Ira Straus

Will the anti-Semitism on campus keep growing?

The anti-Semitism has already reached a critical mass. It will feed on itself, as it always has in the past, unless something drastic is done about it.

A mere increase in education against anti-Semitism can’t possibly stop it.

Paul Berman asks whether it can be stopped by punishing the lawbreaking students or by punishing their teachers. His answer is that it has to be the teachers.

My answer is neither. Both are necessary as stopgap measures, to stop it from continuing to worsen at an exponential pace. But neither can stop its underlying growth.

Berman’s right as far as he goes, to be sure. He wants to penalize the most egregious radical teachers.

But change can occur only if something is done about the far larger swathe of teachers, the ones who have indoctrinated the students in the ideologies that make students want to be radicals in the first place. And who, in tandem with the media, have trained students in an attitude of looking up to the radicals and deferring to them.

At the same time, the student lawbreakers also will have to be penalized more seriously, with large-scale, prompt expulsions and suspensions. The lack of real punishment, and the negotiations and sometimes concessions to the blackmail “demands”: it guarantees that the lawbreakers will feel like the victors in this confrontation, and want to do more of it. The slaps on the wrist, the use of highly visible forces to disperse them far too late in the day, only to let them off: it only serves to make sure they will be seen as hero rebels and martyrs by many of their peers.

Still, Berman is right that the students are dupes of the institutions, even if willing dupes. The institutions and a large swathe of their personnel – of the teachers and journalists — are the truly responsible parties. They are the ones who keep generating and re-generating the ideology, the Movement and the anti-Semitism, and will keep doing it until they are somehow stopped.


So, how to stop them from doing this?

Any real answer requires a strong stomach. It will be terribly hard. In a sense, the only reason to say that it can be stopped is that it has to be stopped. The need will keep growing until it gets done.

It is only a first step for the responsible parties to be sanctioned seriously, even if it is most or all of them, not just a few symbolic ones. And with penalties meant to seriously dissuade them from their path. Holding literally thousands of journalists and teachers to account. And holding the entire institutions to account.

But making them pay a heavy price won’t really stop the anti-Semitism from continuing to get worse either. It’s ideologically driven. A big temporary plug on it is still not a solution.

So how can it actually be stopped?

It would require transformative changes in all the relevant institutions — the media, the universities, even the public schools – not just penalties for the mass-scale transgressors.

What changes?

First, it requires a change in their personnel who have taught the youth the anti-Semitism – and not just the specific anti-Semitism, but the underlying ideologies that the schools and media have made predominant on campus. These ideologies pour out the anti-Semitism when Israel comes up, like a precipitate pouring out from a chemical reaction.

Second, it would require choosing replacement personnel, using a highly skillful selection process. New teachers and journalists would have to be brought in, on a mass scale, with a view to righting the balance and overcoming – not slightly lessening, but overcoming — the ideological tilt of these institutions.

Third, it would require using strong methods to make the institutions respect the new personnel and integrate them on equal terms. It would have to make sure that the terms of the discussion are no longer left in a form that gives the old dominant ideology the kinds of linguistic and social advantages, a form of hegemony that perpetuates the old ideological control.

Finally, it would require a constant oversight and review process, to figure out if this is working, and what more needs to be done to get it truly to work.

Oversight will have to be done by a committee of competent people, one truly balanced in its own personnel. It will have to be authorized on the highest levels from outside the corrupted institutions.

Where to find it? Perhaps it will have to be appointed by a balanced political body such as Congress. Here we have 535 members who are chosen by the American people to reflect their true nature and balance — and to have the skills and character to stand up to one another in debate.

Congress provides one of the few relatively healthy contrasts we still have, in the sphere of public discourse, to the corrupted academic and media institutions. Congress could appoint the supervisory committee for this drastic reform.

In the other institutions, the discourse is not only mostly controlled by gatekeepers and their personnel selection methods, but skewed by the constant cultivation from above of social prejudices and linguistic short-circuits against contrary thinking. In Congress, as in the state legislatures, the members are forced to allocate time by party, learn to talk back, and have a party caucus to egg them on.

Even Congress is far from perfect in this regard. Even if its discussion capacity is damaged by the 24-7 setting of the mood by the media and academia, and by the deeply ingrained contempt for differing views that these institutions have instilled in many of its members. But it is still viable and independently elected. It is the best we have.







About the Author
Chair, Center for War/Peace Studies; Senior Adviser, Atlantic Council of the U.S.; formerly a Fulbright professor of international relations; studied at Princeton, UVA, Oxford. Institutions named above for identification purposes only; views expressed herein are solely the responsibility of the author.