Campuses in the US and UK, once places for the enlightenment and ideological progress of society, have descended into epicenters of vicious anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli sentiment, two sides of the same coin. They have become hotbeds of fundamentalist political agendas sponsored by special interest groups. A recent visit by a group of my students to Oxford University in England confirmed this perception. The Jewish professors they spoke with anxiously await retirement due to the hostile atmosphere and threats against them. Conditions will only worsen unless we Jews take this situation into our own hands and unite.
As part of a research project about anti-Semitism, some of my students conducted a series of interviews with scholars and professors in the UK who have faced anti-Semitism in academia. According to their testimonials (which will be compiled into a documentary to be aired later this year), they have been victims of threats and harassment for being Jewish or for supporting Israel, a country constantly under attack on both American and European college campuses.
Jew-hatred dressed as so-called “legitimate criticism” of Israel and its policies, singles out the Jewish state for harsh accusations of “apartheid” and “genocide.” “Israel Apartheid Week” claims to be mushrooming this year into 200 events held across 30 countries on five continents. And where are the events’ preferred venues? Indeed, they are in the very college campuses where the seeds of anti-Semitism are being methodically planted and harvested.
Recently, an officer of a student minority group at Bristol University in the UK, whose role is to combat prejudice on campus, told a Jewish student to “be like Israel and cease to exist.” This is no isolated case of bigotry against Jews. In the beginning of the year, hundreds of students voted against allowing the creation of a Jewish Society at Essex University after a member of the British university’s Amnesty International group urged students to reject it arguing that the initiative was not “politically neutral.” This reflects the tendency shown in a 2017 survey of 485 Jewish students in England: two-thirds of the survey’s respondents reported being targeted on campus because of their Jewishness.
In the last few years, millions of dollars have been injected into universities around the world to advance anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish agendas, all sponsored by foreign governments and organizations whose aim is to advance their anti-Semitic rhetoric and agendas. While faculties are permissive, under the guise of pluralism, even Jewish academics jump on the bandwagon to actively support and promote these causes, as paradoxical as it may seem. By way of illustration, last year, the American Association of University Professors issued a statement attacking Israel for banning professors who are active members of the BDS movement against the Jewish state.
What Can Be Done About Such a Highly-Funded and Methodical Approach to Anti-Semitism and Israel Delegitimization?
As I explained in my recent article, “If you were donating to combat anti-Semitism, where would you donate?” any effort to confront the growing plague of Jew-hatred and demonization of Israel with costly campaigns will be useless, as witnessed by the fact that they have borne no fruit up until now.
We Jews are a nation conceived in order to bring connection and unity to the world. When we fail to carry out our vocation, our ancient sages tell us that the nations instinctively feel that there is no justification for our presence here on Earth, and unmerciful anti-Semitism unfolds and spreads in every field in which Jews are engaged. It is written in The Book of Zoharthat when we do not carry out our mission, “Woe unto them [Jews], for with these actions they bring about the existence of poverty, ruin, and robbery, looting, killing and destructions in the world” (Tikkuney Zohar, 30).
In other words, our only shield is our unity. As it is written, “The prime defense against calamity is love and unity. When there are love, unity, and friendship between each other in Israel, no calamity can come over them” (Maor Vashemesh).
Before the ruin of the Temple, our forefathers developed a unique method of connection. They did not suppress one another’s characteristics, nor did they exploit one another. Each used their individual skills for the common good, thereby creating a society that both supported everyone’s personal fulfillment while strengthening the social fabric that kept it together.
In order for us to unite today, we need not suppress or downplay our differences. What is required from us is simply to rise above the differences that separate us. Today, that same simple-yet-effective method of connection that our forefathers perfected and committed to sharing with the nations is imperative for the survival of our society. The world is telling us that it is time to return to our roots and reignite our mutual responsibility, putting into practice the principle of “love your neighbor as yourself.” By doing so, true peace and tranquility will prevail on campuses and in every walk of life.
Featured in The Times of Israel