how they have scattered themselves to lose their unity amongst themselves. Esther sought to unite the Jewish people and to bring the focus on a religious level.

I seek to do the same. We are all aware of our IDF sending pamphlets and calling Gaza civilians to flee before combat, to reduce civilian casualties. We are aware of our efforts to exact every missile and bullet to kill only the terrorists despite the terrorists priding themselves to have put their escape tunnels under civilian infrastructure, we have all seen clips and photos of the Hamas atrocities unto our people. Such immorality is worse than Sedom and Amora and cannot be tolerated, nor can there be any honest defense to such perverse behavior. The American college defense to such atrocities must be based on an irrational logic, perhaps stemming from religion.

Our religion includes a need to build the Temple on Temple Mount in Jerusalem, where Abraham was prepared to slaughter Isaac, and where the previous temples have stood. The purpose of these temples are not for us Jews alone, as we promote the whole world to visit and participate in their rituals, as the Bible itself says “For my house, is a house of prayer for all the nations.” (Isaia 57). The purpose of the Temple is to be universal for the whole world to learn morality and to see G-d in there eyes; the purpose of Israel is for them to see a model nation and to bring the Divine morality back to their countries. We do not seek to conquer and convert foreign countries but we seek peace and to spread the wealth of G-d and morality. The purpose of the Jewish State is not but for a place of refuge against genocide which continues to threaten us, but to positively influence the whole world. Unfortunately, despite our rich successes in the Start-up world, our medical advancements and treatments to Arabs, Jews and international communities, our international emergency disaster rescue units and many moral and physical achievements, we have yet to spread our Torah, our Divine messages with the whole world. Instead our judicial system and morality stem from secular morals, from the international University literature, which is amazing, but short of our goals. Whilst our military conduct is on the highest code of honor, our country is not modeling always a Torah Divine culture for the whole world to see. We seek a Jewish Democratic State to be like all other democratic states, but not to be the Divine State, living up to the Divine standards. We seek our morality from the universities, we seek to provide refuge and prosperity for the LBGQT communities, and it is they the universities and the LBGQT communities whom are our largest critics. We seek to spread their morality, just to shun our own morality. Perhaps this is a sign for us to display our Jewish morality of pluralism, as we do not search to convert foreigners but to respect the dignity of their difference, but we preach morality for the whole world to follow and to adapt to their respective cultures. Being a model nation is difficult, but the challenge I believe we must strive for.

I know not the balance between religious and democratic values, nor which changes to strive for nor how to implement them. I believe that Judaism demands democracy, as G-d’s appointment of Betzalel to lead the Jewish people in the Desert to building the Temple required the appointment and approval of the Jewish people despite G-d priorly suggesting him for the candidate. I believe there is lot’s of room for secular morality and plurality, but that cannot cover and replace our need to be the model nation both secularly and religiously. There is lots in Israel for us to pride ourselves in – as we in many ways have created the most moral country in existence, but that falls short of our need to be the most model country possible. I am not offering a solution, but as we continue our battle, I urge us to also take time-out for reflection as to how to improve our “model country,” as large sectors of the world have chosen to ignore our morality. I do not believe it is a failure of our PR teams, because the claims against are so adverse and incoherent I believe that it is a sign for us to double check which messages we want to broadcast. I believe this is a calling for us to see if our country is really living up to our destiny of being a “Beacon to the nations”, because on a secular level we are already the most moral country to exist, but we must strive to go beyond this level. We must envision Israel being more than a place of refuge and a moral country, but to be the place for the world to receive Divine inspiration.

About the Author
Yishai is a GIS spatial analyst for Keren Kayamet Leyisrael, to help further Jewish land ownership and development in Israel. On the side he worked as a Madrich and Rebbe for high schoolers in Yeshivat Tichonit Givat Shmuel and for gap year students coming to Israel to learn Torah before their college degrees or drafting in the IDF in Eretz Hatzvi. Periodically on Shabbatot he works as a Shabbat Madrich for the Schuster Heritage House to help spread Shabbat and Jerusalem to Jewish youth from abroad.
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