By Daniel Mael
The Holocaust is often abused by critics of Israel or Jewish life. From vandals painting swastikas on Jewish fraternity houses to anti-Israel demonstrators waving signs equating the Star of David to a swastika, as well as comparing Zionism to Nazism, haters of the Jewish state see no boundaries in showing their disdain for Israel.
Dolefully, the faceless nature of swastikas that were recently scrawled at Emory University and Yale University—the creators have yet to be found on either campus—place the incidents on the more benign side of anti-Jewish activity this year.
The negative experience of too many students sympathetic to Israel’s cause and purpose on many North American campuses extends well beyond chalked swastikas. And that’s saying something. The unbridled swastika—a clear symbol of genocide—remains a deeply imbedded scar.
But fresh wounds bring a different suffering.
In August, a Jewish student was punched in the face at Temple University. From the hospital, he explained that when he approached the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) table at a campus activities fair, tensions escalated to the point that one anti-Israel student blindsided him and smacked him across the face. Witnesses told me that while he was trying to regain his composure after the assault, others at the table laughed at him and called him “kike.”
SJP members on Chicago campuses specialize in verbally assaulting Jewish students and exercising fear tactics. At Loyola University, Jewish students were accused of “ethnic cleansing” and being “occupiers” by SJP who created a human wall to block their attempt to advertise a Birthright Israel trip.” At DePaul University, female students explained that SJP tactics made them “no longer felt safe on this campus.”
Baseless vilification of Israel on college campuses is initiated partly out of ignorance but often simultaneously out of an animus toward one leg of the Israeli trifecta: The State of Israel, the Land of Israel, and Judeo-Christian values which inform Israel as we know it.
The first group of inflexible critics spends the majority of their time taking issue with how they perceive certain policies of the State of Israel. Often times these students are ignorant as to the reality on the ground and find it easy to side with the perceived Palestinian underdog as the story is told in the mainstream media.
But almost without fail those who spend the majority of their time rallying against policies of the State of Israel spend just a little too much time surrounded by folks who take an issue with the Land of Israel. That is, this second group of students attempts to deconstruct any connection between the Jewish people and their homeland. And while this group likely denies any overt hatred towards the Jewish people, they simply hate Israel.
And almost without fail those who claim to take issue simply with Israel as a modern nation state spend too much time promoting and cheering individuals that deeply oppose the Judeo-Christian values for which the Jewish people and the State of Israel, and America, stand. The third group largely manifests through overt hatred and is the reason why Holocaust remembrance events are exploited to protest Israel.
Concern for the human rights of Arabs, women, and members of the LGBTQ community do as much to stir fervor in SJP as water helps power an automobile. It’s a non-starter. They’d rather reprimand Israel and fuel their group’s engine with pernicious rage toward the Jewish state—the Palestinian cause is relegated to nothing more than a figurative tool to ostracize Israel though noxious combination of hatred, intimidation, and radicalism on campus.
On Sept. 22, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas explained to crowd at Cooper Union in New York City, “I have held in my own hand and seen the seeds of peace. The seeds of peace are the young Palestinians, Israelis, and others all over the world who form peace groups on college campuses like J Street and Students for Justice in Palestine, those are the seeds of peace.”
Abbas’s remarks about campuses are notable because of his ignorance, but equally for his encouragement of a Palestinian narrative that seeks to demonize and destroy rather than unite and build.
The current forces aligned against Israel on campus fuel an atmosphere of hatred and disdain, which must be rejected immediately. While groups such as SJP openly promote evil, the more subversive groups must be challenged as well.
Evil is evil, as in the case of SJP. But J Street U’s ambition is also morally dubious, for it is evil to actively work to elevate groups and people, under a guise of legitimacy, that half-heartedly promote a form of global collectivism that curiously enough leaves room for everyone and every state but the Jewish one.
In an Oct. 14 op-ed in the Wall St. Journal, Bret Stephens articulated that “[n]ature abhors a vacuum, and so does power: American retreat means someone else—someone we don’t like—is going to step in.” While Stephens warned of a geopolitical climate absent an active and functioning United States foreign policy, the threat of a vacuum jockeyed by inimical voices looms large on college campuses. If we leave an opportunity for those with misguided and insidious ideologies to take over the narrative, manipulate the truth, and dictate the tone of the atmosphere on campus, they will.
Those aware of this reality have a moral responsibility to speak out and bring a moral compass to their campuses—insisting on the vindication of humanity over barbarism. Are we prepared to handle the reverberations of a generation of college students whose concept of justice is missing a real definition? We shouldn’t test it.
Daniel Mael is a senior at Brandeis University, a reporter for TruthRevolt.org, and a contributor to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.