National Post The college campus: Anti-Semitism's last North American refuge & Taking back the campus (National Post November 21 & 28, 2007)


National Post - Wednesday November 21st, 2007


A1930s Jewish joke has two Polish yeshiva students walking down the street, suddenly aware of a pair of anti-Semitic thugs behind them brandishing sticks. The boys flee, the hooligans in pursuit. As the chase continues, one Jew asks the other, "Why are we running? There are only two of them, and we are two." "Yes," says his friend, "But they are together and we are alone."

That's the kind of joke the birth of the State of Israel 60 years ago was to have rendered obsolescent. A literal phoenix risen from the ashes, Israel was a source of pride to all Jews, and widely accepted throughout the West as the nail in the coffin of systematic anti-Semitism.

We mistakenly took a brief remission for a cure. A new strain of the old cancer is metastasizing throughout Western countries with large, alienated Muslim populations. The new international, Israel-focused anti-Semitism -- the 2001 Durban Conference was a classic manifestation --joins fascist Muslims and left-wing ideologues in common cause.

The new Jew-hatred isn't characterized by brutal government-sponsored Kristallnachts. It is covert and "respectable." Indeed, wearing the fig leaf of anti-Zionism, Israel hatred in Europe is more than respectable; it is fashionable.

But make no mistake: Organized and aggressive anti-Zionism is, effectively, anti-Semitism filtered through an ideological spellcheck. Scapegoating Jews for the world's ills, once a tactic of the right, is today a global left-wing phenomenon.

It should go without saying that criticism of Israel is, in itself, not tantamount to anti-Semitism. Clearheaded critics treat Israel as a country like any other, including their own. They judge Israel's actions by the single standard they apply to everyone else, and speak of Israel in language appropriate to truthful exchange.

But you know Israel critics have become Israel haters when: they are obsessed with Israel's moral failures and ignore others'; they respond compassionately to Arab war victims, but not to Israel's terror victims; they deny Jews' ancestral roots and continued habitation of Israel; and they employ code words, such as "neoconservatives" or "Israel Lobby," as a euphemism for Jews.

Most importantly, Israel haters maliciously appropriate the discourse of Jewish victimhood to promote hate in others through outright historical lies. They label Israel an apartheid state, call Israeli soldiers Nazis, portray Ariel Sharon eating babies (the oldest anti-Semitic blood libel), compare Gaza to Buchenwald and in short seek to normalize the idea that support for Israel is support for racism, today's ultimate taboo.

In Canada, one rarely sees open manifestations of anti-Semitism. But the noxious creed is not extinct -- as we learned during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, when various left-wing dupes -- including, shamefully, a handful of labour leaders and politicians --marched in solidarity alongside Hezbollah supporters carrying placards urging "Death to the Jews."

The new anti-Semitism is also very much in evidence on university campuses, where Israel-hatred has become an efficient industry run by professional, Islamist-funded activists posing as students, supported by a significant number of faculty sympathizers.

Defending Israel on campus is an act of courage for Jewish students, who run frequent gamuts of abuse directed at Israel through a shrill barrage of agitprop, Israeli apartheid "conferences," boycott attempts, divestment campaigns and threatened or real violence directed at Israel's advocates, as in two notable cases five years ago involving Middle Eastern scholar Daniel Pipes at York University in Toronto, and former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Concordia University in Montreal.

Jewish students can choose to ignore the unremitting attacks on Israel -- most do; unlike Israel-hating activists, they are there for an education -- or combat it as best they can. Which is to say, on the whole, badly or half-heartedly. Intimidated by the slick professionalism of these full-time militants, and ill-equipped to challenge strategic lying, Jewish students on most North American campuses have ceded ideological hegemony to the insurgents.

Determined to reverse this demoralizing scenario, Montreal's Canadian Institute of Jewish Research, an independent pro-Israel think-tank (full disclosure: I sit on the board of advisors), has launched a pilot program to "take back the campus." Next week, I'll introduce you to some Jewish students and their mentors who once felt "alone" and now feel "together."

bkay@videotron.ca



© National Post 2007
 

Taking back the campus

Barbara Kay, National Post 

Published: Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Last week, I wrote about the "new anti-Semitism" disguised as anti-Zionism, and identified the university campus as ground zero for the dissemination of Israel-hatred into the general culture. To-day's column focuses on strategies pro-Israel students are adopting to deal with the problem.

The coming milestone of Israel's 60th anniversary next spring is ratcheting up anti-Zionist organizations' zeal for greater impact during the 2007-08 academic year. Like most such initiatives -- Israeli Apartheid Week is an American import -- their new projects will soon make their way to Canadian campuses.

Look for an "Apartheid Bus Tour," featuring a Palestinian Arab, an Israeli Jew and a South African black, who will travel between campuses, teaching students that Israel is morally and socially equivalent to South Africa's formerly racist regime. There will also be reinvigorated divestment drives, led or supported by faculty, pressuring universities to pull funds from Israel, such as the "Hang Up on Motorola" drive to discourage Motorola from providing services to the Israeli military.

Look too for renewed vigour among far-left professors using their classrooms as anti-Israel indoctrination mills, as well as growing intimidation of Jewish students defending Israel in extra-curricular events, where they are routinely swarmed and physically threatened by mobs of anti-Semitic activists. (There was one such tense incident at anti-Zionist hotbed York University last week when Palestinian Media Watch director Itamar Marcus came to speak.)

These hate merchants punch above their weight because they are not themselves, nor do they represent, ordinary students. Rather they are full-time ideological missionaries who colonize student unions to further their toxic cause. Indeed, a timely Compas study released last week, based on a survey of 900 students at Ryerson University and the University of Toronto, confirms that real students on both campuses reject the idea of the Israel boycott now being promoted by some members of Ryerson's active anti-Zionist student union by a definitive margin of 9:1.

Theoretically, that's good news, but in reality no solace to Jewish students constantly subjected to in-your-face hostility at any sign of Israel sympathy. For many years Jewish students naively believed that earnest goodwill in accommodating the "opinions" of others was the civil and appropriate response to the demonizing process. Until recently, pro-Israel Jewish students (and others) have been slow to take the offensive against aggressive, and often illicit, but winked-at forms of campus activism.

That has changed. Campus Zionists are becoming pro-active: A number of groups have emerged over the past few years. Hasbara, for example, an Israel-sponsored leadership training program, has shown canniness and courage at York University in pushing back against intimidation, last week holding their own against a "pack of wolves," as one Israel defender described a mob surrounding his anti-Ahmadinejad display table.

I'm personally following with great interest a pilot program offered to university and cegep students here in Montreal: Student Israel Advocacy Seminars (SIAS), sponsored by the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research. The endeavour correctly identifies the battle against Israel hate as the front line in combatting the greater malaise of our universities' alarming decline in moral and intellectual integrity.

SIAS demands of its handpicked students a commitment to an in-depth education in global anti-Semitism. The dozen young men and women now embarked on SIAS must plough through a substantial reading list as they participate in a year-long series of seminars led by specialists. SIAS' premise is that students can only defend Israel and counter propaganda if they understand history, Middle Eastern politics, and Holocaust revisionism.

Israel's enemies know that campuses are not "ivory towers," but crucial sites of ideological contestation and ideal incubators for radical anti-Western causes. SIAS and other Israel defence groups aim to take back the campuses: not for Israel's sake alone, but for the sake of all students' right to defend any legitimate idea -- that includes Zionism -- without fear of harassment. Find out more about SIAS at http://www.isranet.org.

bkay@videotron.ca