The Rise of Antisemitism
Who would expect antisemitism to be present on American college and university campuses, especially in our post-modern world driven by social justice and multiculturalism? After all, one place where Jewish emancipation should reign is on American campuses. But once we understand that antisemitism is totally irrational, it actually makes sense to expect it to rear its ugly head in the most unexpected places and most unexpected ways. The fact of the matter is that the new antisemitism knows no boundaries and is an equal-opportunities recruiter. And so it roams around on American campuses where it is currently growing exponentially.
College and university campuses are places of learning where a younger generation has a chance to develop their knowledge base, as well as their own way to think and process information. Groups and clubs abound, and as a result provide a platform for dialogue and mutual enrichment—unless of course you are Jewish and/or support Israel’s right to exist.
More than anywhere else in the United States (but not exclusively), the West Coast is a fertile ground for antisemitism on university and college campuses. Where a true diversity seems to exist, it seems that a Jewish voice is never welcome. University of California, Irvine (UCI) is known for organizing a week-long conference in the spring each year—a gathering nicknamed “Hate Fest.”
The yearly theme is always connected to the Middle East but always completely biased against Jews and Israel. Year after year, guests such as Amir Abdel Malik Ali have been invited to speak on campus.1 The UCI Muslim Student Union even disrupted former Israel Ambassador Michael Oren in a concerted effort in 2010 (11 students were arrested and 10 charged as a result.)
In 2015, the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) was in the news repeatedly for allowing antisemitic graffiti, slurs and defamations, almost always coming from people connected with Students for Justice in Palestine or American Muslims for Palestine.2 In an online survey, 70% of the respondents reported having experienced or witnessed antisemitism. Statements such as “Hitler was right” or “Jews burn better” have become common currency.
Similar incidents have been reported from UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, Northwestern University and University of Michigan to name just a few. When a pro-Palestinian rally takes place, it is either to provide a one-sided platform for antisemitic speakers or to promote another growing source of antisemitism: Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions known as BDS.
BDS was started by the Palestinian Authority in 2005 and has been very successful on American campuses and even in some evangelical circles ever since. Its goal is to delegitimize and even demonize Israel by promoting an ever increasing boycott of Israeli products and companies. Israel is always painted as the “colonizer,” “occupier” or “apartheid nation.”3
The tension is real on American campuses where Jewish students are advised to wear a hat over their yarmulkes (Jewish skullcap). Jewish students actually feel at risk on campuses where radical anti-Jewish propaganda is allowed. It comes from those who have been taught falsehoods against Israel and creates a very unsafe environment for Jewish students to participate in any activity, let alone Jewish or pro-Israel events.
Beyond that atmosphere of tension and even hatred, we can fear the indoctrination of yet another gullible section of the student body, as in the name of social justice, the incoming flux of new students are buying into the lies of BDS and groups such as American Muslims for Palestine. As it turns out, very few people are interested in the facts, especially when they end up vindicating Israel.
Yet, we should not simply give up with a shrug of resignation. After all, American campuses are where our next generation of leaders are being educated and prepared for the future…our future.
Soviet-born Israeli human rights activist Nathan Sharansky describes antisemitism with three Ds: Demonization, Double-Standard and Delegitimization. While he has identified the problem, we can all become part of the solution with three more Ds: Demystify, Disseminate and Defend.
We can demystify the myths about Israel by taking opportunities to teach the biblical truth about the Land of Israel and the chosen people through campus Bible studies, lectures and literature tables. We can disseminate that truth through blogging and social networks. Finally, we can speak up against the xenophobic agenda on various campuses anytime it shows its ugly head. This is not the time to be shy or politically correct but the time to stand for the truth—biblical truth!