Here in our snug little corner of the Middle East, we often cry foul about the plethora of anti-Israel injustices occurring at universities worldwide—and for good reason. These wrongdoings have been steadily rising for years, and continue to threaten Jewish and Zionist students. However, a bastion of misinformation and terrorist sympathizers exists right here in our own backyard that doesn’t face nearly the opposition it should: Israeli universities.
Yes, your eyes do not deceive you. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the University of Haifa have all experienced this phenomenon.
For example, in 2019, the student branch of the Hadash political party at Hebrew U held a moment of silence in remembrance of Sami Abu Diak, who was convicted by Israel for the murder of Ilya Krivitz during the Second Intifada. Just last month, the same student branch published a video directed at soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces who study on campus, arguing that they are complicit in supposed crimes against humanity inflicted upon the Palestinians since the nakba (“catastrophe” of the establishment of modern-day Israel) of 1948, and must be confronted. Besides containing demonstrably false accusations in the video (like Israeli snipers being stationed on the university’s workshops, which was ironically debunked by Hadash themselves), the video put student-soldiers on campus in danger of reprisal. And yes, the video was proudly endorsed by the Hadash Party itself.
Up north in Haifa—itself a model of coexistence—students also held a moment of silence for terrorists. In 2012, rather than honoring the memory of three innocent Israeli citizens who had just been killed by rocket fire from Gaza, 30 to 40 students from the University of Haifa instead decided to stand in memory of Ahmed Jabari, the former commander of the military wing of Hamas who had been killed the day beforehand.
Back down towards the sandy beaches of Tel Aviv, students at TAU have openly supported terrorists. In April, the student branch of the Balad Party commemorated “Palestinian Prisoners Day” by voicing solidarity with Israa Jaabis, who was imprisoned after she tried to murder Israeli policemen with a car bomb in 2015. According to the Israeli newspaper Makor Rishon, the same group helped bring a production of the play “Return to Haifa” to their campus, based on a novel of the same name by notorious PFLP leader Ghassan Kanafani. On another occasion, students interrupted a talk on campus by an Egyptian lecturer, labeling him a “traitor,” “wicked” and a “collaborator for normalization,” ostensibly for lecturing at an Israeli university, even though they themselves are studying at the same institution (the irony is not lost).
Another group active on Israeli and Western college campuses, Breaking the Silence, peddles unsubstantiated and unverifiable allegations by disgruntled IDF soldiers that portray Israel as an aggressor committing war crimes. Its members have openly associated with BDS activists, and their work has been cited by anti-Semites as proof of Israel’s supposed “terrorist, apartheid regime ruthlessly cruelly, murderously killing innocent civilians,” according to NGO Monitor. In 2016, Ben-Gurion University’s Middle East Studies Department awarded the group the Berelson Prize for Jewish-Arab Understanding, though thankfully the university’s president overturned the decision.
Rest assured that these problematic incidents are not led exclusively by students, but by academics as well.
According to the Communist Party of Israel’s website, in 2018, hundreds of Israeli lecturers in higher education created a petition condemning what it describes as Israel’s “oppressive,” “racist” and “fascistic” regime beyond the Green Line. In 2019, 43 Israeli professors signed onto an open letter that implored the French National Assembly to torpedo a resolution designating anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism. Additionally, the group Boycott from Within, which was partly co-founded by the Weizmann Institute’s Kobi Snitz, helped pressure The Pixies all-women rock band into canceling their 2010 concert in Israel and took credit for French pop star Vanessa Paradis’s 2011 cancellation.
Even the syllabi on Israeli campuses are problematic. Reporting in 2010 for the Financial Times, Tobias Buck explained that a study conducted by the Institute for Zionist Strategies found that the vast majority of sociology departments in Israel hold “severe anti-Zionist biases.” The study identified 146 references to Zionist sources in the syllabi and 440 references to anti-Zionist sources.
So yes, while the pro-Israel community is correct to focus primarily on institutions outside of Israel, by no means should Israeli campuses be ignored. This is especially true when we remember that every year, Israel is home to thousands of international students (12,000 in 2019) that can be negatively influenced by propaganda and misinformation.
If the aforementioned incidents occurred on American or European campuses, we would rightfully be up in arms. We must therefore react similarly when they occur in Israel. We must facilitate a robust, fact-oriented campus environment, push back against biased professors and hostile student groups supporting terrorists, and most importantly, advocate for the truth on Israeli campuses.
Eitan Fischberger is an activist and veteran of the Israeli Air Force.