On Tuesday, April 8, Jonathan Adelman, a renowned expert on Middle East security who served as Condoleezza Rice's dissertation advisor at the University of Denver, granted the Review an exclusive interview on the topic of antisemitism in the populace at large and on college campuses.
Jonathan Adelman is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and Professor in the School of International Studies at the University of Denver. The Review's interview was made possible by the Stanford Israeli Alliance, which hosted Professor Adelman for a conversation with campus student leaders that took place immediately after the interview.
Responding to the question of how American attitudes toward the the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have changed in the past year in response to world events, Professor Adelman argued that the conflict in Iraq has transformed popular thinking in an overall positive way. What Adelman calls the "mushy middle" of Americans, many of whom have in recent years sympathized with Palestinians for humanitarian reasons, have become more sensitive to images of death by terrorism in Israel.
In Professor Adelman's view, many of the radical activists who have popularized anti-Israeli rhetoric have become so preoccupied with events in Iraq that they have forgotten about Israel and Palestine, leaving their followers to rethink their reasons for supporting Palestine. When even the Palestinian Prime Minister has in the past month called the Intifada against Israel "a mistake," the terrorist activities carried out by extremist Palestinian groups have, in Professor Adelman's mind, become viewed for what they are, "the murder of innocents."
At the same time, the radical activists' shift to the anti-war movement has, in Professor Adelman's opinion, also drawn more attention to the death toll resultant from terrorist activities in Israel. In his view, it is impossible for the public eye to turn away from the brutality of the Intifada at the same time as activists condemn US action in Iraq for opening the possibility of creating civilian casualties. For the rest of the "mushy middle"--about 50% of American adults--the common response seems to be to wish "a plague on both your houses," reflecting disgust with a long-standing conflict in which both sides carry blame for misery and misunderstanding.
Applying his analysis specifically to American college campuses, Professor Adelman argued that there has been "really a change" for the better in terms of openness toward Jewish organizations. Although he granted a theoretical distinction between antisemitism and anti-Israelism, Professor Adelman argued that there has been a historical correlation of the two that is only now beginning to be debunked. Only with a rise in political activism by Jewish organizations on campuses have American college students begun to be pulled away from the stereotype of Jews as a "small, secret cabal controlling the world." As an example, Professor Adelman offered the fact that "Jews support the war in Iraq far less than the average American."
Nonetheless, Professor Adelman warned that "antisemitism is still rising." On campuses, he pointed at radical academics--among whom the professor cited the "virulent" Stanford History professor Joel Beinin--rather than students. Professor Adelman linked lingering suspicions about the Israeli state with a practice he labels the "blame game," a practice of finding scapegoats for the misfortunes of certain groups.
This analysis links anti-Israelism with anti-Americanism manifested most egregiously in the activities of Al-Qaeda. Because the Arab world remains tragically impoverished and subjugated by tyrannical dictators despite a wealth of natural resources, he believes, an overwhelming "sense of frustration" has given rise to an ideology of blame targeting Israel, which Osama bin-Laden labeled "little Satan" in contrast with the US' "great Satan" status.
The professor took pains to clarify that he sympathized with the "oppressed" in nations like Iraq, Syria, and Iran, making clear that he did not wish to give the impression of stereotyping Palestinians as an ethnic group as "anti-Israeli." He did, however, make clear the sociopolitical warrant for his generalization that Israel and the United States both make convenient scapegoats.
Although, in Professor Adelman's view, we university students can thus be happy with progress made in the diminution of campus intolerance, we must be honest with ourselves and not deal out blame too frivolously. Antisemitism--and, indeed, most discrimination--"starts with anti-Americanism."