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Israel-hate and the rise of academic terrorism

Wellesley College has gone from a beacon of liberalism to a beacon of shame.

An anti-Israel "apartheid wall" on display at Columbia University during "Israeli Apartheid Week" in 2017. Source: Facebook.
An anti-Israel "apartheid wall" on display at Columbia University during "Israeli Apartheid Week" in 2017. Source: Facebook.
Karen Lehrman Bloch
Karen Lehrman Bloch
Karen Lehrman Bloch is editor in chief of White Rose Magazine.

What surreal anti-Semitic act occurred on campus this week? It’s hard to keep up. Amidst the brouhaha over several UC Berkeley student groups’ ban on “Zionist speakers,” a former CAIR staffer being asked to investigate anti-Semitism at CUNY and Brooklyn College scheduling “implicit bias training” on Yom Kippur, many may have missed that on Sept. 28, the editorial board of the Wellesley College newspaper The Wellesley News called for the “liberation of Palestine.”

In other words, Wellesley College, a supposed beacon of liberalism, called for Israel’s destruction. The editorial, of course, doesn’t actually use the word “destruction,” but anyone even vaguely familiar with Palestinian propaganda knows “liberation” means the ethnic cleansing of Israel’s Jews.

With this editorial, Wellesley finally beat out Harvard in the anti-Semitic Olympics. The Harvard Crimson, after all, at least confined itself to “only” endorsing BDS in an April 29 editorial.

What was Wellesley’s response to its campus paper’s call for ethnic cleansing? An official statement said, “The Wellesley News is a student newspaper—an organization that is editorially independent from Wellesley College. Its editorials reflect the views of the newspaper’s editorial board; they do not reflect the views of Wellesley College.” Considering how ferociously American universities usually react to hate speech, this is a decidedly underwhelming rejoinder.

Then came the issue of the Mapping Project, a BDS-generated map of Jewish and pro-Israel targets across Massachusetts, which—as highlighted in a JNS piece—the Wellesley News editorial called a “vital service.” Finally, Wellesley President Paula A. Johnson wrote a letter to the community saying, “While it is not my practice to comment on the newspaper’s editorials, I do feel the need to make it clear that Wellesley College rejects the Mapping Project for promoting anti-Semitism. … Claiming that Jewish people and organizations are responsible for a host of societal harms and calling for action against them is, by definition, anti-Semitism.”

In response, The Wellesley News tweeted on Oct. 12, “We intended to use the Mapping Project only as a source of information about Wellesley College and its affiliated institutions. We apologize for not clarifying the nuanced nature of the Project’s inclusion, and we recognize that the impact of our citation may have differed from its purpose. We do not endorse the Mapping Project.” They were careful, however, to reaffirm their support for both BDS and the “liberation” of Palestine.

Just as professors have an ethical responsibility not to lie to their students, student journalists have an ethical responsibility not to lie to their readers. The Wellesley News editorial even says so: “As journalists, we have an obligation to document the truth.”

Well, let’s examine some of their “truths.”

“We offer our support to those who have suffered, and continue to suffer, due to the continual violence in occupied Palestine.”

There has certainly been considerable violence in the Israeli-Arab conflict, but the News’ disapproval seems highly selective. It makes no mention of Hamas or any of the approximately 10 terrorist groups that operate in the region. Nor does it say a word about the Palestinian Authority’s “pay-for-slay” program that rewards terrorists and their families with cash payouts.

“We stand with those who have been subject to inhumane treatment and denied fair trials … those who have been jailed for merely drawing attention to the cruelty of the Israeli government and the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF).”

Changing “IDF” to “IOF”—an acronym employed by various terror organizations—is a bold move for a student newspaper. It is worth noting, however, that the image above the editorial is the logo of Students for Justice in Palestine. It seems quite possible that this acronym, and perhaps everything else in the editorial, was acquired from or imposed by SJP. If so, it should be noted again that the News promised truth, which typically does not entail regurgitating propaganda.

“We also offer our support to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. … Supporting BDS means boycotting corporations that are complicit in the harm being done to Palestinians.”

BDS is certainly trendy these days, so it’s not surprising that the News loves it. One imagines that the student editors are among the nearly two-thirds of college students who know nothing about the Holocaust and the anti-Jewish boycotts that preceded it. More to the point, BDS founder Omar Barghouti has openly stated that the primary goal of BDS is the elimination of Israel.

“The occupation of Palestine has been difficult to discuss at Wellesley in the past. Advocacy for Palestinian liberation and BDS has often been conflated with anti-Semitism. We believe that support for a free Palestine is in no way anti-Semitic. The News wholeheartedly condemns anti-Semitism wherever and whenever it appears. We recognize that members of our community and their families have been personally impacted by these hateful beliefs and affirm that Jewish people have a right to feel welcome and secure at Wellesley and around the world.”

While some might appreciate the arbitrary and vague non-condemnation of anti-Semitism, we must ask how it applies to Israel. Israel, to these writers, is an illegitimate occupier and thus has no right to exist. To endorse making “Palestine from the river to the sea” free of Jews is a notably hateful belief. Moreover, it does not make the Jews feel more welcome or secure to deny them a state in their ancestral homeland, expelling them from the family of nations. And how, precisely, is all of this not anti-Semitism, which the News claims it “wholeheartedly condemns”?

“We believe that the Mapping Project is providing a vital service. Collecting data about these [pro-Israel] institutions, tracing their financial and political activity and publicizing this information is incredibly important.”

Despite the paper’s tweet claiming that their inclusion of the Mapping Project is of a “nuanced nature,” the editorial is not in fact nuanced at all. The editors clearly believe that targeting Jewish and pro-Israel sites is of immense value. One could point out that publishing the names and addresses of Israel’s supporters is no different from a White Citizens Council in Mississippi publishing the names and addresses of civil rights supporters 60 years ago. But this would not matter, as the News has already made it clear that it does not believe Jews are entitled to the same rights as other peoples.

This alone would be reason enough to say that Wellesley College has just gone from a beacon of liberalism to a beacon of shame. Obviously, it should never have gotten to this point. Pro-Palestinian activists have won their 50-year propaganda war and their long march through the institutions, just as the Nazis did in Weimar Germany. And American Jewish leaders—just like in the 1930s—let them get away with it.

At this point, all Jews need to call this what it is—academic terrorism. And it is time to fight it. Fight it by electing politicians that will pull funding from anti-Semitic institutions, by parents withdrawing their children from universities that fail to address the issue and by publicly shaming campus anti-Semites and the administrators who enable them.

But this is also part of a larger problem: Universities no longer feel a need to act like universities. I was an international relations major at the University of Pennsylvania. I took dozens of political science courses. Not once was I aware of my professors’ personal politics, because it was considered unethical for them to reveal it, let alone impose it. Today, professors create classes based entirely on their own opinions.

So, the question for universities today is: Do you want to continue to be called a university? Do you want to be a place where the emphasis is on critical thinking and not indoctrination? Where students seek knowledge—facts—not propaganda? If so, we need to see a detailed plan on how you’re going to do so.

In the meantime, every university that allows academic terrorism to rule its campus needs to publicly answer for it. Wellesley, now that you are fully aware of what your students wrote regarding “liberation,” what will be your next response? Your reputation as an ethical, liberal university depends on it.

Karen Lehrman Bloch is editor in chief of White Rose Magazine.

This is an edited and updated version of an article originally published by Jewish Journal.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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