OpinionSchools & Higher Education

The Palestinian problem at school

It’s a shame that it took the massacre of 1,200 people by Hamas terrorists to wake up donors, alumni and the Jewish community to the reality on campus.

University lecture hall. Credit: Pixabay.
University lecture hall. Credit: Pixabay.
Mitchell Bard
Mitchell Bard
Mitchell Bard is a foreign-policy analyst and an authority on U.S.-Israel relations who has written and edited 22 books, including The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews and After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.

“To sanction anti-Jewish bigotry and give Jews no assistance.”

Yes, universities have turned George Washington’s famous pledge that the government of the United States is “a Government which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance” on its head. The uproar in recent weeks over the complete moral collapse of the American system of higher education culminated in the spectacle of the presidents of three of the world’s most prestigious universities appearing before Congress and failing to acknowledge that calling for the genocide of the Jewish people is unacceptable. Even more mind-boggling was the response that it would only be harassment if “speech turns into conduct,” meaning university policy would only be violated if their students emulated Hamas by slaughtering Jewish students.

It is a shame that it took the reaction of students, faculty and administrators to the massacre of some 1,200 Jews by Hamas terrorists to wake up donors, alumni and the Jewish community to the reality I described in a 2005 article for The Journal of the James Madison Institute: “The one place in America where antisemitism is still considered acceptable is in the university. The mantra of academic freedom has become a license for the sanctioning of teachings and forums that are anti-Israel and often cross the line to anti-Semitic.”

That it was a revelation to so many that our universities promote and defend antisemitism is astonishing. It is like the scene in “Casablanca” when Captain Renault says, “I’m shocked! Shocked to find that gambling is going on in here.”

In 2015, I wrote an article, “Should Your Child Go to a College Whose Faculty Supports the Anti-Semitic Boycott Against Israel?” I concluded after documenting the number of faculty supporting BDS at the top universities: “It is probably too much to expect parents to discourage their students from going to the elite schools on these lists, but, at the very least, these universities should be made aware that students are thinking twice about applying to institutions whose reputations are being damaged by the antisemitic faculty they employ and shield behind the abuse of academic freedom.”

The same year, I wrote about the double standards in the treatment of bigotry toward Jews and others. One example was the president of the University of Oklahoma, David Boren, closing the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, kicking out the house’s residents and expelling two students after a video of a racist chant made by members of the fraternity provoked national outrage. There was no outpouring of support contending that the fraternity members were entitled to exercise their right to free speech, that they were simply expressing a distasteful opinion or that college students should be able to deal with controversial views with which they disagree.

I contrasted Boren’s response with the chancellor at the University of California. Anti-Israel activists at UC Davis heckled Jewish students and shouted Allahu Akbar at them during a student government vote endorsing a boycott of the Jewish state. The next day, the chancellor said: “We recognize that this is a sensitive topic for many on our campus, one that is very personal and emotional. It is for this reason that we must exercise sensitivity, restraint and respect in relation to the issue. Prior to the debate. … We affirmed the right to freedom of expression, but also affirmed our commitment to the highest standards of civility and decency toward all.”

During the congressional hearing with the university presidents, multiple examples of the double standard in enforcing academic freedom and freedom of speech were offered. Around the time I wrote my 2005 article, Harvard president Lawrence Summers was nearly hounded out of Cambridge and had to apologize for suggesting that there might be a genetic difference between men and women that explains differences in performance in hard sciences.

Now, you can be punished for failing to put a land acknowledgment in the signature of your university email but not for calling for the destruction of the only Jewish state.

Today, the principal purveyor of antisemitism on campus is Students for Justice in Palestine. As the ADL reported, its “Day of Resistance Toolkit” made clear “that it advocates for Hamas or other Palestinian forces to conquer all of Israel and for the ‘complete liberation’ of Israel and the full influx of Palestinians to Israeli land. The toolkit also called for chapters to bring this resistance to the U.S. by ‘dismantling Zionism’ on its campuses and ‘challenging Zionist hegemony.’”

Again, this is not new. Back in 2005, for example, SJP’s predecessor, the Palestine Solidarity Movement, was the instigator of campus antisemitism. Before the PSM conference at Duke University, Jewish students asked the group to sign an innocuous statement calling for a civil debate that would “condemn the murder of innocent civilians,” “support a two-state solution” and “recognize the difference between disagreement and hate speech.” Notice there was no demand to avoid criticism of Israel. Still, the terms were unacceptable to PSM, and Duke saw no problem hosting the group’s conference, as did the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Michigan; Georgetown University; and The Ohio State University. (Rutgers University was the only one to deny PSM use of a campus facility.)

Imagine if colleges required students and faculty to agree to similar terms before being given funding or permission to hold events on campus. They might begin to resemble places of learning rather than asylums run by the inmates.

For those who wonder how the hate has filtered down to K-12 curricula, consider one PSM workshop at Duke called “Bringing the Palestinian Struggle Into Our School,” instructing participants on how to infiltrate public schools and ways to teach children lessons that portray Israel in a negative light and encourage sympathy for the Palestinians.

The person leading this strategy session, Ora Wise, the daughter of a rabbi and a Hebrew schoolteacher, suggested that lessons could be directed at students as young as nine or 10. One exercise she suggested was to ask children to draw pictures of their families and homes. Then, the guest instructor is supposed to show the children drawings made by Palestinian kids depicting bulldozers, tanks, funerals and other dramatic images. One objective is to make minority children feel that the Palestinians are an oppressed people, much like they are.

In another exercise, the kids are given a hula hoop and told to crowd around it. One child is chosen to stand in the middle of the hoop, and the class is taught that the Palestinians are crowded together while the Israelis have lots of space.

Sound outrageous?

Consider the lecturer at Stanford who, after Oct. 7, was accused of asking Jewish students to raise their hands and stand in a corner without their belongings to supposedly replicate the Israeli colonizers’ treatment of Palestinians.

I concluded my article in 2007 by noting that universities and faculty are not being held accountable, suggesting that the only way to change the situation is “if major donors withhold funds and make clear that support will be contingent on the university adhering to standards that do not allow for academic abuses or the tolerance of bigotry of any kind.”

Sadly, it took a pogrom in Israel 16 years later, and support for it by students and faculty, to get donors’ attention.

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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