The Bronfman Center for Jewish Life at New York University was forced to temporarily shut its doors last week due to a security threat. In an emailed statement sent to the NYU community, the head of the Bronfman Center wrote: “[W]e became aware of several public online postings by an NYU student which were antisemitic in nature and potentially threatening. Due to heightened tensions at NYU … we are taking every necessary precaution.”
According to multiple media reports, an NYU student complained on Twitter that his account was suspended because “i expressed my desire for zionists to die [sic].” Among the multiple racists posts uncovered, a tweet from 2014 applauded Nazi leader Adolf Hitler while another from this past October stated, “remember to spit on zionists, it’s proper etiquette [sic].”
The forced closure of the heart of Jewish life at NYU came days after the school’s student government passed a resolution in support of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, despite warnings by pro-Israel and Jewish student activists that BDS has led to an “unsafe environment for students … [who are] being targeted just because they support Israel.”
According to a campus watchdog, the AMCHA Initiative, a direct correlation exists between anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity. An August 2018 report reveals that “Israel-related incidents are actually more likely to contribute to a hostile environment for Jewish students.” The data is clear. With anti-Israel activity on campus comes a heightened sense of alert within the Jewish community, who is left wondering when the next threat will appear.
The recent incidents at NYU contrast sharply to those at another notable campus, The Ohio State University, a “Big Ten” institution whose student government voted against a proposed BDS resolution earlier in December.
In overwhelming dissent against the resolution, student senators consistently cited concerns by their Jewish and non-Jewish constituents that BDS would usher in a new wave of anti-Semitic activity on campus. Prior to the vote, the president and vice president of OSU’s student government released a statement against the resolution, warning its “implications … would negatively impact students on our campus” and “goes against the mission and values of our university.” This was the fifth time BDS was defeated at OSU.
The starkly different outcomes at NYU and OSU highlight once again the dangers posed by the BDS movement to Jewish and pro-Israel students. The likelihood of anti-Semitic expression and targeted attacks increases significantly when anti-Israel activity, especially in the form of a boycott, rears its ugly head on campus.
In May of this year, the University of Oregon student government passed a resolution in favor of boycotting and divesting from Israel. Several weeks later, a welcome sign on the campus Hillel was vandalized with graffiti stating, “Free Palestine you f**ks” and other racist slogans. In July, a Stanford University Residence Assistant and anti-Israel campus activist threatened to “physically fight Zionists on campus next year” after Israel passed the controversial nation-state law. In reaction, students expressed concern that “he could quite literally threaten the safety of students” and the wider Jewish community. These are but two more examples of a long and growing list linking BDS to violent anti-Semitic expression.
This begs the question: Why is it acceptable that Jewish and Zionist students are being forced into a corner and must take every precaution to ensure their own safety from their peers because they support Israel? The incident at NYU highlights this to the extreme. Even the whisper of a threat during a time of “heightened tensions” caused by BDS is forced to be taken seriously. The thought of not doing so could potentially be catastrophic.
What a world we live in! Welcome to being a Jew and Zionist on college campuses in 2018.
Lea Speyer is the Midwest director for the Maccabee Task Force and former senior campus correspondent for “The Algemeiner’s” Campus Bureau. You can follow her on Twitter @LeaRSpeyer.