Shortly after the September 11th terrorist attacks on the U.S., a barbaric student "art" exhibit applauding terrorism opened at a Palestinian university in Nablus. The exhibit included a grisly re-enactment of last year´s Sbarro pizzeria suicide bombing in Jerusalem. Masquerading as art were severed limbs and charred baby remains in strollers. A few months later, a pro-Palestinian rally took place on another university campus. Featured were posters of soup cans depicted with drops of blood and dead babies, labeled "canned Palestinian children meat, slaughtered according to Jewish rites under American license", posters reading "Zionism=racism" and "Jews=Nazis" and maps of the Middle East that did not include Israel.
No, this rally did not take place on a Middle East campus. It took place at San Francisco State University this past April on Holocaust Memorial Day under the guise of academic freedom and freedom of speech. A month later, a peaceful pro-Israel rally took place at the same location. Pro-Palestinian supporters surrounded the Jewish students, shouting "go back to Russia", "get out or we will kill you", "Die, racist pigs" and "Hitler did not finish the job."
Anti-Semitism is back. It has found fertile ground upon which to rear its ugly head and grow its detestable ideals - at North American universities. Just two weeks ago, at Yale, a posterboard memorial to 14 Israelis killed in a bus bombing in late October was torn and scattered across the lawn the next morning. At Indiana University, a pig´s head was left at the door of the campus Hillel center for Jewish students. At the University of Chicago, campus buildings and pro-Israel fliers were defaced with anti-Jewish graffiti. At the University of California-Berkeley, Jewish students were badly beaten. At the University of Colorado, swastikas were scrawled on a Jewish structure. And the list goes on. Who would have believed that vehement hatred of the Jews would be exported to North America from the Middle East and spouted from our universities?
Just over a month ago, a violent pro-Palestinian riot that degenerated into a Hobbesian "war of all against all" blocked former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu from speaking at Montreal´s Concordia University. Similarly, two years ago hundreds of demonstrators prevented Netanyahu from speaking at the University of California-Berkeley. Yet, pro-Arafat Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi had no problem delivering her keynote address at Colorado College at a symposium on the September 11th terrorist attacks, despite the fact that she represents a people who, barely an hour after the 9/11 terror attacks, paraded euphorically in the streets of several Palestinian cities in celebration of the carnage in the U.S.
Not surprising. For the Palestinians, violence is an accepted means to an end. Take a look at Article 9 of the 1968 PLO Covenant: "Armed struggle is the only means to liberate Palestine." This sheds light on why Arafat did not offer a counterproposal to the extremely generous Israeli peace offer at Camp David back in July 2000, but instead resorted to violence in launching a second intifada.
Our universities are being hijacked. They are becoming political forums to disseminate anti-Semitic propaganda under the guise of free speech advocacy. The current focus of anti-Semitism is the nation-wide divest-from-Israel campaign. It was introduced at a pro-Palestinian conference hosted by the University of California-Berkeley this spring, urging academic institutions in the U.S. to stop investing in corporations that do business with Israel. It was a campaign that was modeled on the successful divestment drive against apartheid South Africa in the late 1980s.
Equating Israel to apartheid South Africa is nonsense. Israel is one of the world´s most multi-ethnic societies. It is an open society with democratic institutions. There is freedom of religion, freedom of press and an independent judiciary, the only one if its kind in the Middle East whereby Arabs can expect justice. People who express political opposition are not killed or tortured as they are in Islamic countries. Over a million Israeli Arabs have the right to vote. There are Arab members of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. And Israel has sworn in its first openly gay Knesset member. Regarding the disputed territories, they were seized in a self-defensive war in response to threats of liquidation by the surrounding Arab states, and not for colonial expansion purposes. Furthermore, Israel is willing to exchange land for a real peace.
Nevertheless, a group at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology signed a joint online petition to divest from Israel. Over 50 campuses have petition campaigns. In September, Harvard President Lawrence Summers accused the divestment campaign of being anti-Semitic in nature and denounced academic activists at his own university for singling out Israel, the only democratic nation in the Middle East. The barbaric crimes of theocracies such as Iran and of totalitarian police states such as Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya and Saudi Arabia are downplayed and have drawn little attention. Where are the voices of outrage?
In mid-October, a second pro-Palestinian conference urging divestment from Israel took place at the University of Michigan. It called for ending U.S. aid to Israel and for the Right-of-Return for Palestinian refugees to Israel - in other words, denying Israel´s right to exist. It condemned Zionism as racist but did not condemn suicide bombings or the corrupt Palestinian leadership.
Moslem and Arab student organizations, aided by anti-American leftist Israel-bashers, are making North American campuses hell for Jewish students. These students are feeling increasingly threatened by anti-Semitic propaganda that has often devolved into vile and violent acts. These anti-Semitic libels and violent outbursts are tolerated by the administration and often encouraged by the professors themselves, who use the classroom to indoctrinate students with anti-Israel hatred. These professors are calling for the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state and equating Zionism with Nazism. Many professors refer to Israel as "Palestine" in their lectures, and course material normalizes the Nazi treatment of Jews. At the University of Toronto, faculty members have used their university titles and facilities to circulate a petition denouncing Israel for "atrocities" and "crimes against humanity."
We continue to permit anti-Semitic spewings under that laziest of intellectual umbrellas, the freedom of speech and artistic expression. Allowing Jews to be harassed on campus will eventually inspire similar tactics against non-Jews. Christian infidels are likely to be next in line. What can we do?
First, it is our duty to inform the public of these issues and create awareness. Failing to force the issue to the forefront merely legitimizes the anti-Semitic vile acts and empowers the perpetrators of evil to do more. It causes them to think that they are free to share their virulent anti-Semitic rage openly as they once did back in the 1930s, paving the way to the Holocaust. Daniel Pipes, Director of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum, has been criticized for his newly-launched website, Campus Watch (www.Campus-Watch.org), which monitors professors and universities for unjustified anti-Israel bias.
Second, it is time for administrators and faculty members to get involved, and boldly challenge and immediately condemn anti-Jewish hatred in campus. They must also oppose political indoctrination in the classroom and the propagation of one-sided anti-Semitic views and hatred of Jews and of Israel. Otherwise we might end up seeing that infamous anti-Semitic Russian book that played a crucial role in fomenting anti-Semitism in Europe, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, imported into North American society from the Arab world - where it is a bestseller (and has evolved into a television series in Egypt to be broadcast to millions of people for the month of Ramadan) - and circulated on our campuses under the guise of freedom of expression. But wait, it already has been, at the University of California-San Diego, at its annual Anti-Zionism Week, supported by the university´s Student Council fund.
Finally, we must push to implement fair and clear speech codes on campus and to penalize those who do not abide by them. We should have learned by now how easily terrorists have turned our own freedoms against us. We must learn to safeguard those freedoms and to prevent their abuse as a smokescreen to espouse hate and violence. We must defend our universities against falling prey to the Middle East madrassah mentality. Wake up world, the threat is real.
Cynthia Yacowar-Sweeney is a research associate with the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research (CIJR) in Montreal, and a freelance journalist.