California's Brownshirt Anti-Semitism Comes to Vassar
California is the lifestyle incubator of the nation. And now the trendy anti-Semitic thuggery that debuted at California’s public universities has metastasized across America, all the way to the elite halls of Vassar.
Before we discuss the fashionable pogrom that just took place on the Vassar campus where Jackie Kennedy once strolled in pearls, let’s look back at May 7, 2002. On that day, Professor Laurie Zoloth, Director of the Jewish Studies program at San Francisco State University, attended a “Peace in the Middle East” campus rally, organized by Hillel students, where they sang songs and prayed for peace in Israel. Wrote Professor Zoloth:
“As soon as the community supporters left, the 50 students who remained praying in a minyan for the traditional afternoon prayers, or chatting, or cleaning up after the rally, talking -- were surrounded by a large, angry crowd of Palestinians and their supporters. But they were not calling for peace. They screamed at us to ‘go back to Russia’ and they screamed that they would kill us all, and other terrible things. They surrounded the praying students, and the elderly women who are our elder college participants, who survived the Shoah, who helped shape the Bay Area peace movement, only to watch as a threatening crowd shoved the Hillel students against the wall of the plaza.
“As the counter demonstrators poured into the plaza, screaming at the Jews to ‘Get out or we will kill you’ and ‘Hitler did not finish the job,’ I turned to the police and to every administrator I could find and asked them to remove the counter demonstrators from the Plaza, to maintain the separation of 100 feet that we had been promised. The police told me that they had been told not to arrest anyone, and that if they did, "it would start a riot." I told them that it already was a riot.”
Eventually, the terrified Jewish students gathered under the flag of Israel and were led by armed police guard back to the Hillel House. “This was neither free speech nor discourse, but raw, physical assault,” wrote Professor Zoloth, who noted with sadness, “Not one administrator came to stand with us.”
May 7, 2002 turned out to be a grand day for Jew-haters, because things only got better from there. Threatening, harassing, intimidating and assaulting Jews is now a venerable tradition on California’s public campuses, protected by taxpayer-funded administrators and enshrined by public indifference.
Let’s flash forward to San Francisco State University today. Mohammad Hammad, president of the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS), has recently enjoyed organizing campus art projects that read “My heroes have always killed colonizers,” posing on social media sites with a knife that he claims “makes me want to stab an Israeli soldier,” and vowing to use his GUPS presidency “to radicalize half of our population and bring them back with me as fighters.”
Upon being informed of these threats by a Jewish group called AMCHA Initiative, SFSU President Leslie Wong took decisive action by yawning, shrugging and sticking his fingers in his ears. After the police intervened, Mohammad Hammad disappeared from campus, presumably with his weapons collection intact. But the radical student group that elected him president still has free reign.
AMCHA Initiative, led by the politely relentless Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, documents the anti-Semitic tsunami on University of California’s campuses. At UC Berkeley, a Jewish girl holding an “Israel Wants Peace” sign was ramrodded with a shopping cart by the head of Students for Justice in Palestine. At UC Irvine, eleven Muslim students disrupted the speech of the Israeli Ambassador with such ferocity they were convicted of disturbing the peace. And on and on and on.
The regal disinterest of UC’s Board of Regents has allowed the cancer to spread. If these characters can get away with it in California, they can pull it off in Michigan, Boston, and Brooklyn, too. As Caroline Glick explains, anti-Israel student activists at the University of Michigan recently hurled death threats at Jewish student council members and called them “dirty Jew” and “kike.” Michigan university administrators aggressively intervened -- on behalf of the anti-Semites.
Last February, Brooklyn College campus police forcibly removed four Jewish students who were peacefully monitoring an anti-Israel event. Brooklyn College administrators then lied about the Jewish students, claiming they were disruptive. Karen Gould, the college president, was forced to apologize to the students after a video exonerated them.
And at Northeastern University in Boston, a pressure campaign finally goaded administrators into suspending Students for Justice in Palestine’s campus affiliation for a year, after a series of vicious provocations. Students defaced a menorah on campus, disrupted Jewish events, and frightened Jews by placing mock eviction notices on their dormitory rooms.
Now it’s Vassar’s turn. Long gone are the days chronicled in Mary McCarthy’s famous novel, “The Group,” in which aristocratic young women clad in sweater sets gained a little academic polish while searching for husbands. Now Vassar is all about multiculturalism, with one notable exception: It’s edgy, it’s cool, it’s hip to hate Israel. Thirty-nine Vassar faculty members (including, tragically, Joshua Schreier, Director of Jewish Studies) signed a libelous letter supporting an academic boycott of Israel, in which they accused the Jewish state of cartoonish evils. As on the other campuses, the road to physically intimidating Jews was paved with academic corruption.
A planned trip to Israel with Earth Sciences Professor Jill Schneiderman and Greek and Roman Studies Professor Rachel Friedman has set off a firestorm of anti-Semitic fury. In late February, Students for Justice in Palestine activists physically intimidated students going into Professor Friedman’s class to discuss the upcoming trip. According to William Jacobson’s invaluable reporting at the Legal Insurrection blog, Professor Friedman was “shocked” and “in 17 years at Vassar never experienced anything like this.”
Vassar’s administration then convened a campus-wide forum to discuss “the ethics of the travel trip.” On March 3rd, 200 people gathered for an “open conversation” which quickly degenerated into what Schneiderman described as a “very toxic atmosphere” in which “rage against Israel was the theme.” “I was knocked off-center by a belligerent academic community dedicated to vilifying anyone who dares set foot in Israel,” wrote Schneiderman on her blog. Friedman said that Jewish students who spoke in defense of Israel were heckled, drowned out with finger-snapping noises and loudly laughed at.
So far, Vassar president Catharine Bond Hill has refused to comment. But Vassar’s national reputation has taken a serious hit, and a newly formed group of parents and alumni called Fairness to Israel may continue to press the issue.
The anti-Semitism weaponized at California universities has now infected campuses around the country. The academic community bears the blame for its studied indifference to this ugliness and its outright enthusiasm for tormenting Jewish students and faculty.
But the Jewish community must also acknowledge its failure to effectively combat this dangerous trend. Mainstream Jewish institutions have been AWOL from the battle. Now that Abe Foxman is finally retiring from the Anti-Defamation League, it’s time to replace him with someone who knows how to start winning.
I nominate Dr. Charles Jacobs of Americans for Peace and Tolerance. Jacobs led the fight against Northeastern and helped create the new film, The J Street Challenge, that’s taking the battle to the campus. It’s a war and Charles Jacobs is ready to wage it.
Write Stella Paul at Stellapundit@aol.com.