A full decade ago, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights called attention to anti-Israel and anti-Jewish animus in leftist circles, in particular at universities. “On many campuses throughout the United States,” it wrote in its report, “anti-Israeli or anti-Zionist propaganda has been disseminated that includes traditional anti-Semitic elements, including age-old anti-Jewish stereotypes and defamation.”
The Commission noted, too, evidence that “many university departments of Middle East studies provide one-sided, highly polemical academic presentations,” some of which even “repress legitimate debate concerning Israel,” like a student who is told that “she may not speak in a discussion of Middle East politics on the ground that she has ethnic Jewish physical characteristics.”
Ten years later, both in this country and in Europe, the situation has changed — not, though, for the better.
At Oberlin College, an elite liberal arts college in Ohio, a professor named Joy Karega posted a message that echoed an age-old conspiracy theory about Jewish bankers “own[ing] nearly every central bank in the world” and “finance[ing] both sides of every war since Napoleon.” She deleted the post when it garnered attention but was found to have also posted and endorsed a speech by Jew-hater Louis Farrakhan in which the Nation of Islam leader indicated that Jews were behind the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.
That wasn’t enough to slake the professor’s thirst for mad ravings. “The same people behind the massacre in Gaza” Karega wrote further, “were guilty of downing Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine in July, 2014, a crash in which all 283 passengers and 15 crew members were killed.” And, she confided, the Islamic State is really “a CIA and Mossad operation.”
Oberlin College President Marvin Krislov, who is Jewish, caused a further stir with a statement that Ms. Karega’s views are “hers alone and do not represent the views of Oberlin College,” but not commenting on the odiousness of his employee’s ugly rants themselves. Later, he acknowledged his disapproval of disseminating “anti-Semitic conspiracy theories” as “they cause pain for many people…”
Then there was last month’s lecture at upstate New York’s Vassar College by Rutgers Associate Professor Jasbir Puar. Obfuscating not only issues but the English language, she spoke of “oscillating relations between disciplinary, pre-emptive and increasingly prehensive forms of power that shape human and non-human materialities in Palestine.” Amid the information she imparted to students in her anti-Israel screed dressed up as academics was how “some speculate” that the bodies of Arab terrorists killed by Israeli police during attacks “were mined for organs for scientific research.” Ms. Puar’s area of expertise is “Women’s and Gender Studies.”
Also last month, at Brooklyn College, a group of students shouting slogans including “Zionists off campus” broke up a meeting of the Faculty Council, which is headed by an Orthodox Jew. One professor said she left the meeting “trembling.”
Over in Manhattan, Columbia University is home to professors Rashid Khalidi and Joseph Massad, who have been accused of harassing Jewish students. And, at the institution’s most recent “Israel Apartheid Week,” forty faculty members signed a petition urging the school to divest from companies that have “subjugated the Palestinian people.”
To the west, Palestinian human rights activist Bassem Eid dared criticize the Palestinian Authority and Hamas recently at the University of Chicago. Members of the audience shouted him down and he had to be escorted from the room by campus police after one of the students threatened him with physical harm.
Toronto’s York University has been the site of Jew-hatred for years, including the featuring of speakers defending Hamas, the storming of pro-Israel events, physical violence and anti-Semitic slurs.
And across the ocean, in Europe, according to the British newspaper the Sunday Times, members of Oxford University’s student group the Labour Club laughed at Jewish victims of terrorism and made fun of the Holocaust.
The co-chairman of the group resigned, noting that “a large proportion of both [the Labour Club] and the student[s] left in Oxford more generally have some kind of problem with Jews.” It’s not only British academia, though, that has come to harbor anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiments. The rise of the leftist Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Party has empowered a far left for whom support of the Palestinians is uncritical and for whom, in the words of Alan Johnson, a British political theorist, “that which the demonological Jew once was, demonological Israel now is.”
Once, the political right was the scourge of Klal Yisrael. Now, though, like the residents of Ninveh in the last passuk of Yonah (4:11), we are unable to discern a difference “between right and left.”