All forms of anti-Semitism are bad but some are more worrying than others. Universities should, in theory, be the last place where Jews in liberal democracies should feel ill at ease. Anti-Semitism on campus is now a serious problem. University teachers like Roger Faurison in France have used their academic posts to generate the hateful denial of the Holocuast, an insult to the millions of Jews around the world who live daily with the memory of family gassed and cremated to satisfy Hitler's anti-Semitic desires. American universities have long given tenure and shelter to academics who are careful never to criticize Jews outright but instead revert to old metaphors about networks of Jewish influence and, of course, relentless criticism of Israel.
It is vital for the global anti-Semitism movement to win the hearts and minds of the young. Give me a child at seven and he is mine for life, said the Jesuits, as they realized that controlling the schools of Catholic Europe from the 18th century onwards would be the greatest service they could render the Church. So too the call of the Jew-haters is to win over as many young minds as possible to hatred of Israel and to a belief that Jews constitute a malign conspiracy of control. It is on university campuses that serious money is spent to export the Jewhating theo-ideology of Wahabism.
Anti-Jewish political groups like Hizb-ut-Tahrir seek to have a formal presence on campuses. This is how Ed Hussain, recalling his time as a college student in London, describes what he calls the "Islamist control of Muslim student population... At many universities the tactics of confrontation and consolidation of Muslim feeling under the leadership of Hizb activists were being adopted. The Hizb confronted the Jewish...lecturers.... What dumbfounded us was the fact that the authorities on campuses never stopped us." Hussain had been attracted to Islamism as a school-boy. A poster in his bed room quoted the famous appeal of Hassan al-Banna, the grandfather of Tariq Ramadan and founder of the Muslim Brotherhood:
Allah is our Lord.
Mohammed is our Leader. The Koran is Our Constitution. Jihad is Our Way.
Martydom is Our Desire.
All over the world students at school or university put up posters of "revolutionary" heroes like Che, or Mao, today Hugo Chavez or Sheik Nazrullah, without thinking through what they really stand for or have done. But how many have gone to sleep having done their homework under a poster urging jihad and expressing a desire for martyrdom?
At his college, Hussain helped cover the college walls as well as those in the street outside with a poster reading "Islam: The Final Solution" because "deep down, we never really objected to the Holocaust... Without question we despised Jews and perceived a Jewish conspiraracy." Like a con-man who changes his name as he moves from town, Hizb is also adept at adopting new guises as it seeks to win over students to its anti-Semitic core beliefs. Islamist spokesmen have denounced Hussain's expose of Hizb anti-Jewish work on campuses as being a lone example of what happened in the 1990s. Yet the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Anti-Semitism reported that in December 2005, the Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK organized a debate under the title "Zionism: The Greatest Enemy of the Jews." Some of the listed speakers were known to have expressed anti-Semitic opinions on previous occasions and the university cancelled the event. MPACUK riposted on its website saying "Jewish Societies" were the same as "Zionist Socities." It accused Jewish students of working for Mossad and put up a picture of Spiderman using the classicial anti-Semitic motif of Jews spinning a web of control. In 2002, the University of Manchester Students' Union discussed a motion that anti-Zionism was not anti-Semitism. The General Union of Palestinian Students distributed a leaflet before the vote which repeated classic anti-Semitic propaganda including the Benjamin Franklin forgery circulated by the Nazis, which claimed the American statesman had written an anti-Jewish tract in the 18th century which called Jews "vampires." The motion was defeated. The response of the Jew-haters was to throw a brick through the window of a Jewish student residence and a poster with the words "Slaughter the Jews" was stuck on the front door.
So Ed Hussain's description of Islamist anti-Semitism on the campus is far from an isolated example from the 1990s; the Jew-hatred in British universities has intensified this century. In 2005, the Glasgow-based national Scottish paper, The Herald, reported that Hizb, and other Islamist groups with different names but sharing the same political gene pool and anti-Jewish obsessions, were seeking to infiltrate Scottish universities. A Hizb spokesman admitted that the extremist organization was seeking to work "in Glasgow, Dundee and Edinburgh universities." Al Muhajiroun, the breakaway group from Hizb and arguably even more violent in its anti-Semitism, was also active in Dundee and other universities. According to The Herald, Dundee University "said it had no knowledge of radical Islamic groups being active on its campus" while "Edinburgh University said it... did not object to religious groups holding meetings on campus as long as they operated within the law and did not deploy inappropriate tactics." But both Hizb and Al Muharjiroun exist to snuff out free speech and replace democracy. They are not religious groups in the same sense as Quakers, or Buddhists, or Mormons, or Orthodox Christians who wish to share their views on faith with others. Hizb and its off-shoots are deeply political and refuse to join in campaigns to condemn attacks on Jews worldwide.
The National Union of Students seeks valiantly to combat such hate extremism and has adopted a "No Platform" policy which seeks to urge each NUS body on each campus to reject the efforts of the Hizb-BNP-al Mauhajiroun alliance against Jews. The anti-Semitic BNP is also active on campuses seeking supporters for resolutions at student unions which call for complete free speech. This attractive-sounding proposition is aimed at efforts of democratic students' unions to deny platforms on the campus to hate speech and those who, of course, deny all free speech in countries where their ideology wins power. A Hizb spokesman, Dr. Imran Waheed, also lined up with the BNP when he said, "We are trying to overturn the NUS ban which we believe is completely unjustified."
Jewish students, like Muslim students or students of any kind, should feel free in their universities from the hate that may confront them in wider society. The role of the liberal university tradition is to defend liberty, not to promote politics that reduce it. One would have thought that all adults who teach or administer our universities would subscribe to that vision.
One might also assume that university teachers would live in some relation to reality. Now listen to these three American academics. Natana DeLong-Bas, a lecturer in theology at Boston College, as well as in the Department of Near East and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University, says that she does "not find any evidence that makes me agree that Osama bin Laden was behind the attack on the Twin Towers. All we have heard from him was simply praise and commendation of those who had carried out the operation." And she is allowed to guide the minds of the young?
Or Joseph Massad, a Columbia University professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history, who has written "all those in the Arab world who deny the Holocaust are, in my opinion, Zionists." Sorry. Can we read that again? Holocaust deniers are Zionists? What else does this man believe? Then there is Hatem Bazian, a senior lecturer in Islamic studies at University of California, Berkeley, who states that "it's about time that we have an intifada in this country that changes fundamentally the political dynamics in here." Perhaps my generation of Brits who spent much of our adult lives worrying about the terrorist bombs and sectarian killings of the IRA and Unionist supremacists won't find that funny.
-Reprinted with permission from Globalising Hatred: The New Anti-Semitism by Denis Mac-Shane, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. © Denis Mac-Shane 2008.