Commentary Magazine

Real Anti-Semitism on Campus

AP Photo/Eric Risberg

At Ithaca College, of six “bias-related incidents” reported in 2017-18, three were “cases of aggravated harassment involving swastikas.” One Jewish student there reported that a mezuzah “was knocked off of his door and damaged.” At Western Washington University’s library, seven Jewish Studies books were defaced with anti-Semitic slurs or destroyed, and someone drew a swastika on “a poster outside a faculty member’s office.” The University of Miami is investigating multiple anti-Semitic incidents, including one in which someone drew a “large swastika” on a whiteboard hanging on a Jewish student’s door. At Knox College, a professor of African Studies tweeted, among other things, that Jews are “pulling the strings for profit.” A faculty member involved in discussing the incident “found an anti-Semitic image had been slid under her office door.”

That’s a sampling of news stories appearing in the month of April.” This month, we learned of an incident at Towson University in which members of a Jewish fraternity “were walking near the campus when . . . two assailants began shouting “F*** the Jews” and called them by an ethnic slur.” The “assailants then began punching one of the fraternity members in the face.” The victims believe their assailants were fellow students. Last week, at UC-Irvine, amid an anti-Israel protest, a protester called a pro-Israel advocate a “Christ killer.”

The Anti-Defamation League has reported that anti-Semitic incidents were up 89 percent in 2017. There is no reason to think that 2018 will be a better year.

As the AMCHA Initiative’s useful but depressing “swastika tracker” indicates, incidents of anti-Semitism on campus are quite often perpetrated by people who are or are pretending to be neo-Nazis or white nationalists. According to the construct invented by some on right to justify these acts of subterfuge, no treatment is too harsh for the globalists who are betraying our country. A mirror image of this paradigm prevails in certain circles on the left. For supporters of the Jewish state, Jews who refuse to denounce the Jewish state, or sometimes just for Jews who are not card-carrying members of the anti-Israel movement, no treatment can be too harsh. After all, they are responsible for all that is wrong with America.

Left-wing anti-Semitism and right-wing anti-Semitism, then, need to be addressed, and no one who claims to care about anti-Semitism can address just one or the other. It must be said, however, that when it comes to campus anti-Semitism, our failure occurs almost wholly with respect to the left. To be sure, institutions often do quite well when anti-Semitism is absolutely blatant. On the other hand, the most thinly veiled anti-Semitism —for example the blood libel perpetrated by Jasbir Puar of Rutgers University—is not only tolerated but celebrated and rewarded. Academics are much more comfortable denouncing right-wing anti-Semitism, which is almost entirely an off-campus phenomenon, than left-wing anti-Semitism, which has a real, albeit small, foothold at our colleges and universities.

Of course, it also won’t do to exaggerate the extent of campus antisemitism on the right or the left. The Anti-Defamation League counted 204 incidents on America’s campuses. In a nation that has more than 5,000 colleges and universities, which educate some 20 million students, this number does not constitute an epidemic. To treat it as such would be to adopt the exaggerated posture toward prejudice on campus that has fixated some colleges and universities to the point of ill health on “diversity and inclusion.”

Instead, one should ask only that campus anti-Semitism be noticed and addressed to the extent it occurs. One should insist, however, that noticing and addressing campus anti-Semitism does not stop at denouncing swastikas and people who shout “Christ killer!” at Jews. It should include barely more subtle varieties of anti-Semitism of the sort practiced by Puar and others on the anti-Israel left. That is the kind of anti-Semitism on campus that is too often ignored, or, to the great discredit of what passes for “social justice” in the academy, even rewarded.

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