When anti-Israel crosses the line into anti-Semitism

The college experience is for many young people their first independent experience away from home.

Jewish groups at UC Berkeley campus rally against anti-Israeli events (photo credit: FACEBOOK)
Jewish groups at UC Berkeley campus rally against anti-Israeli events
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
As parents, more than anything we try to protect our children from danger. We would never knowingly place them in an environment where they might suffer prejudice for being Jewish or feel unable to express their opinions for fear of persecution. And yet, thousands of Jewish American parents are unknowingly entrusting their children to college campuses that often don’t provide the safe and nurturing environment they had hoped for.
The college experience is for many young people their first independent experience away from home. During that period our kids will receive advanced education, find their adult voices, and express opinions on issues that are important to them. Sadly, on many college campuses that opportunity is being stolen from Jewish students.
This is what compelled me to produce Crossing the Line 2: The New Face of Anti-Semitism on Campus – Jerusalem U’s latest documentary. Anti-Semitism on campus is a weapon used not only against Israel, but also against American Jewry’s relationship with Israel and even its own Jewish future. Our children are the targets of this sophisticated and effective campaign of intimidation that regularly crosses the line into hatred. They are ill-prepared for what they are encountering at their colleges.
A most recent example is the student senate at Davis campus at University of California, which adopted an advisory resolution asking UC Regents to divest from businesses with connections to Israel. On the face of it, this would appear to be simply an expression of the political and social activism that is rightfully part of the college experience; but as we now know, what happened at UC Davis quickly crossed the line into anti-Semitism that has left Jewish students there feeling intimidated, and targeted.
At that meeting, Jewish students and supporters of Israel were heckled by shouts of “Allahu Akhbar” until they eventually walked out. Following the vote, UC Davis student senator and member of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) Azka Fayyaz wrote on Facebook: “Hamas and Sharia law have taken over at UC Davis.”
The next day anti-Semitic comments were found etched into the restroom tiles at UC Davis’ Hillel House, and students living at UC Davis’ AEPi house (a Jewish fraternity) awoke to find large swastikas painted on their home’s walls.
What happened at UC Davis is not an isolated incident – there were more than 700 anti-Israel demonstrations and events on US college campuses during the fall semester of 2014 alone. At Ohio U, pro-Israel students were arrested for protesting the deeply anti-Israel position of the college’s student body president.
They were led away to chants of “Nazis” and “fascists” and face pending criminal charges; equally shockingly, at Cornell University Students for Justice in Palestine chose to hold an anti-Israel demonstration the day after the Jerusalem synagogue massacre. They screamed “f**k you Zionist scum” and spat at Jewish students.
THE LEVEL of intimidation aimed at Jewish students on many campuses has reached intolerable levels and is too often crossing the line into clear anti-Semitism. It is causing young Jews to feel uncomfortable about expressing support for Israel or associating with those that do.
What is the long-term impact? The 2013 Pew Report made it clear that many Jews, already struggling with their Judaism, are vulnerable to assimilation.
The intimidation they face on campuses causes many to choose to further distance themselves from the Jewish people as a path of least resistance.
Their lack of positive and inspiring Jewish education denies them the opportunity to understand or put into context the well-orchestrated campaign against Israel. Even worse, young Jews with leadership ability are being successfully targeted and seduced to join anti-Israel groups like SJP or to Jewish organizations that claim to be pro-Israel when in fact they are pro-Palestinian.
Today, it is quite possible that if a study were done, we would find as many leaders in these groups fighting Israel as we have onside.
I produced Crossing the Line 2 as both a warning and a call to action. It educates people to distinguish legitimate criticism against Israeli policy from outright anti-Semitism. The film provides students, educators, parents and campus authorities the tools to recognize and withstand the pressure being applied against them. More than that, the film challenges the Jewish community and its leadership to take this issue very seriously and plan a comprehensive response to this growing problem. We must prepare our next generation for anti-Israel and anti-Semitic campaigns that they will inevitably face when they leave home and arrive at college.
Raphael Shore is the film’s producer and Jerusalem U’s CEO and founder. Crossing the Line2 premieres in New York on February 25 on 92nd Street Y.