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Why does ‘diversity’ have to lead to anti-Semitism?

Study shows that despite the anodyne job title, woke politics and intersectionality can lead to college diversity officers helping to make campuses a hostile environment for Jews.

An artist's depiction of diversity. Credit: Angelina Bambina/Shutterstock.
An artist's depiction of diversity. Credit: Angelina Bambina/Shutterstock.
Jonathan S. Tobin
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him @jonathans_tobin.

One of the obsessions of the modern workplace as well as contemporary college campuses is the need to achieve and promote diversity. In theory, diversity is a noble goal to pursue. We all gain from being exposed to different types of people from a variety of backgrounds. And though the racial discrimination that was commonplace only 60 years ago throughout much of American society is no longer even a dim memory for anyone not approaching retirement age, efforts to ensure that racial, ethnic and religious minorities have a fair chance of being hired for jobs or admitted to schools are, in principle, commendable.

Nowadays diversity is not so much an idea as an industry. For example, the average university in the United States employs approximately 45 people whose duties are to promote what is commonly referred to as the DEI agenda — diversity, equity and inclusions. That this involves so many jobs at a time when many institutions of higher learning are facing cutbacks, is telling about the growth in the number of those involved in this endeavor. The same is true for arts organizations that are on life support due to the pandemic but continue to create positions for highly paid diversity officers.

But, as the use of the term “equity” rather than equality, which refers to seeking to even out outcomes rather than ensuring that everyone has a fair chance, indicates, those so employed have goals that are something different than merely fighting discrimination or encouraging practices rooted in the principle of equal opportunity. Instead, it has become a bastion of woke ideology which interprets the term “diversity” to mean a dedication to promoting the interests of certain designated protected groups that are designated as disadvantaged or victims regardless of the circumstances of the individuals involved.

Just as important, it is adamantly opposed to diversity when it comes to ideas, with those who oppose left-wing politics and the way the activist class seeks to politicize everything, being treated as pariahs. To oppose fashionable liberal stands on the issues of the day or to even admit to skepticism about the need to inject race into every subject and to have it define everything we are and do is to risk being canceled in some industries and throughout academia.

That this is so is not exactly a secret, which is why those who work in higher education or in certain sectors like the arts, mainstream media organizations, popular entertainment or most publishing outlets, who resist acceptance of the leftist catechism or who are actually conservatives or even vote Republican must keep this quiet, lest they find themselves cut off from any hope of promotion or acceptance.

Yet rather than these worries being limited to those who subscribe to heretical conservative principles, inevitably the rule of the woke involves concerns for Jews. And that is the context in which a new study conducted by scholars at The Heritage Foundation about those who are in the diversity business and how they regard Israel and Jews.

What the study found was alarming but not particularly surprising. A look at the opinions of DEI staff at 65 American universities revealed that they had disproportionately negative attitudes towards Israel and Jewish issues. While, as the study concedes, thinking ill of Israel isn’t necessarily the same thing as being an active anti-Semite, the connection isn’t tenuous.

The method used by the researchers is not what we’re used to when we refer to statistical studies. Rather than interviews with their subjects, Heritage scholars looked at their Twitter accounts. While that may sound unorthodox or even lacking in academic rigor, it actually makes sense. What people tell pollsters on the phone or even those involved in more in-depth studies is often more a matter of how they wish to be viewed than what they actually think or believe.

But for good or for ill — and we know it has mostly been for ill as social media has become the engine driving our political and social culture into the sewer — those who tweet tend to say what they think and do it in an unfiltered manner that most of those on the site would never employ in person. As such, for all of its incivility, it provides as good — if not better — a look at a public opinion as many traditional methods for gauging public opinion.

And what the researchers found when they examined the Twitter accounts of 741 diversity officers was that the subjects tweeted a great deal about Israel. Indeed, when matched against their interest in China, a country which has 1.4 billion people to Israel’s 9 million and which has an equally greater impact on America’s economy, the diversity crew was three times more likely to tweet about Israel. Though Israel is a topic that is often in the news, including the fighting with Hamas terrorists in May, it’s not as if China has been out of the news in the last year. It was, after all, the source of the coronavirus pandemic. Recently, Beijing has sought to undermine the last vestiges of democracy in Hong Kong and openly threatened Taiwan with invasion. There is also the matter of an ongoing genocide being perpetrated by the Communist regime against the Uighurs. But your average college diversity person was still more interested in Israel. And fully 96 percent of their tweets about Israel were critical of it while 62 percent of the comments about the world’s largest tyranny were actually positive.

Of those comments about Israel, predictably, those accusing it of committing “apartheid” or “settler colonialism” — a term that in the woke world refers to all Jews living there and not just those in the West Bank and which also indicates a belief that the Jewish state has no right to exist — abound. Some even include libelous charges, such as the accusation that Israel is committing “genocide” against Palestinian Arabs (whose population has grown exponentially in the century during which they have been fighting the return of the Jews to their ancient homeland) or “ethnic cleansing.” Some used the phrase “from the river to the sea” — an expression synonymous with the destruction of Israel.

Criticism of Israeli policies isn’t anti-Semitic. But it’s not a stretch to say that those who think one Jewish state on the planet is one too many or who believe only Jews should be deprived of the right of self-determination or self-defense or who spread false charges meant to delegitimize Israel and to similarly silence or shun its Jewish supporters, are engaging in anti-Semitism.

So when we take a hard look at the views of a representative sample of diversity officers at American universities who are on Twitter we can see that a lot of them are anti-Semitic or, at the very least, not adverse to public expressions of opinions that are incompatible with opposition to Jew-hatred.

Moreover, as the authors of the study noted in an article published in Newsweek, examples of those involved in diversity actively engaged in anti-Semitism are easy to find. A Yale Law School diversity officer told students that she “didn’t recognize that there could be anti-Semitism against white people.” The diversity committee of Stanford University’s counseling services held trainings in which staff members asserted that because “Jews, unlike other minority groups, possess privilege and power, Jews and victims of Jew-hatred do not merit or necessitate the attention of the DEI committee.”

What this shows is that a disproportionate number of those involved in this field are so influenced by intersectionality — which wrongly treats the Palestinian war to destroy Israel as somehow morally equivalent to the struggle for civil rights in the United States — that they treat attacks on the Jewish state and Jews as somehow morally justified or even laudable. The diversity industry is so lacking in diversity with respect to ideas that they regard the casual negation of Jewish rights or open anti-Semitic incitement with indifference if not approval.

Nor is this trend limited only to diversity officers in academia. Kamau Bobb, who was named as Google’s global lead for diversity strategy and research in 2018 was revealed as having engaged in his own anti-Semitic rants on Twitter and was “reassigned” though not fired by what is arguably the world’s most powerful and influential company.

While just one part of the big picture in which woke ideology is transforming our society for the worse, the role that diversity officers are playing in mainstreaming anti-Semitism can’t be underestimated. Nor should we ignore this factor when seeking to understand why anti-Semitic incidents are growing on American college campuses, most often as part of efforts to libel Israel or to silence Jewish students.

It isn’t merely ironic that a group of people who are supposedly dedicated to inclusion seem to think that sensitivity to Jewish sensibilities or even opposition to expressions of anti-Semitism is optional or completely unnecessary. It’s a disturbing sign of just how toxic leftist ideology has become and why the struggle against the woke is of particular importance to those who care about Jewish security.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS—Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.

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