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]