OpinionSchools & Higher Education

The universities’ betrayal of the university

Institutions of higher education have embraced ignorance and intolerance.

Columbia University Library in New York City. Credit: STUDIO MELANGE/Shutterstock.
Columbia University Library in New York City. Credit: STUDIO MELANGE/Shutterstock.
Shira Weissbach. Credit: Courtesy.
Shira Weissbach
Shira Weissbach is an Israel education consultant for Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME).
Asaf Romirowsky
Asaf Romirowsky is the executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA).

The late educational theorist John Dewey correctly stated that “school is the only place that can battle ignorance and intolerance.” Hamas’s horrific Oct. 7 massacre has exposed the indecency at the heart of the American university and its inability to recognize truth and honest discourse.

In some recent programs, we have observed sincere attempts to change this. But these programs have been met with resistance and disdain from the so-called “pro-Palestinian” community. To this community, the only acceptable stance on today’s campuses is a binary viewpoint of the Middle East. It is based on the centrality of so-called Palestinian “oppression,” codified by decades of the Palestinianization of academia.

At a recent event at the University of Michigan, a program was downgraded and forced to relocate when students boycotted the event. They did so because former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett appeared at it. Immediately preceding Bennett’s appearance was a student-moderated panel discussion. It involved a Middle East historian, a Palestinian Muslim man raised in Gaza and a woman who self-identified as a Palestinian-Israeli. The discussion showcased diverse opinions from individuals intimately familiar with the region. The university limited this program to 50 in-person students with an off-campus livestream. It did so because of security concerns and anticipated protests.

At Columbia University, Arab-Israeli journalist Yoseph Haddad was attacked. A pro-Israel student group had invited Haddad to speak about a coalition of Jews and Arabs in Israel. He was harassed with antisemitic chants of “intifada” and “from the river to the sea.”

At Indiana University, the administration indefinitely postponed a Hillel event featuring Mosab Hassan Yousef, citing security concerns. Yousef is the son of a co-founder of Hamas and a former informant for Israeli security agencies. He has saved countless Israeli and American lives.

In each case, Arab and Palestinian voices condemned Hamas. As a result, they were met with contempt.

Why? The answer is crystal clear. The “pro-Palestinian” forces refuse to confront facts and prefer to swallow the propaganda they have been fed.

The pro-terrorist bias is obvious. Universities have hired terrorist sympathizers such as Mohamed Abdou, formerly of Columbia University. “Yes, I’m with the muqawamah (“resistance”) be it Hamas and Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad,” Abdou wrote in an Oct. 11 Facebook post. He lamented what he claimed were “false reports accusing Arabs and Muslims of decapitating the heads of children and being rapists.” Such reports were entirely accurate. Abdou has been a regular visitor to the Columbia University anti-Israel encampments. In contrast, Israeli professor Shai Davidai is currently barred from campus.

Students at these universities are paying for an education that should include diverse opinions based on scholarly research. Their money is being taken and they receive nothing in return. Worse still, “pro-Palestinian” campus groups are receiving their marching orders and funds from Muslim Brotherhood affiliates.

Pedagogically, we should strive for Dewey’s vision of education. Universities must promote multiple viewpoints to students and faculty. They should reject hate and violence. Professors should create classroom environments that reject a black-and-white understanding of complex issues.

Instead, the American campus has become a theater for supporters of terrorism and totalitarian regimes. They have hijacked the university, a symbol of Western liberal democracy. Much like Jewish civilization, the consciousness of Western civilization is rooted in safeguarding historical values. The “pro-Palestinian” encampments and protests on campus highlight the extent to which knowledge and understanding of history have diminished. They have been replaced by hateful ideology and willful ignorance.

This is epitomized by the belief that history does not exist. That it was invented for the benefit of the powerful. Thus, historical sins are passed down to succeeding generations who must then expiate those sins via political action for “social justice.”

Restoring sanity to our institutions of higher education must begin with ensuring that curricula and faculty are committed to the principles these institutions were founded on.

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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