OpinionSchools & Higher Education

Jewish-studies head at Wake Forest University spreads anti-Israel conspiracies 

Professor Barry Trachtenberg doesn’t even try to hide his extremist views; instead, he wears them on his sleeve.

Professor Barry Trachtenberg. Source: YouTube.
Professor Barry Trachtenberg. Source: YouTube.
Moshe Phillips
Moshe Phillips is a commentator on Jewish affairs whose writings appear regularly in the American and Israeli press.  

“Democrats and Republicans are funding mass murder.” “Talking about antisemitism is a diversion strategy.” “There’s much more Islamophobia in America than antisemitism.”

These are some of the extremist conspiracy theories that the hundreds of Jewish students at Wake Forest University are learning these days.

Professor Barry Trachtenberg, who chairs the Jewish Studies department at Wake Forest, doesn’t even try to hide his extremist views. He wears them on his sleeve, and one can be sure that he shares them in the classes he teaches.

Those views were on full display during a Dec. 13 webinar called “Fighting Antisemitism Through the Lens of Collective Liberation,” sponsored by Haymarket Books and the anti-Zionist extremist group Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP).

One of the conspiracy theories that Trachtenberg articulated with great passion and conviction had to do with what he called “the Israeli genocide of the Palestinians.” According to Trachtenberg, everybody from liberal Democrats to conservative Republicans is to blame.

“Biden, Schumer and Stefanik are funding the mass murder of an entire people,” the chair of Jewish studies at Wake Forest declared, referring to the U.S. president, the Democratic Senate Majority leader and the Republican representative from New York. Trachtenberg and his JVP colleagues advocate cutting all U.S. funding for Israel.

In other words, they want to see Israel stripped of its ability to fight off terrorists who gun down music festival attendees, behead babies, and rape and mutilate women.

The second conspiracy theory that Trachtenberg put forward in the webinar concerns antisemitism. “Talking about antisemitism is a diversion strategy by Congress, the White House, the media and American Jewish organizations,” according to Trachtenberg. “Talking about antisemitism is to distract from the ongoing project of eradicating non-Jews from the land, which began before 1948 and is continuing.”

Take note of how Trachtenberg continues to widen the scope of his conspiratorial theories. It’s not just American liberals and conservatives plotting together; it is also the Israeli left and the Israeli right who’ve been scheming. But if there has been an “ongoing project” to “eradicate non-Jews” from Israel starting from “before 1948” and continuing until the present day, then it means that all the left-wing Labor governments that ruled Israel (from 1948 to 1977), in addition to the national unity governments that have occasionally been in power, have been just as guilty of “eradicating” non-Jews as Israel’s right-wing governments.

Trachtenberg does not completely deny that antisemitism exists. He put it this way: “There is antisemitism, but there is a much larger increase in Islamophobia.”

How does that claim stand up against the actual numbers? In October, the FBI released its latest statistics on hate crimes. Among hate crimes based on religion, 56% are committed against Jews, and only 8% are committed against Muslims.

I wonder how Trachtenberg would explain away those numbers. Perhaps he would claim that the FBI is part of the same evil conspiracy as the Democrats, Republicans, Israeli left and Israeli right.

As if that wasn’t enough, Trachtenberg produced one additional far-out conspiracy theory for his webinar audience. He claimed that historians have been conspiring to exaggerate how much Jews suffered in the Middle Ages. Sure, there was some antisemitism now and then, but Jews also enjoyed “periods of great prosperity”; they were “tolerated”; and “they were part of the social and religious fabric of European life.”

He forgot to mention those parts of European life that included Inquisitions, pogroms and mass expulsions. But I guess even a historian can’t be expected to remember everything.

This webinar is far from the only evidence we have of Trachtenberg’s anti-Israel views.

One of his published articles similarly bashes Israel. The 2019 piece is about American Jews and Israel; it’s co-authored with Kyle Station. Trachtenberg chose to publish the article in the Journal of Palestine Studies, which is an anti-Israel propaganda machine disguised as a scholarly journal. Its editor at the time was Rashid Khalidi, who for many years was a spokesman for the PLO.

The Trachtenberg-Staton article is a rambling screed about the evil behavior of supporters of Israel. Pro-Israel forces conspire to implement a “strategy of instrumentalizing anti-Semitism as a means of countering criticism of Israel,” they write. And “the tangible threats to Jewish safety that stem from white supremacists and their enablers in government are being dismissed or even excused in order to shore up Zionism and the State of Israel.”

Barry Trachtenberg may have every right to promote whatever nutty conspiracy theories he likes, whether in an article, on a webinar, or in his classrooms. But parents who are thinking of sending their children to Wake Forest University have a right to know what kind of vile nonsense their sons and daughters will be taught.

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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