The campus war against Israel, now some decades old, has been unrelenting in its vicious assault against the Jewish state, but now, an important new report from the AMCHA Initiative has systematically exposed this war as not simply anti-Israel but viciously antisemitic.
The report, “Campus Antisemitism and the Assault on Jewish Identity,” describes an “insidious phenomenon that has taken root on college campuses of late: a pervasive and relentless assault on Jewish identity that is likely to have dire consequences for the Jewish community in the years to come.”
The report notes that the AMCHA Initiative’s “online database of antisemitic activity includes nearly 2,000 incidents involving the targeting of Jewish students for harm since 2015. In addition, several of AMCHA’s annual reports have documented the alarming increase over time in the frequency and intensity of such incidents, particularly those motivated by animus towards Israel and its on-campus supporters.”
For example, at the University of Toronto Scarborough, anti-Israel students voted to forbid kosher food on campus unless the suppliers disavowed support for Israel. CUNY law students introduced a resolution condemning Birthright trips to Israel, as well as StandWithUs, Hillel and other Jewish, pro-Israel groups on their campus. They demanded that these groups be purged, along with all Zionists and anyone who supports the Jewish state.
The AMCHA report found that “Overall threats to Jewish identity … were found on over 60% of the campuses most popular with Jewish students.” It puts these incidents into three categories: (1) redefinition, (2) denigration and/or (3) suppression.
“Redefinition” is probably the most frequent: Israel’s campus enemies proclaim that Zionism is a political ideology conceived with the purpose of ethnically cleansing Palestine and oppressing the Palestinians. Therefore, they assert, Zionism and Zionists must be expelled from campus. Of course, this not coincidentally includes almost all of their fellow Jewish students.
“Denigration” was described in the report as “including expression that uses classic antisemitic tropes to vilify Jewish or Zionist identity.” This, unfortunately, is becoming more and more common as pro-Palestinian activists are increasingly emboldened to escalate their rhetoric.
At several campuses in the CUNY system, for example, the school’s SJP chapter used the Million Student March, a nationwide student demonstration for free public college tuition, to slander Israel, Zionism and Jews.
The protest, advertised by NYC Students for Justice in Palestine and other affiliate groups, used classic antisemitic tropes to ascribe the financial situation at CUNY to its “Zionist administration [that] invests in Israeli companies, companies that support the Israeli occupation, hosts birthright programs and study abroad programs in occupied Palestine, and reproduces settler-colonial ideology … through Zionist content of education… [aiming] to produce the next generation of professional Zionists.”
A report requested by the university itself found that “Several pro-Israel students attended the rally. When a pro-Israel student asked what Zionism had to do with tuition, someone in the crowd responded that ‘Jews control the government and the banks.’”
If anyone still believed that this demonstration was only about Israeli policies and not Jew-hatred, chants such as “Jews out of CUNY!” and “Jews are racist sons of bitches!” should have dispelled that fantasy once and for all.
At McGill University, anti-Israel groups and individuals outrageously petitioned the administration to declare that any pro-Israel expression on campus would henceforth be considered hate speech; or, as they defined it, “violent, hateful and harmful speech.” Such a demand obviously violates the principle of academic free speech by preventing the expression of any pro-Israel views.
It is also a very clear example of the AMCHA report’s third type of threat to Jewish students—“suppression.”
A recent example of “suppression” took place at Berkeley Law School, where the activist student group Law Students for Justice in Palestine (LSJP) initiated a campaign to convince 100 student organizations at the school to adopt a prewritten anti-Israel bylaw.
In an August Instagram post, the hate group crowed about its success, saying, “LSJP is so excited to announce that multiple student affinity groups and clubs at Berkeley Law have adopted a pro-Palestine bylaw divesting all funds from institutions and companies complicit in the occupation of Palestine, and banning future use of funds towards such companies!”
“LSJP is calling ALL student organizations at Berkeley Law to take an anti-racist and anti-settler colonial stand and adopt the bylaw into their constitutions ASAP!” they howled.
The bylaw in question included language that sought to suppress any speech that might be considered Zionist or pro-Israel, even speech that corrects the many factual and historical inaccuracies of the pro-Palestinian narrative inherent in the insidious bylaw.
“In the interest of protecting the safety and welfare of Palestinian students on campus,” the suggested language read, groups who adopt the bylaw “will not invite speakers that have expressed and continued to hold views or host/sponsor/promote events in support of Zionism, the apartheid state of Israel and the occupation of Palestine.”
The bigotry endemic in the pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel movement is unacceptable if it includes and promotes antisemitism and targets aspects of Jewish identity. It is clear that, for Jews, there is an intolerable lack of protection, justice and equity on campus.
Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D., a Freedom Center Journalism Fellow in Academic Free Speech and President Emeritus of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, is the author of the forthcoming book, The Slow Death of the University: How Radicalism, Israel Hatred, and Race Obsession are Destroying Academia.