In 2011, the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter at Northeastern University, which was suspended by the university administration this past year for its bigoted conduct toward Jewish students, decided to hijack a Holocaust remembrance event on campus in order to publicly protest the existence Israel.
Unfortunately, the memory of the Holocaust is too often abused by enemies of Israel or Jewish life – in the past two weeks swastika graffiti has appeared on the campuses of both Emory University and Yale University.
Woefully, the faceless nature of the swastika graffiti – the vandals have yet to be identified on either campus – place the incidents on the less extreme side of anti-Jewish activity this year. The negative experiences of too many students sympathetic to Israel’s cause and purpose on many North American campuses extend well beyond spotting chalked or spray-painted swastikas on campus.
In August, a Jewish student of Temple University was punched in the face by a peer. I soon spoke to the victim, who phoned me from the hospital. He explained that when he approached the table of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at a campus activities fair to correct inaccurate claims in their literature, tensions escalated to the point that one anti-Israel student blindsided him and smacked him across the face. When I spoke to two witnesses over the phone, they told me that the victim had been called a “kike” soon after being punched.
At Ohio University, in early September, the student body president took the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge,” but instead of conducting the charity fund-raiser in a typical fashion, she dumped a bucket of fake blood on herself in support of alleged Palestinian suffering at the hands of the Israeli state.
In the video she made of her theatrics, she explained: “As student senate president, I’m sending a message of student concern about the genocide in Gaza and the occupation of Palestine by the Israeli state” before endorsing the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel.
Just weeks later on the campus of Loyola University, SJP verbally assaulted Jewish students, hurling a variety of insults at them before creating a human wall to block their attempt to advertise a Birthright Israel trip.
One student told The College Fix, an online paper, that members of SJP approached the table and asked students, “How does it feel to be an occupier?” and “How does it feel to be guilty of ethnic cleansing?” The SJP chapter was later temporarily suspended.
Unrelenting vilification of Israel on college campuses is fueled partly by ignorance, but often simultaneously byan animus toward at least one leg of the “Israeli trifecta”: The State of Israel, the Land of Israel and the Judeo-Christian values which shape Israeli society. The first group of ideologues spends the majority of its time taking issue with how it perceives certain policies of the State of Israel. Often these students are ignorant as to the reality on the ground and find it easy to side with the perceived Palestinian underdog as the story is told in the mainstream media.
The lens under which Israel’s behavior is measured more closely resembles a proctoscope than a microscope.
But almost without fail, those American college students who spend the their time rallying against policies of the State of Israel spend just a little too much time surrounded by folks who take an issue with the Land of Israel. This second group of students attempts to erase any connection between the Jewish people and their homeland. And while members of this group likely deny harboring any overt hatred toward the Jewish people, they simply hate Israel with a fervor that they do not apply to other nations or issues.
And almost without fail those who claim to take issue simply with Israel as a modern nation-state spend too much time promoting and cheering individuals that deeply oppose the Judeo-Christian values for which the Jewish people and the State of Israel, and America, stand. The third group largely manifests through overt hatred and is the reason why Holocaust remembrance events are exploited to protest Israel. It is this toxic mix, with some overlap, that leaves groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine and J Street as the self-appointed guardians of human rights and Arab nationalistic narratives. Concern for the plight of Arab, women and LGBTQ citizens of the Arab and Muslim world do as much to stir fervor in Students for Justice in Palestine as water helps power an automobile.
It’s a non-starter. They’d rather reprimand Israel and fuel their group’s engine with pernicious rage toward the Jewish state – the Palestinian cause is relegated to nothing more than a figurative tool to ostracize Israel though noxious combination of hatred, intimidation and radicalism on campus.
On September 22, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is in the tenth year of his four-year term, addressed a crowd at Cooper Union in New York City.“I have held in my own hand and seen the seeds of peace,” he explained. “The seeds of peace are the young Palestinians, Israelis and others all over the world who form peace groups on college campuses, like J Street and Students for Justice in Palestine, those are the seeds of peace.” Abbas’ remarks about campus organizations are notable because they are concurrent with his constant, deliberate encouragement of a Palestinian narrative that seeks to demonize and destroy Israel rather than unite and build a future Palestine.
The current forces aligned against Israel on campus fuel an atmosphere of hatred and disdain, which must be rejected immediately.
While groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine openly promote evil, the more ostensibly moderate must be challenged as well.
Evil is evil, as in the case of SJP. But it is also evil to actively work to elevate groups and people, under a guise of legitimacy, that promote a form of global collectivism that curiously enough leaves room for everyone and every state but the Jewish one. Groups such as J Street must be held to account for this behavior.
In his October 14 article in The Wall Street Journal, Bret Stephens wrote that “[n]ature abhors a vacuum, and so does power: American retreat means someone else – someone we don’t like – is going to step in.” While Stephens warned of a geopolitical climate absent an active and functioning US foreign policy, the threat of a vacuum jockeyed by inimical voices looms large on college campuses. If we leave an opportunity for those with misguided and insidious ideologies to take over the narrative, manipulate the truth and dictate the tone of the atmosphere on campus, they will.
Those on campus interested in Israel’s cause have a moral responsibility to speak out and demand the presence of a moral compass – insisting on the elevation of humanity and modernity over barbarism. Are we prepared to handle the repercussion of a generation of college students familiar with the concept of justice solely absent a rigid definition? We shouldn’t test it.
The author is a senior at Brandeis University, a reporter for TruthRevolt.org and a contributor to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.