A few days ago the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, an independent, bipartisan agency charged with monitoring and protecting civil rights, heard “testimony from a panel of experts regarding anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses. According to allegations, Jewish students at the University of California at Irvine, Columbia University, and other campuses have recently experienced hostility and intimidation.” How did it go? Eh, not too good, according to the Forward.
What is striking, however, is that the commission members had personally experienced the problem:
Commissioners seemed sympathetic to the Jewish officials’ depiction. Reacting to the panelists’ presentations, [Abigail Thernstrom, the commission’s vice chair] said: “I was once a Jewish student in a Middle Eastern studies program at Harvard University … I have the experience of being in a context like the one described, and my impression from those years — and watching the scene until now — is that all Middle Eastern studies programs are very much alike. That is, they are violently anti-Israel, very pro-Palestinian, soaked in an ideology that is either borderline or explicitly antisemitic.”
And this tends to confuse me: if the problem is apparent–and is recognized by those on the Left too–why is nothing getting done?
I submit to you my opinion: it’s our own fault. Seriously. The organized Jewish community is simply too well-fed to take the problem seriously. Read through the quotes in this article, especially towards the end. It seems to me that Jewish leaders are too concerned with showing that they don’t think everyone who criticizes Israel is anti-Semitic to speak out and demand action when actual cases arise that cross the line, as they did at Columbia. When someone makes a comment about affirmative action it rarely occurs that a prominent (non-Republican and thereby socially accepted) member of the Black community says, “just because you’re anti-Affirmative action does not mean you are a racist.” Now, I do think that it is a sign of our strength that we can distinguish between racist attacks on us and attacks on specific policies that might affect us. But we should not forget that our very right to self-determination is on the line here, as the leaders of tomorrow soak in the propaganda of today. This does not mean speech-codes, but it does mean holding professors accountable for their actions in the court of opinion–and in the court of law when their actions breach the academic freedom or even civil rights of their students. [crossposted]
I’m currently at the GA–the largest Jewish convention of North America–and liveblogging on BlogsofZion from the location. Lots going on–and I’m learning and growing in my perceptions a lot.
The main lesson I seem to be learning is that the Jewish community needs to learn better how to deal with the diversity of the Jewish youth. As of now I disagree with Hillel’s new Millenial initiative because I think Hillel should not be all things to all people. Hillel, in my eyes, should focus on providing Jews a context to live the Jewish tradition, and be upfront about its agenda of creating committed Jews. But it should also be open to innovation by students for students, providing them the tools and resources they need to make their visions real. Striking this balance–keeping true to the tradition in its various ways while providing students the freedom and support to explore their Jewish-ness in the way that speaks to them–should be their mission, not providing students with one or two Jewish experiences during the course of their college careers. Give up the monopoly, Hillel, and grow your competitors. There are no losers in a game where everyone is committed to bringing the Jewish identity to life.
It has always intrigued me that those people so impassioned by the right to self-determination of the Palestinians (which I support) do not lend their support to the self-determination of the Jews in Israel. But I can somewhat understand their inability to grant it–for some of them the emotional price of recognizing that there are two equally legitimate claims to nation-hood in the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean is too much to pay. (Though I hope they will come around realizing that a Just Solution would have it that both peoples determine their own destinies).
But why don’t they speak out for the Kurds? A reader sent me a website called The Other Iraq, highlighting the Kurdish experience in what we know as Northern Iraq. Check it out. I hope, one day, the Kurds will realize their dream of nationhood.
I had the pleasure of seeing Awake Zion! at the Margaret Mead film festival, and I highly recommend it.
The film addresses the similarities between Rastafarian theology and Judaism, ones that are apparent to those who listen closely to reggae lyrics but are lost on those who like them solely for their groove. I should say that I was in part drawn to Judaism by Robert Nesta Marley–his were the first prophetic words I knew by heart, words that led me to see Zion as more than the physical Jerusalem I knew and loved. Redemption Song, for me, was a Zionist message ala Pinsker, and Zion Train a call to Aliya.
The film has some shortcomings–Monica Chaim did not interview Ethiopian Israelis, which made it seem as if Judaism was a “white” thing and Rasta “black,” and the main source of Jewish tradition she accessed–an orthodox rabbi–was shamefully ignorant of the deep connection of Ethiopian Jewry to the children of Israel. But overall it was thought provoking, casting new light on questions of Jewish peoplehood, faith, and the yearning for Zion.
The key question I keep asking myself is why Zion can be such a popular symbol of hope, of destiny, and yet Zionism has become a scourge in the world’s eyes? No question that the reality of Zionism has left many hurt and wounded, and I feel deeply for those people. But no national movement has arisen without conflict with others who would deny a people’s collective rights to self-determination. So why is Zionism singled out? I don’t think it is only because it is a Jewish movement. There must be something more there. Could it be that Zionism offends believers by transforming a sacred concept in their eyes into a secular, mundane one?
Martin Kramer points out a few, eh, stretches in thought Professor Rashid Khalidi makes in regards to the Academe being an abode of the Right. He also does a good job of deconstructing Khalidi’s statements to show what’s going on behind the scenes.
It’s true, I’ve called out Khalidi before for some nasty and, in my eyes bigoted, statements he made–but I never thought he could be so, well, irrational.
She says, “even though you’re an immigrant it doesn’t mean you don’t care about New York. I love New York too, and I want to say that between Bloomberg and Ferrer, I support Bloomberg, he loves New York too.”
The critically-decried Robert Fisk will speak soon at Columbia, and the invitation is hilarious:
The Speakers Committee at the Columbia University Graduate School of
An evening with Robert Fisk
Have you been Fisked*?
Moderated by Dean David A. Klatell
Monday, November 7, 2005
Room 601B (Journalism School, Columbia University)
– Author of the new book, The Great War for Civilisation
– Thirty years covering the Middle East for The Independent and The Times
– Seven-time winner of the British International Journalist of the Year
– Regarded as one of the world’s foremost (and controversial) journalists
“American journalists go for safe stories. The don’t like
of American journalism is going to be one of the nails in its coffin.”
–Robert Fisk, Interview in The Progressive
“I would love to shoot Robert Fisk.”
–John Malkovich, Cambridge Union
*Fisk, verb: To deconstruct an article on a point-by-point basis in a
highly critical manner.
Derived from the name of journalist Robert Fisk, a frequent target of
critical articles in the
blogosphere. [source: Wikipedia]
Check out this review of his latest book. I’m happy Columbia can host writers of such high esteem and scrupulous attention to details.