OpinionAntisemitism

Meet the ethnic-studies antisemites

They are Manichean cultists who believe that the Jews are a satanic metaphysical force.

Pro-Hamas demonstrators rally in support of the terrorist organization's Oct. 7 mass terror attack that killed over 1,400 Israelis, in New York City, Oct. 9, 2023. Credit: Lev Radin/Shutterstock.
Pro-Hamas demonstrators rally in support of the terrorist organization's Oct. 7 mass terror attack that killed over 1,400 Israelis, in New York City, Oct. 9, 2023. Credit: Lev Radin/Shutterstock.
Benjamin Kerstein
Benjamin Kerstein is a writer and editor living in Tel Aviv. Read more of his work on Substack at No Delusions, No Despair. Purchase his books here.

That the American educational system is thoroughly polluted with antisemitism has been obvious to many of us for some time. It became clear to all, however, after the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre, when thousands of academics, students, teachers, administrators, and other denizens of the dictatorship of the professoriate erupted in full-throated celebration of the mass slaughter and rape of over 1,000 people.

What followed is well-known and even somewhat encouraging, given that—with the toppling of two university presidents who proved ambivalent about killing all the Jews—the professoriate is finally being held responsible for its atrocities for the first time in decades.

The problem, however, goes well beyond the universities. This, along with much else, was proven last week by The New York Times, which usually does its best to run interference for antisemitism.

The Times appears to have realized, somewhat late in the game, that “ethnic studies” programs in California high schools have a serious problem with antisemitism. Of course, a group of dedicated activists and skeptical politicians fought to revise the state’s ethnic studies curriculum for the better part of a decade, and with very good reason. The Times report, however, was prompted by the pushback they are now facing from a self-congratulatorily named “liberated ethnic studies” that restores the antisemitic material.

Like all such curricula, California ethnic studies is essentially an attempt to institutionalize a Manichean theology. The ancient Manicheans viewed the world as a battle between two metaphysical forces: Light and good versus darkness and evil. The new Manicheans’ theology is political in expression, but not a great deal more complicated. It holds that the world is a battleground between light and good in the form of the “oppressed” (usually people of color) and darkness and evil in the form of the “oppressor” (usually but not always white people).

Like many religious sentiments, this cult’s theology is unfalsifiable and thus impossible to prove or disprove. Two things, however, can be said with some certainty: 1) It is obviously inadequate as an account of the world in which we live, and 2) It is self-evidently racist.

Unsurprisingly, it is also bitterly antisemitic. In all its forms, this theology places the Jews firmly in the category of “oppressor.” In other words, it sees the Jews as a manifestation of metaphysical evil—quite literally satanic. If viewing the Jews as satanic is not antisemitism, then nothing is antisemitism.

None of this is surprising to critics of the proposed curriculum. But we should be grateful for the Times’ report because it provides us with some formidable evidence for the prosecution.

Given its proclivities, the Times probably did not wish to provide such evidence, but it had no choice because the antisemites appear to have been quite eager to give it to them.

The Times presents us, for example, with Guadalupe Cardona, a teacher of ethnic studies at a Los Angeles high school, who helpfully volunteers on the Israel-Hamas war: “If someone is going to teach that conflict from a true ethnic studies perspective, it’s going to be critiquing settler colonialism in Palestine.”

For his part, Professor Dylan Rodriguez firmly rejects giving equal time to Jewish perspectives on the conflict because “It creates false equivalences.” The Times states, “He then asked if creationism should be covered in biology classes, or climate change denialism in environmental science,” as if he were teaching a STEM course rather than a religious creed.

These are the least of the defamations chronicled by the Times. In one of many such examples, the paper tells us that “In November, several weeks after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, an ethnic studies teacher at Menlo-Atherton High School, in Silicon Valley, presented a lesson that inaccurately claimed the United Nations considered the creation of Israel illegal.”

That is lies enough for one class, even in California, but during the lesson “a slide depicted a hand manipulating a puppet,” which even the Times was forced to admit recalls “antisemitic tropes about secret Jewish control of government, the media and finance.”

One might wonder, of course, why this kind of hate speech is not only tolerated but literally institutionalized in California high schools. The Times, helpfully if inadvertently, supplies the answer:

Ethnic studies grew out of student activism at Bay Area colleges in the late 1960s, when Black, Latino, Asian and Native American students went on strike to demand more focus on their groups’ histories and cultures.

Some activists were part of the Third World Liberation Front, a student group that linked racial segregation and discrimination in the United States to colonialism, imperialism and militarism across the globe.

For early scholars and students of ethnic studies, pro-Palestinian activism was also crucial, said Keith Feldman, chair of comparative ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

Whether the Times realized it or not—and it probably did not—this is the most powerful indictment of the ethnic studies movement as can be imagined. It provides firm historical proof that ethnic studies is not education. It is a political movement and a distinctly nasty one at that. Indeed, it appears that, on the issue of Israel and the Jews, it is nothing more than Palestinian nationalism dressed up as a kind of altruistic universalism.

This is of immense importance because while some nationalisms are liberal, democratic, and progressive, Palestinian nationalism is not. It is uncompromisingly reactionary, bigoted, tyrannical, revanchist, racist, and ultimately genocidal.

After the events of the last four months, no further evidence of this is required, not even from the Times. Thanks to Hamas, we now have definitive and absolute proof of it. Thanks to Hamas’s supporters in the West, we have equally definitive proof that the progressive left—the fountainhead of “ethnic studies”—supports this toxic nationalism with every fiber of its being and is willing to justify, excuse, and commit any atrocity necessary to further its ambitions.

What this means is quite simple: Palestinian nationalism and its supporters, whoever and wherever they may be—even in California high schools—have no place in the public discourse of any decent society. Their movement is fundamentally illegitimate. In a free society, of course, it must be allowed to exist, so long as it puts an end to its criminal activities. But it should be shunned, ostracized, and relegated to the far corners of the dark web and easily surveilled gated compounds in the Midwest.

At the moment, however, a generation of American children is being threatened by unscrupulous cultists who are determined to pound their ideology into the minds of those children at any cost. No sane society should allow such people anywhere near a classroom, but systemic hate cannot be ended overnight. In the meantime, the cultists should not be permitted to poison the hearts of thousands of students by teaching them that people who hate and kill Jews are the children of light.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Just before you scroll on...

Israel is at war.

JNS is combating the stream of misinformation on Israel with real, honest and factual reporting. In order to deliver this in-depth, unbiased coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we rely on readers like you.

The support you provide allows our journalists to deliver the truth, free from bias and hidden agendas. Can we count on your support?

Every contribution, big or small, helps JNS.org remain a trusted source of news you can rely on.

Become a part of our mission by donating today
Topics
Comments
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates