No Safe Space for Jews on Campus
A dominant narrative about the Trump Administration is that Donald Trump’s election ushered in a new wave of anti-Semitism. It’s an absurd claim, given that among Trump’s top advisors, eleven are Jews, including his daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
That’s not to say anti-Semitism isn’t a problem. In fact, it is on the rise. But if you want to find where anti-Semitism is running rampant, don’t look to the Oval Office. Look instead to the place where you’re least likely to find a Trump supporter, the college quad.
I know this because at the recent Christians United For Israel Washington Summit, I spent time with student activists from CUFI On Campus. I listened to their harrowing stories of harassment and intimidation that Jewish (and Christian) students face from left-wing professors and Palestinian student groups whenever they speak up in support of Israel or resist misguided boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) schemes that single out the Jewish state for punishment.
While many in the media portray anti-Semitism as a phenomenon of the right, it is among young liberals that it is growing the most. Several recent studies demonstrate just how pervasive anti-Semitism has become on college campuses. An April report by Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry found that there has been a 45 percent rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidents on American college campuses between 2015 and 2016.
A study by the Anti-Defamation League found that such incidents rose by a third in 2016 from 2015 and increased 86 percent in the first quarter of 2017. Several other studies put the share of Jewish college students who experience anti-Semitism on campus at anywhere from half to three quarters.
The problem isn’t confined to students making threats against or hurling anti-Semitic slurs at Jewish students. A recent lawsuit suggests school administrators are partly responsible for creating an environment that’s unsafe for Jewish students.
In June, a group of current and former students sued San Francisco State University alleging that the university fostered a climate of anti-Semitism “marked by violent threats to the safety of Jewish students on campus.” The students complain that they were intimidated and prevented from holding events. The environment became so hostile that the students say they became afraid to do anything to indicate that they are Jewish, such as wearing Star of David necklaces.
In one incident in 2016, the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, was prevented from speaking at a student event because pro-Palestinian protestors shouted over him, yelling “Get the f-ck off our campus” and “Intifada! Intifada!” -- a reference to the violent Palestinian uprising against Israeli citizens. Worst of all, the school’s administrators are accused of “systematically support[ing]” these groups.
Ken Marcus, who formerly led the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, recently said that while just a few years ago, there were some notable “hot spots” for anti-Semitism, today “it’s really all over.” Anti-Semitism “is so pervasive that in any given semester it could be virtually anywhere,” he added.
A big part of the problem is that groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine and Students for a Free Palestine have become more strident in their opposition to Israel and more hostile to Jewish students, especially those who support the Jewish state.
Recently, when a 23-year old female Israeli border guard was stabbed to death in Jerusalem by Palestinian terrorists, who were subsequently killed by Israeli police, the Stanford Students for Justice in Palestine referred to the shootings of the Palestinian attackers as "executions" of "Palestinian teens" carried out by "Zionist occupation force." They evinced little sympathy for the victim of the Palestinians’ heinous crime.
The BDS movement is strong on many college campuses. BDS targets Israeli institutions and companies and those that do business with them. But more and more, its goal is to silence pro-Israel voices on campus, which is the anti-thesis to what college is supposed to be about.
A new report called “Campus Free Speech, Academic Freedom and the Problem of the BDS Movement,” released by the nonpartisan American Council for Trustees and Alumni, describes the (BDS) boycott as “one of the greatest threats to academic freedom in the U.S. today.” The report states that anti-Israel rhetoric often edges into anti-Semitism and criticizes the BDS movement for focusing all its energy on Israel, while legitimate human rights abusers, such as China and Saudi Arabia, are ignored.
Anti-Israel sentiment has become such a fixture on the left that when Chicago recently held its annual Gay Pride Parade, a pro-Israel lesbian group was prohibited from taking part, a strange development given that Israel is about the only country in the Middle East that treats gays with humanity.
For some liberals, opposition to Israel, which often edges into anti-Semitism, can be a way to demonstrate solidarity with Muslims. For others, it is rooted in the ancient hatred of Jews. Whatever its origins, anti-Semitism has no place on our college campuses.
Gary Bauer is the Washington Director of the Christians United for Israel Action Fund