It appears that contagion of politicizing Middle East Studies programs currently raging in our universities has metastasized to Jewish studies as well. Campus Watch editors report that in March 2011, an open letter was signed by 30 University of California Jewish Studies faculty members attempting to rationalize the disruption by Muslim students of a lecture by Michael Oren, Israeli's Ambassador to the United States, at the University of California Irvine campus a month earlier.
Posted as "Stand With The Eleven" (the 11 being the offending members of the radical Muslim Student Union charged with a misdemeanor conspiracy to disturb a meeting), the letter states:
"As faculty affiliated with Jewish Studies at the University of California, we are deeply distressed by the decision of the District Attorney in Orange County, California, to file criminal charges against Muslim students who disrupted Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren's speech on the UC Irvine campus last year. While we disagree with the students' decision to disrupt the speech, we do not believe such peaceful protest should give rise to criminal liability. The individual students and the Muslim Student Union were disciplined for this conduct by the University, including suspending the MSU from functioning as a student organization for a quarter. This is sufficient punishment. There is no need for further punitive measures, let alone criminal prosecution and criminal sanctions."
You might assume that in the interests of a free and open campus, a college administration and faculty would recognize the implicit danger to the academic enterprise when force is employed to prevent a speaker from delivering his lecture. Despite the claim in the letter, the protest was not peaceful, and the penalties imposed are mild by any standard. But what is particularly notable, based on the research of Campus Watch editors, is that the signatories to the letter all share antipathy to the state of Israel. One is an apologist for Hamas; another supports an Israeli divestment bill; a third refers to Israel as "an apartheid regime;" and a forth claims the Israel lobby "has the power to silence its critics."
Moreover, these same professors have averted their gaze to the rising tide of anti-semitism on campus. Jewish students reportedly have been subjected to swastikas, anti-semitic graffiti and physical and verbal aggression. Yet the response on campus has been restrained (arguably, non-existent).
Kenneth Marcus, head of the Anti-Semitism Initiative at the Institute for Jewish and Community Research, wrote that the examples cited have "become sadly emblematic of a wave of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incidents that have rippled across the county, nowhere more so than in the 'Golden State,' which has become an epicenter for the new Anti-Semitism in America."
It is surprising that the professors in Jewish Studies are more concerned with the status of Muslim students than the attacks against Jews.
On second thought, this may not be surprising. In this instance, the radical sensibility trumps religious affiliation. By invoking attitudes toward Muslim students in their letter, these Jewish Studies professors, by implication, are addressing values detrimental to the academic environment. Yet curiously, anti-Semitic hatred and violence do not get their attention.
One of the signatories, UC Davis professor David Biale, criticized a Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights' statement protecting Jewish students from ethnic or racial based harassment. He said, this is "a very bizarre tactic," because, as he noted, "the Jews are a group with power." Apparently Professor Biale has overlooked the growing influence of Muslims in the U.S. and elsewhere, or the oil card played by Muslim-dominated states, or the 57 Muslim nations in the UN that vote as a bloc, or even equal justice under law.
Of course, none of this makes any difference to those driven by an ideological aversion to Jews and Israel. Jewish self hatred is not new, but it is no less nauseating in its present form.