Academic Progressivism Descends into Moral Madness

untitled2In the campus war against Israel, the all too familiar refrain from anti-Israel activists, many of whom form the loose coalition of groups and individuals spearheading the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, is that their quarrel is only with Israelis and their government’s policies, not with Jews themselves.  But that specious defense has fallen away of late, revealing some caustic and base anti-Semitism, representing a seismic shift in the way that Jews now are being indicted not just for supporting Israel, but merely for being Jewish.

It was not without some historical irony, then, when student council leaders at Durban University of Technology (DUT) in South Africa in early February floated a proposal that suggested, apparently without shame, that Jewish students should be expelled from the institution, that, as the student body’s secretary, Mqondisi Duma, put it, “We took the decision that Jewish students, especially those who do not support the Palestinian struggle, should deregister.” This is, one would think, a rather shocking sentiment from students who themselves benefited from a world-wide campaign in the 1970s and 1980s to end South Africa’s racist apartheid system.

Also in February at UCLA, several councilmembers on the USAC Judicial Board, UCLA student government’s highest judicial body, grilled Rachel Beyda, a second-year economics student, when she sought a seat on the board. The focus on her candidacy was not her qualifications for the position (which no one seemed to doubt), but on the fact that she was Jewish and how her “affiliation with Jewish organizations at UCLA . . . might affect her ability to rule fairly on cases in which the Jewish community has a vested interest in the outcome, such as cases related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” as the student newspaper described it. “Ruling fairly” in this case, of course, meant that she was likely not to support the increasingly virulent anti-Israel campaign on the UCLA campus, so she failed to pass the political litmus test that so-called progressive students see as their default position: namely, being pro-Palestinian. It was the same thinking that inspired a similarly discriminatory proposal last May by two members of UCLA’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine which attempted to bar Jewish candidates from filling council positions if they had taken trips to Israel subsidized by the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, or other organizations, which, according to the brazen SJP students, “have openly campaigned against divestment from corporations that profit from Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights.”

U.K. Anti-Semitic Attacks Reach New Levels

Record levels of anti-Semitism were reported in the UK in 2014 by the The Community Security Trust, a Jewish security charity, according to The Guardian. The charity runs an incident hotline that reported 1,168 anti-Semitic incidents against British Jews, which has doubled since 2013. Last month, the UK released a report that indicated anti-Semitic activity was on…

Fighting the Satanic Jew for Palestine

The title of Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s book on the resurgence of anti-Semitism in our time, “The Devil That Never Dies,” can also be read as a not-so-veiled allusion to the centuries-old demonization of Jews as devilish or satanic. What began in the Middle Ages was revived by the Nazis, and remains popular among today’s neo-Nazi Jew-haters.

Crush Zion Der Sturmer

Screenshot from the blog “Crush Zion!” with a reproduction of a page from the Nazi publication Der Stürmer
describing Jews as “enemy of the world” and “Satan;” posted on June 5, 2014.

Unfortunately, however, one doesn’t have to venture into the darkest recesses of the Internet to encounter the contemporary expression of this age-old demonization of Jews: prominent Palestinians are not ashamed to denounce Jews or Israelis as “Satan,” and neither are supposedly progressive “pro-Palestinian” activists.

One of the most recent examples emerged when campaigners for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement at the University of California, Davis, celebrated a student government resolution to divest from Israel by harassing their opponents. Several reports on the incident highlighted the role of Azka Fayyaz, a member of the UC Davis student senate, noting that she had previously “helped display a poster likening Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Hitler.”

Netanyahu=Hitler Satan

A closer look at the poster reveals that Netanyahu’s picture was not only defaced with a Hitler moustache, but also with red horns. The poster thus combines the among self-described “pro-Palestinian” activists popular association of Israel/Zionism with Nazis and the on social media widespread demonization of Netanyahu as #Satanyahu. Other examples of this double demonization include tweets by Mary Hughes-Thompson, the co-founder of the “Free Gaza Movement.”

Former Harvard President Larry Summers on Academic Freedom and Anti-Semitism

Remarks of Lawrence H. Summers Columbia Center for Law and Liberty January 29, 2015:
I am delighted to help inaugurate this forum on academic freedom. Academic freedom is essential if universities are to succeed in their missions of creating and disseminating knowledge. Universities excel when they are governed by the authority of ideas rather than the idea of authority. And more perhaps than at any other moment in history, the work of universities–transmitting knowledge and values from one generation to the next, and creating new knowledge — determines the future of nations.
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It speaks to the importance of universities in the life of nations that George Washington very much wanted to devote his farewell address to a proposed American national university until he was dissuaded from the idea by Alexander Hamilton, not because Hamilton did not like the idea but because he thought the farewell address was the wrong occasion for its presentation. So Washington instead bequeathed a substantial part of his not inconsiderable fortune to the proposed university.For this reason, I have always had an ambivalent reaction to the famous observation about academic politics that “the fights are so vicious because the stakes are so small” which is variously attributed to Henry Kissinger, Woodrow Wilson, and Columbia’s own Wallace Sayre. On the one hand no one who has lived in a university and certainly no one who has presided over one can deny that much energy is dissipated over matters of little ultimate moment. On the other hand because the ideas universities produce and pass on are so important the stakes in what they do and therefore in what they fight about are actually immense.This is how I feel about the issue of academic freedom in general and about issues involving Israel and possibly anti-Semitism in particular. I have chosen to speak about academic freedom and anti-Semitism for three reasons. First, discussions of academic freedom without a particular context are doomed to be platitudinous and unhelpful. It may be that hard cases make bad law, but easy cases provide little insight for those who must make difficult decisions. In any event as a meat-eating, number crunching economist I have little capacity for abstract philosophical doctrine. Second, my labeling of initiatives and statements advocating for Harvard to divest from any company that invested in Israel as “anti- Semitic in effect if not intent” was the source of more academic freedom controversy than any other academic freedom issue (though certainly not any other issue) that took place while I was President of Harvard. Third, I believe that the general failure of American academic leaders to aggressively take on the challenge posed by the Boycott, Divestment, Sanction (BDS) movement represents a consequential abdication of moral responsibility.No one, including me, come to academic freedom matters in a purely abstract way so just a few words about my background here. I am Jewish and identified but not seriously observant. During my lifetime I have never felt that there was prejudice against me, members of my family, or close friends. I support and feel affinity with the State of Israel. While such expertise as I may possess is in economics not international security, it has been my instinct that Israel has made consequential policy errors particularly in regards to settlements. I have often wondered whether Israeli intransigence regarding settlements has made the achievement of peace with the Palestinians more difficult and has hurt Israel’s security position. During my time in government I worked, I wish with more success, to promote prosperity in the West Bank and Gaza for its own sake and because I believed it would contribute to the peace process.

I’d like to do two things this afternoon. First, I will explain why looking back I spoke out in the way I did against proposals advocating for universities to divest from Israeli companies or companies transacting with Israel, and comment on the debate my remarks engendered. Second, I will offer some observations on the BDS movement and a range of current controversies.

The Genocidal Nature of Anti-Israel Radicalism Reveals Itself at UC Davis

In a morally coherent world, the chilling statement “Hamas & Sharia law have taken over UC Davis” would not have been spoken publicly, and certainly not by an elected student leader at an American public university. But in California, the veritable epicenter of academic anti-Israelism and its attendant stealth jihad, this statement, spoken last week by student leader…

The First of its Kind: UNGA Informal Plenary on Anti-Semitism

By: Kayla Green, University of Pennsylvania Law School, Class of 2015

“It is up to you who are the faces of the world to be the architect of the house in which the Mother of all hates will see its face reduced”  —Bernard-Henri Lévy, Keynote Speech at the General Assembly Meeting on the Rise of Anti-Semitism

On 22 January 2015, the United Nations General Assembly met to address the concerns of a rise in anti-Semitic violence worldwide. This informal meeting was the first of its kind and began with a keynote speech by Mr. Bernard-Henri Lévy, French intellectual, philosopher and writer, Keynote speaker, who implored those in attendance that “when a Jew is struck, humanity falls to the ground.”

On the subject of the new European wave of anti-Semitism, the Representative of the European Union to the United Nations noted, in a statement reaffirmed by all EU representatives, that the several incidents in Europe culminating in the “attacks in Brussels and Paris” assault the heart of the European Union’s “common values.” On that note, H.E. Harlem Desir, State Secretary for European Affairs, France stated that combatting anti-Semitism is combatting hatred, ignorance and impunity. H.E. Samantha Power, Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations and member of President Obama’s Cabinet, reiterated that “any Jew in France, in Europe, or anywhere in the world who fears wearing a kippah, shopping in a [kosher] market, putting up a mezuzah, or fears living in a Jewish community is a victim of anti-Semitism,” and reminded the GA that “when the human rights of Jews are repressed, the rights of other groups are often not far behind.”

CFP: “Music as Resistance to Genocide” International Workshop — 26 October 2015, Los Angeles

We have received the following CALL FOR PAPERS which may interest our readers: International Workshop “Music as Resistance to Genocide” Organized by the USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research in collaboration with the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 26 October 2015, Los Angeles, CA The Center for Advanced Genocide Research at the USC…

University of Chicago and Free Speech on Campus

Earlier this month, the University of Chicago released a praiseworthy update to its policy on freedom of speech.  The policy protects free academic discourse and speakers’ rights to address controversial topics, while also setting forth principles about students’ responsibilities to respect guest speakers and fellow students, and about the University’s need to prevent disruptions to…