In the new academic year, what will student activists’ priorities be?

Will the new crop of students come to understand that regardless of who is doing the bombing and gassing of civilians (either the regime or the rebels), it is wrong and deserves protest and condemnation, and that those responsible must be held accountable as called for in international agreements?

By EDWARD S. BECK
September 16, 2013 22:05
2 minute read.
Bar Ilan Universtyi students [illustrative]

Bar Ilan Universtyi students college lawn hanging out 390. (photo credit: Courtesy Bar Ilan University)

Sociologically, we can learn a good bit about the future moral compasses of Americans as we look upon the causes they embrace while in college. Since the mid-2000’s student activists have been preoccupied with anti- Israelism and anti-Semitism based on the propaganda of those wishing for the destruction of Israel, claiming it is a “colonialist,” “racist and apartheid” regime.

Anti-Israel demonstrations and the BDS campaign struck aggressively at vulnerable colleges both great and minor in an unsuccessful but costly battle to sway young, impressionable minds that Israel was simply a bully colonialist power picking on the poor unfortunate Palestinians. This is likely to continue and although there may be some successes, clearly the movement has been overall a failure.

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Nevertheless, with the new year young students are at a crossroads in terms of their social awareness and moral development. They are going to have to make a declarative choice as to whether they are going to continue to demonize Israel for its efforts to exist in a hostile neighborhood or address the real moral outrages occurring in her Arab neighbor’s countries where dictators, misogynistic sheiks and military leaders fight off even more misogynistic and intolerant fundamentalist rebels, with all parties only agreeing on the genocidal destruction of Israel.

Will the new crop of students come to understand that regardless of who is doing the bombing and gassing of civilians (either the regime or the rebels), it is wrong and deserves protest and condemnation, and that those responsible must be held accountable as called for in international agreements? Or will they continue to drink the Kool-Aid of anti-Israel propaganda being pumped out by the very same forces engaged in these war crimes? Students are young and impressionable and anti-Israel forces know this. It is much easier to play into old anti-Semitic canards in order to divert from their own internecine deadly struggles for control and domination. Al Jazeera America reports on the injustices of American policy regarding Guantanamo, while not quite examining the real internal issues among Muslim factions seeking control of an ever-increasing caliphate, or their complete disregard for human life, whether civilian or military.

In Sudan, Ethiopia, Syria and other countries, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people are being slaughtered, oppressed, starved or forced from their homes by warring factions seeking to dominate and enslave the citizenry.

These are not fights between democratic and totalitarian forces. These are fights between totalitarian and even more totalitarian forces. Will students remain quiet on these issues, while focusing on boycotting Soda Stream and Ariel University? Although I am retired, I do hope my colleagues in the academy, if they have any vestige of dignity and morality left, will look to these comparisons critically this year as now they are in our collective faces and conscience and must be addressed with moral clarity.

In the past, the youth have pointed out when our moral compasses are off. That has not been the case in recent years and it is my hope that this new academic year brings some sanity, intelligence, reason and refocus on these issues of war and peace, human rights, freedom and democracy. In this ever-increasing multicultural world, we must look to universal precepts of morality, religion and law to guide us morally, and not to scapegoat those who are being victimized by the real forces of domination and totalitarianism.

The writer is a retired counselor and psychologist educator, cofounder and president emeritus of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.


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