Reasonable people should be shocked that a McGill University student leader recently tweeted “Punch a Zionist Today.” Unfortunately, having watched the Campus Hate Swarm against Israel intensify over the years, it’s shocking that anyone is shocked.
Garbage in, garbage out. In the twisted world of radical campus politics, illiberal liberals forget that “liberal” and “broad-minded” once were synonyms. The herd mentality rules; loyalty to faction trumps intellectual independence. The anti-Israel indoctrination is so thorough, the demonization of Zionism so intense, the incitement against Jews so commonplace. Anti-Zionists lumber like cattle toward one conclusion: branding Israel evil justifies any opposition, including violence.
When everything you hear, read and watch in the anti-Israel echo chamber blames Israel, with no complexity acknowledged, it seems reasonable to want to punch a Zionist. When propagandizing professors make classes fact-free Hate Israel rallies, it appears logical to want to punch a Zionist. When Regressive Progressives rationalize Palestinian terrorism as Israel’s fault, condescendingly absolving Arabs of any responsibility for anything they’ve done, it’s cool to want to punch a Zionist. And when this hate spirals into a Hate Swarm – belching forth from the traditional swamp of Jew hatred, it feels noble to want to punch a Zionist – and worse.
Discourse in the Age of Trump has become particularly combustible – encouraging multiple Hate Swarms. The intolerance of Donald Trump and his fans is propelling the intolerance of the supposedly tolerant toward new levels. Trump’s herd stampedes toward their likes and dislikes, labeling allies “worthy” and enemies “unworthy.” Disgusted, the anti-Trump herd stampedes into opposing attitudes that are similarly judgmental, fanatical, all-or-nothing, with-meor- against-me. Too many students and professors don’t even want universities to be centers of free thought and critical inquiry anymore. In this North American version of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, campuses continue degenerating into re-education camps: kinder, gentler, freer and built on lovelier ideals but nevertheless unnecessarily, abusively monolithic.
At least this student and his fellow anti-Jew “stuligans” – student hooligans who place Israel at the intersection of the world’s evils – are honest. Last spring, tweets from McGill boycott campaigners denouncing Zionists as “Jew boys” exposed the boycotters’ anti-Semitism (not “just” anti-Zionism). This punching threat shows that when mob rule overwhelms reasoned discourse, violence follows. Welcome to the anti-Jew Hate Swarm. Tragically, some campuses are now unsafe spaces, as demonizing Israel escalates from hating Zionists to hating Jews, from denunciations to violence.
Note the double standard: imagine the outrage if a McGill student representative advocated hitting women, blacks, gays, or Muslims. He wouldn’t have lasted 24 hours (as of this writing he hasn’t resigned).
Even after he apologized, when a Facebook friend volunteered “I can punch one for you,” this unrepentant stuligan “liked” the post.
Campus Zionists endure macro-aggressions, not micro-aggressions; serious targeting, not subtle triggering.
We demand thoughtful, respectful discourse, not coddling safe-spaces. Our feminist friends teach “take back the night”; let’s proudly call ourselves Zionists when others curse the label. Our African-American friends insist the burden of proof is on the bigot, not the victim of bigotry – the bullies should be shamed, not Israel.
The hatred didn’t start with this 22-year-old loudmouth.
His forerunners include traditional Jew haters who exaggerated the Jewish people’s influence, evil, centrality; bigots now treat the Jewish state, not the Jew, as similarly monstrous. His co-conspirators include the Blame-Israeli-Firsters who ignore Palestinian terrorism by obsessing about Israel’s settlements.
They include the Israel Apartheiders and BDSers, who eclipse thoughtful debates about Israeli policies with wild repudiations of Israel’s right to exist and rejections of Zionism’s idea that the Jews are a people with rights to the Jewish homeland. They include the Palestinian Big Liars who learned from Edward Said and Yasser Arafat that if you accuse Israel and Zionism of racism, colonialism and imperialism often enough, enough fools and fanatics will buy it. (Note once again that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is national, not racial; that Jewish ties to the land makes charges of colonialism ridiculous; and that Israel is to empires as a hamburger shack is to McDonald’s).
A swarm is “a throng or mass,” that is “moving or in turmoil.” To swarm “about, over, or in” is to “overrun.”
The term may come from the buzz crowds of insects generate. Other etymologists connect “swarm” to “swerve,” connoting “agitated, confused, or deflected motion.” The anti-Zionist bigots are an anti-Jewish Hate Swarm, an agitated horde, mindless like buzzards or bugs.
Remember, however, their buzz is more irritating than threatening.
A few anti-Jew stuligans doesn’t justify ranking McGill fourth on a silly list of the “Worst Campuses for Jewish Students.” Such exaggerations treat the annoying buzz like a lethal buzz-saw.
Vigilance doesn’t require hysterics. Condemn the boycott initiatives at McGill that students keep rejecting.
Fight the Tweeter-twits aggressively. But don’t slur a fine, complex institution – overstating the haters’ power and platform.
Let’s fight aggressively and effectively, affirmatively and passionately against this campus Hate Swarm which feeds hate more broadly. Rationalizing one form of hatred rationalizes all forms of hatred. Justifying violence against one school of thought breeds violence against other schools of thought – violating the mission of schools committed to free thought.
Finally, we need a “Jew-jitsu.” We are not victims.
Fight hatred with love. Zionists are tree-planters, not firefighters. We fight bigots by building. If they tweet “Punch a Zionist,” we should respond #HugAZionist and #HighFiveanIsraelSupporter, while launching our own Zionist renewal.The author, professor of history at McGill University and a visiting professor at the Ruderman Program at Haifa University, is the author of The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s, published by St. Martin’s Press. His next book will update Arthur Hertzberg’s The Zionist Idea. Follow on Twitter @GilTroy.
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