'Unsafe Spaces': Supporting Israel in Modern Campus Culture
The American college campus was once a place where students listened to the views of their peers, debated ideas, and derived knowledge through the examination of multiple viewpoints. Schools like UC Berkeley proudly advertised themselves as leaders of a “free-speech movement”, and discourse was not only allowed, but encouraged.
Fast forward to 2017. Students demand safe spaces. Classes are cancelled for emotional mourning over election losses. School-sponsored counselors are coddling “grieving” students, triggered by their “offensive” surroundings. Speakers are shouted down by angry mobs. Speakers are banned from campuses. Schools unapologetically cave to the demands of gangs of 18-22 years old “activists”. There are violent riots, fires in the streets, and university administrations literally taken hostage by their students.
The problem is that on many American campuses, a single set of views is all that students, faculty and administrations deem “safe”, and any dissent or opposition from the platform is viewed as “hate speech” and a threat to public safety. So, those who deviate from that singular worldview not only become pariahs among their academic peers, but they may also see their classroom grades suffer.
This has affected the Jewish and pro-Zionist college experience on many campuses throughout the United States. The once apolitical decision to support the existence, growth and successes of the State of Israel -- the only free democracy in the Middle East and, arguably, America’s closest, most trusted ally -- has become politicized, and opposed, by mainstream campus culture.
Today, the social aspect of campus academics have increasingly been hijacked by continuing campaigns of disinformation, propaganda, and polarization about Israel. According to data from the AMCHA Initiative, 53 Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions (BDS) Resolutions have been passed to isolate or entirely eliminate association with Israel in all facets of campus life. Examples include opposition to collaboration with Israeli academics and universities, and the heated and bizarre debate on the morality of carrying Sabra hummus in campus mini-marts. On another 59 major American campuses, these types of BDS resolutions have been raised, but defeated. Currently, the AMCHA Initiative is tracking 56 new campuses and three new State University Systems, which are facing upcoming BDS votes in the 2017-18 school year.
Directly spearheading much of this anti-Israel sentiment on many campuses is the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist (i.e. radical Islamic) organization (that should be designated as a terror organization). The Muslim Brotherhood founded two popular American student groups: Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and the Muslim Students Association (MSA) . These groups have made their names on many campuses by engaging in ridiculous PR stunts such as die-ins, apartheid walls, the aforementioned BDS campus resolutions, and public protests with the intent to shut down events and speakers of opposing viewpoints.
As Muslim Zionist activist Nadiyah Al Noor explained at the Endowment for Middle East Truth Rays of Light in the Darkness Dinner, the fighting and propagandizing rhetoric of these organizations create a “narrative of anti-Semitism under the guise of anti-Zionism. I believed their hateful lies: Israel was an apartheid state, Israel was Nazi Germany 2.0, Zionism is racism and Israel has no right to exist. But then I met Zionist Jews, I met Israelis, I started to learn about Israel and once I learned the truth I became a vocal Zionist. I wasn’t going to sit back and watch my Jewish friends suffer at the hands of their anti-Israel peers.”
Anyone who has ever been to Israel knows that what Al Noor said is the truth. Israel is truly a ray of light in the darkness that is the Middle East. In Israel, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Baha’i, Druze, Bedouin, the members of the LGBTQ and the straight communities, the religious and the secular groups of all religions, all live together in a free, peaceful, and thriving land that the Jews have continuously inhabited for the past 4,000 years. On a Mediterranean coastline, surrounded by the atrocities of Islamist terrorists and dictatorial regimes, Tel Aviv and Haifa sit as diamonds In the rough.
Israel is a country with a thriving economy, a tech scene rivaled only by the Silicon Valley, valleys that allow it to produce 95% of its own food, and responsible for unprecedented desalinization techniques that allow it to provide its own water in a desert region. The contrast between Israel and its neighbors towards gays is particularly telling. The Tel Aviv Pride parade is one of the largest of its kind, while in the rest of the Middle East, on regimes controlled by ISIS, Hizb’allah, Hamas, the Saudis, the Iranians, etc., LGBTQ people are imprisoned, hanged on cranes or pushed off buildings.
Unfortunately, the anti-Zionists are winning in the battle for the hearts and minds of American college Jews right now. In a recent study released by Brand Israel Group, in 2010, 84% of U.S. Jewish college students supported Israel, but by 2016 only 57% did. At this rate, by 2018, support from Jewish American college students is projected to dip below 50%. Relentless propagandizing and an anti-free-speech campus culture, complicit in spreading such slanderous lies about Israel, have lead us to a point of reckoning.
It is now the start of a new school year, a new beginning with countless memories to be made. There is no doubt we live in a polarized society, but this year, put your partisan views aside at least on this issue. Jewish college students as well as college students from all backgrounds are going to have to stand up for what is right, by supporting the State of Israel and denouncing those who spew anti-Semitic rhetoric and hatred. I know I will, but will you?