Contributed by CAMERA Fellow Kailee Jordan
Recently, anti-Semitism has been on the rise. The prejudice against, discrimination of, or hostility towards Jews as a nationality, religious, or ethnic group, anti-Semitism is prevalent on bus advertisements, social media, newspapers, and any mode of communication that reaches a large audience in a community. What people underestimate or simply don’t understand is the fact that anti-Semitism doesn’t come in the form of a physical attack. The media is largely responsible for demonization and discrimination of Jews, giving rise to the idea that Jews are held to a higher standard than other ethnic groups.
Despite media bias, though, what is on the rise today is largely anti-Semitism on college campuses. While media outlets can reach massive populations, the increase of anti-Semitism on college campuses is particularly troubling because it incorporates the education of the next generation. Colleges are places where young minds are molded. They are where most people develop the political views and moral perspectives they carry with them for the rest of their lives. As the matter of anti-Semitism on campuses is being watered down or brushed away lightly, the fight against this narrative becomes even more vital.
Last semester, San Francisco State University published a popular article in the campus newspaper, the Golden Gate Express, called “AMCHA Too Aggressive About Anti-Semitism.” In the article, the author accuses certain organizations for “attacking” professors who publicly express opposition towards Israel with an anti-Semitic label. The author states that “a small number of groups including AMCHA, CAMERA and Stand With Us are behind the vast majority of attacks on students and professors who criticize Israel or sympathize with Palestinians. For saying anything that these groups interpret as anti-Israel—even if the person is Jewish—the group will label a person anti-Semitic.” However, criticising Israel’s government is not anti-Semitic. No democracy is opposed to criticism; in fact, it is necessary for their progression. However, there is a huge difference between being critical and being discriminatory. While I agree with the author when she says that global and political conflicts are an important issue to discuss, including the Arab-Israeli conflict, it is equally, if not more important that it is discussed in an objective and non-discriminatory environment.
The author writes, “AMCHA’s strategies include making lists of professors’ names and often contact information and emailing them to school administrators and journalists.” AMCHA had made a list of professors that contained university faculty that have openly expressed that they support a boycott of Israel (BDS), a campaign that calls for the boycott of Israeli goods and all cultural, intellectual, and technological contributions made or manufactured by Israel. Although people who support BDS claim they act to advocate for the equal rights of Palestinians, BDS does not call for a boycott of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Qatar, Iraq, Kuwait, and Libya where Palestinians are denied basic citizenship rights like voting, owning property, and running for office.
AMCHA’s list of professors is not an “attack” on pro-Palestinian views, but is instead highlighting the double standard aimed at the Jewish State. Furthermore, it is meant to expose the fact that the supporters of BDS aren’t really considering the damage that the movement can and has already caused to the Palestinians. Some may consider the notion of the BDS movement to be pro-Palestinian, but looking deeper into the movement, it becomes clear that it is not a pro-Palestinian movement, but instead an anti-Israel movement which also hurts the Palestinians whom the movement supposedly wants to help.
Professors that support a boycott of Israel for a “‘human rights cause” but don’t boycott surrounding countries that ensure unequal treatment of Palestinians are not sympathizing with Palestinians or oppressed people but are demonstrating a discriminatory, anti-Israel sentiment. More importantly, if these professors genuinely advocate for and support human rights, why aren’t they supporting or starting any boycotts against the many other countries with “human rights issues”? Why aren’t they boycotting Lebanon’s anti-Palestinian laws? Why push for boycotts in Israel, where Arabs openly participate in Israeli congress and have equal voting rights, and not a country that restricts them? What makes a world-wide condemnation so much more prioritized towards Israel than it does in these other countries where thousands of people, including Palestinians, are being stripped of their rights and are persecuted every day? To hold Israel to a higher standard as an obstacle for human rights is discriminatory, biased, and fits the exact definition of anti-Semitism.
The article continues:
“Since no one wants to be accused of this particular form of bigotry, lots of college students and professors simply choose not to talk about the problems in Israel and Palestine. Meanwhile, anything from ISIS in Syria to the vote for Scottish Independence in Britain is fair game for criticism.”
While freedom of speech enables anything to be “fair game for criticism,” it is important to note that this right allows for bias and discrimination. Choosing to slander or misrepresent something opens the critic to criticism upon himself. In specifically choosing to publicly smear Israel, one cannot claim they are being “attacked” if they receive a negative response.
While the criticism of Israeli policies may not be anti-Semitic, the vandalization of Jewish properties certainly is. In January, two swastikas were drawn on the house of Jewish fraternity AEPi at the University of California at Davis, in an act the police have labelled a hate crime. The drawing of swastikas in protest of Israeli or Jewish speakers or events on college campuses has become all too common, with this type of graffiti being reported at SUNY Purchase, Northeastern University, and Yale University, all within the last year.
Anti-Semitism is dangerous, powerful, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Ideas that demonize only a certain group of people have been responsible for some of the world’s most destructive and horrific catastrophes like the Holocaust, Rwandan Genocide, Armenian Genocide, and more. Students need to be aware of these biases and take initiative to acknowledge when something is being presented unfairly, or skewed to benefit or disadvantage a certain country, nationality, or group of people.
Seeing the effect and violence this causes in our world, we are taught take a stand against this kind of behavior, not defend it. We as students have an obligation to take a stand and recognize bias and discrimination when we see it. Hate speech and propaganda, such as the BDS Movement, that are designed to turn you against one group of people in particular are not forms of advocacy for human initiative rights, but rather calls to bring down the Jewish nation.