Sources of Antisemitism
There are two primary sources of anti-Jewish sentiment on American college and university campuses: members of Muslim and Pro-Palestinian student organizations and anti-Israel faculty. In addition, two secondary sources that contribute to the problem are anti-Israel community groups and university administrators.
1. Muslim and Pro-Palestinian Student Organizations – The first major source of campus antisemitism are members of Muslim and pro-Palestinian student organizations such as the Muslim Student Association (MSA/MSU), with more than 600 chapters in North America; and the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), with more than 100 chapters. These groups have sponsored speakers, films, exhibits and guerrilla theater that engage in discourse or use imagery and language considered anti-Semitic by the U.S. State Department.
Students from MSA and SJP groups have also been responsible for aggressively confronting Jewish students at pro-Israel events and for disrupting pro-Israel speakers, such as the talk of the Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren at UC Irvine in 2010. These students have also been responsible for incidents in which Jewish students have been threatened, physically harassed, and assaulted, as well as incidents in which Jewish communal property has been vandalized or destroyed.
Finally, promoting BDS campaigns on college campuses is part of SJP’s stated mission, and many SJP groups, assisted by MSA groups, have been responsible for promoting BDS campaigns, accompanied by talks, rallies and exhibits which contain antisemitic imagery, rhetoric and action. SJP members on dozens of campuses have lobbied for divestment resolutions to be considered by their student senates, and to date 3 divestment resolutions have succeeded: at Hampshire College, Arizona State University and University of California Irvine. We anticipate a number of successful divestment campaigns on college campuses in the coming year.
2. Anti-Israel Faculty – Over the last several years, there have been numerous reports of professors at colleges and universities throughout the country who have used their classrooms and class or other university resources, as well as the names and resources of their academic departments, to promote an anti-Israel or anti-Zionist political agenda that includes efforts to harm and even eliminate the Jewish state.
Some faculty have used their classrooms and class resources to present students with a virulently anti-Israel or anti-Zionist perspective and to encourage students to engage in activism to harm Israel. For example, a UC Santa Barbara professor of Sociology emailed to all of the students in his class approximately 50 pairs of disturbing photographs juxtaposing the behavior of Nazi soldiers during World War II with the alleged behavior of Israeli soldiers during the 2008 – 2009 Gaza war. In his email, the professor accused Israel of being a Nazi state and perpetrating genocide against the Palestinians.
In many cases, antisemitic content is injected into academic programming through departmentally sponsored talks, symposia and conferences. For example, six departments at the University of Hawaii sponsored a ten-day symposium, “Remember the Nakba,” which featured numerous virulently anti-Israel events, including a workshop on “Divestment and Boycott” presented by a UH professor. In some cases, academic units endorse or co-sponsor the anti-Israel events or behavior of Muslim or pro-Palestinian student and community groups. For example, a recent BDS workshop at Brooklyn College, sponsored by that college’s SJP and many other BDS- supporting student and community organizations, was also sponsored and endorsed by the BC Political Science department.
3. Anti-Israel Community Groups – At many universities, anti-Israel community groups are given carte blanche to come onto campus and participate in campus events often through co-sponsorship with the Muslim or pro-Palestinian student organizations. Some of these groups, such as Al-Awda and the International Solidarity Movement, advocate the elimination of the Jewish state and are known to have ties to terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
4. University Administrators – Administrators at many universities have been unwilling to address or even acknowledge acts of antisemitism, and often engage in a clear discriminatory double standard – rhetoric and behavior that would never be tolerated from either students or faculty when directed against other campus minorities go unchallenged by administrators when they are directed against the Jews. Instead, administrators routinely turn a blind eye to the antisemitic behavior of students, faculty and outside groups, on the grounds that it is protected by freedom of speech and academic freedom. In so doing, they fail to enforce university policy and state and federal laws, which ensure the protection of Jewish students.