Many American Jews are unaware of the extent of antisemitism on college campuses, or the destructive force of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. It is the most well-known tool of the delegitimization campaign. It is composed of a loosely organized group of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and individuals who pressure governments, groups and others to impose economic sanctions on Israel, encourage them to boycott Israeli businesses and cultural and academic institutions, and call for the divestment of economic resources from Israeli companies. Although BDSers may deny it, the aim of BDS is to destroy Israel.
Among the organizations promoting BDS are the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Code Pink, Jewish Voices for Peace, If Not Now, National Students for Justice in Palestine, American Muslims for Palestine, Palestine Legal, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, and others including the former American administration’s favorite, J Street. They all provide professional services and guidance to student activists on campus, helping to create a well-run machine of anti-Israel propaganda and activity with the ultimate aim of destroying Israel. Some, such as J Street, claim to be pro-Zionist, but their actions belie their words.
While American antisemitism is relatively mild compared to Europe, and especially compared to Muslim countries, it is increasing in the US. This is just part of a growing pattern of sectarianism coupled with intolerance, which is blatant in contemporary political discourse – from both parties.
Hatred and fear of Jews is not really new; US antisemitism was so rampant in the 1930s and ‘40s that American Jewish leadership refrained from attempting to pressure President Roosevelt to confront German and other European leaders about the treatment of German Jews (and later all Jews under Axis control). In America itself, the large German-American population supported American Nazis, who established the German American Bund in 1936. A rabidly antisemitic Catholic priest, Father Coughlin, was one of the first political leaders to use radio to reach a mass audience. As many as 30 million listeners (out of 125 million Americans) tuned in to his weekly broadcasts during the 1930s.
After the Allied victory in WWII, with the public exposure of the Nazi death camps, antisemitism receded in the US. Jews gained prominence in government, at universities, in big business, and elsewhere. Regulations against Jews in “restricted” neighborhoods gradually ended, along with other overt forms of antisemitism.
Unfortunately, this one-generation hiatus has proven to be short-lived, a mere interruption in the age-old hatred against Jews. Perhaps the worst aspect of this is that campuses have become a primary target for maligning Israel, and Jews in general. Many of America’s best and brightest, including Jewish students, are experiencing campaigns on campus against Israel and Zionism – to the extent that even intelligent individuals can be convinced that Zionism is racism and that Israel has stolen land from the “indigenous Palestinian people.”
The following incidents of overt antisemitism on campus (from just the last 10 days of May this year) have been documented by the AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to investigating, documenting, educating about, and combating antisemitism at institutions of higher education in America.
May 29, University of CA system: employee contract negotiation demands divestment from Israel, BDS actions confronting Jews on many campuses;
May 28, Princeton University: demonization of Israel published in the Princeton newspaper;
May 23, UC Santa Barbara: disruption of free speech and assembly, verbal assaults, intimidation, BDS actions confronting Jews;
May 23, University of OR: antisemitic taunts and BDS actions confronting Jews;
May 22, Northwestern University: BDS actions confronting Jews and calls for BDS in the school newspaper;
May 21, University of Houston: disruption of free speech, movement and assembly; denigration and demonization of Jewish students and staff.
“Israel Apartheid Week” on hundreds of campuses are annual events, which ratchet up antisemitism and hatred of Israel:
“The 14th Annual Israeli Apartheid Week of actions will take place all around the world between February 19th and April 17th 2018. Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) is an international series of events that seek to raise awareness of Israel’s apartheid system over the Palestinian people and to build support for the growing BDS movement…calls for BDS measures to end Israel’s apartheid regime.…included are a wide range of events from lectures, film screenings, cultural performances, and BDS actions, to postering in metro stations, setting up apartheid walls on campuses, and many more. These actions took place in more than 200 cities across the world.” (https://apartheidweek.org/)
Many students and faculty, ignorant of the true situation in the Middle East, are taken in by these bombastic campus events. University administrators have failed miserably to confront prejudice and violence on their campuses – when Jewish students are the targets. There are pro-Zionist counter-events, but they don’t compare to the fanfare surrounding these “Apartheid Week” events.
I don’t want to give the impression that Jews and Israel are on the ropes. Though American Jews have low birth rates and high levels of assimilation, Jews still enjoy high standing. Israel, despite BDS, has never had so much respect or clout among the nations of the world, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu able to meet frequently with world leaders on an equal footing. Jerusalem is the home of the US Embassy, now joined by two other countries with more to follow. The “Palestinian cause” has been discredited by many Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates, and partially, Egypt.
Anshel Pfeffer, an analyst for the far left-wing newspaper, >Haaretz, recently wrote: “Sure, this [the cancellation of an appearance in Israel by the Argentinian soccer team] is unquestionably a victory for the BDS movement. But it also highlights how rare these victories are and how ineffectual BDS actually is – despite all the hype around it. In the 13 years since the campaign was launched, Israel’s global trade has skyrocketed… [Israel] is also enjoying unprecedented relations with more countries around the world than ever before.”
So, let’s be wary of antisemitism. We must fight against it and the BDS movement, especially on college campuses, while continuing to hold our heads high for liberal causes (except misguided ones such as BDS). Jews are among the world’s oldest and most accomplished peoples. For all the right reasons, we are a proud people who must promote ourselves and our homeland of Israel.