(October 11, 2022 / JNS) A movement is now afoot in the United States to drive Jews out of higher education—both teachers and students. The movement, using the poisoned spear tip of anti-Zionism, is gaining momentum. It is reminiscent of nothing less than the movement to expel Jews from the educational system in Nazi Germany.
In 1933, Germany’s new civil service law excluded Jewish university professors as well as Jewish elementary and secondary school teachers from the profession. In the same year, Germany’s Law Against Overcrowding in Schools and Universities limited the number of Jewish students who could enroll, forcing Jewish children into private schools.
Many student fraternities and other student groups in Germany banned Jews and protested against professors whom they believed did not support “traditional German values.” Non-Jewish professors joined in shunning their colleagues. As a result, the Nazis quickly succeeded in hounding “undesirables” and, with them, any opposition to their policies and values out of the educational establishment.
Something similar is happening in the U.S. today. The latest attack on Jews in American higher education was just launched by the UC Berkeley Law School’s branch of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). SJP convinced nine law school organizations to adopt a bylaw refusing to invite or sponsor any speaker who supports “Zionism, the apartheid state of Israel and the occupation of Palestine.”
Zionism is, of course, the movement to realize the self-determination of the Jewish people in its homeland, the Land of Israel. Zionism is a primary tenet of Judaism, and is supported by the overwhelming majority of Jews worldwide, including in the U.S.
No wonder a group of leading U.S. Jewish groups called the Berkeley groups’ ban “unabashed anti-Semitism.” No wonder former Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education for Civil Rights Kenneth Marcus said the bylaw established “Jewish-free zones” at Berkeley.
The law school’s dean, Erwin Chemerinsky, who is Jewish, noted that the ban would prevent him from speaking—and, he might have added, 90% of American Jews.
Anti-Semitism, according to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition—which has been adopted by hundreds of nations and organizations worldwide—includes blaming Jews collectively for the actions of the State of Israel or for Israel’s existence.
Yet today, it is increasingly difficult for openly pro-Zionist Jews in the United States to find employment in higher education—particularly in the humanities. Virtually no Zionists are hired in Middle Eastern studies, despite Israel’s status as the region’s only democracy.
Jewish professors like Dr. Jeffrey Lax, head of the Business Department at the City University of New York (CUNY) Kingsborough campus, complain of open anti-Semitism, usually tied to anti-Israel sentiments. Lax declines to wear his yarmulke at school. “I don’t want to be targeted. That’s the reason,” he said. “I just wish I could do my job.”
Lax reports that when some fellow faculty members learned he is Jewish and a Zionist, they subjected him to threats and intimidation. While the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has substantiated Lax’s claims, CUNY has taken no steps to mitigate the hostile work environment. Lax isn’t alone. Pro-Israel students at CUNY Kingsborough and other schools have complained about prejudice and open attacks against them by faculty.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating the University of Southern California for failing to protect a Jewish student from discrimination and harassment because she supports Israel. Federal anti-Semitism investigations are also underway at the University of Vermont, the State University of New York and Brooklyn College.
In her recent Washington Examiner article “New Loyalty Oath Imposed on Jews,” writer Melissa Langsam Braunstein quoted Hussein Aboubakr Mansour, an educator with the pro-Israel advocacy group StandWithUs, said, “When I applied for Ph.D. programs, I was told in the face by one of the biggest names in Middle Eastern Studies in the West that ‘your affiliation with pro-Israel organizations is a problem for get[ting] into academia.’”
Imagine a black American at Harvard University being prevented by his fellow student government members from becoming school president because of his strong identification with African culture. How can he be objective, his colleagues ask him, about the struggles of marginalized people against sexual and other forms of bondage, given his identification with a continent in which there are now large numbers of slaves, i.e., Africa?
Or imagine this: At UCLA, a Jewish student is to be confirmed to the student council’s judicial board when a fellow council member asks her how she can maintain an unbiased view, given her identification with the Jewish community? After a lengthy discussion of the student’s Jewish identity, her nomination is voted down.
The first story—of the black student at Harvard—is fiction. It is, in fact, unimaginable, even though Africa today does have a major problem with slavery. But the second story—about the Jewish UCLA student—is tragically true. It happened to Rachel Beyda in 2015.
Langsam also quoted New York University freshman Kayla Hutt about some surprising advice she got from her high school headmaster regarding her NYU application essay: “There was a big chunk of it about the Chabad and Hillel, and the overall Jewish community at NYU. … He told me I shouldn’t have that in there, that it’s enough they’ll see I go to a private yeshiva high school and I shouldn’t rub it in their faces that I was in the Israel Awareness Club and that I’m a proud Zionist.”
How long will Jewish Americans tolerate what no other ethnic group in the United States would stand for—to be openly discriminated against for our blessed peoplehood, for our honored identity? When will supporters of free speech say no to this travesty of one of our country’s most sacred values?
Anti-Semitism in the form of anti-Zionism is increasingly permeating American higher education, making it harder and harder for Jewish faculty to teach and Jewish students to attend. It’s reminiscent of the Third Reich, one of the most disgraceful periods of world history.
This is not just a Jewish issue or an issue regarding one of our greatest allies—Israel. Above all, this is about people trying to rob us of freedom of speech in our schools and our society in general.
James Sinkinson is president of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship with the United States.
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