(October 11, 2022 / JNS) A movement is now underway in the United States to drive Jews out of higher education, both teachers and students. The movement, using the poisonous spearhead of anti-Zionism, is gaining momentum. This is reminiscent of nothing less than the movement to expel Jews from the educational system in Nazi Germany.
In 1933, the new German civil service law excluded Jewish university professors as well as Jewish elementary and secondary school teachers from the profession. In the same year, the German law against overcrowding in schools and universities limited the number of Jewish students who could enroll, forcing Jewish children to attend private schools.
Many student fraternities and other student groups in Germany banned Jews and protested professors who they believed did not support “traditional German values”. Non-Jewish professors joined in shunning their colleagues. As a result, the Nazis quickly succeeded in driving the “undesirables” and with them any opposition to their policies and values out of the educational establishment.
Something similar is happening in the United States today. The latest attack on Jews in American higher education has just been launched by the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) branch of UC Berkeley Law School. The SJP convinced nine law school organizations to pass a bylaw refusing to invite or sponsor any speaker who supports “Zionism, the apartheid state of Israel and the occupation of Palestine.”
Zionism is, of course, the movement to achieve self-determination for the Jewish people in their homeland, the Land of Israel. Zionism is a fundamental tenet of Judaism and is supported by the overwhelming majority of Jews around the world, including in the United States.
No wonder a group of prominent American Jewish groups called the Berkeley group ban “brazen anti-Semitism.” No wonder former US civil rights assistant secretary of education Kenneth Marcus said the settlement established “Jew-free zones” in Berkeley.
Law school dean Erwin Chemerinsky, who is Jewish, noted that the ban would prevent him from speaking out — and, he might have added, 90 percent of American Jews.
Anti-Semitism, as defined by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance – which has been adopted by hundreds of nations and organizations around the world – is the collective blaming of Jews for the actions of the State of Israel or for the existence of Israel.
Yet today, it is increasingly difficult for openly pro-Zionist Jews in the United States to find employment in higher education, especially in the humanities. Virtually no Zionists are engaged in Middle Eastern studies, despite Israel’s status as the region’s only democracy.
Jewish professors like Dr. Jeffrey Lax, head of the business department at the Kingsborough campus of the City University of New York (CUNY), complain of overt anti-Semitism, usually tied to anti-Israel sentiments. Lax refuses to wear his yarmulke to school. “I don’t want to be targeted. That’s the reason,” he said. “I just wish I could do my job.”
Lax reports that when some fellow faculty members learned he was Jewish and Zionist, they subjected him to threats and intimidation. While the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission backed up Lax’s claims, CUNY took no action to alleviate the hostile work environment. Lax is not alone. Pro-Israel students at CUNY Kingsborough and other schools have complained of bias and open attacks against them by faculty.
The US Department of Education’s Civil Rights Office is investigating the University of Southern California for failing to protect a Jewish student from discrimination and harassment for supporting Israel. Federal anti-Semitism investigations are also underway at the University of Vermont, State University of New York and Brooklyn College.
Hussein Aboubakr Mansour, an educator with the pro-Israel advocacy group StandWithUs, quotes a student contact who said, “When I applied for a PhD. programs, one of the biggest names in Middle Eastern studies in the West told me to my face that “your affiliation with pro-Israel organizations is a problem to get[ting] in academia.
Imagine a black American at Harvard University barred by his fellow student government members from becoming the school’s president because of his strong identification with African culture. How can he be objective, ask his colleagues, about the struggles of the marginalized against sexual servitude and the like, when he identifies with a continent where there are now a large number of slaves, Africa?
Or imagine this: At UCLA, a Jewish student must be confirmed to the student council’s judicial council when another member of the council asks her how she can maintain an unbiased opinion, given her identification with the Jewish community? After a long discussion about the student’s Jewish identity, her nomination was rejected.
The first story – of the black student at Harvard – is fiction. It is in fact unimaginable, even though Africa today has a major problem with slavery. But the second story – about the Jewish student at UCLA – is tragically true. It happened to Rachel Beyda in 2015.
In her recent article “New Loyalty Oath Imposed on Jews,” writer Melissa Langsam Braunstein quoted New York University freshman Kayla Hutt on some surprising advice she received from her principal. of high school regarding his NYU application essay: Chabad and Hillel, and the entire NYU Jewish community. … He told me that I shouldn’t have that in there, that it’s enough that they see that I go to a private yeshiva high school and that I shouldn’t show them that I was in Israel Awareness Club and that I’m a proud Zionist.
How long will American Jews tolerate what no other ethnic group in the United States would tolerate – being openly discriminated against for our blessed people, for our honored identity? When will supporters of free speech say no to this parody of one of our country’s most sacred values?
Anti-Semitism in the form of anti-Zionism increasingly permeates American higher education, making it increasingly difficult for Jewish professors to teach and for Jewish students to attend. It is reminiscent of the Third Reich, one of the most shameful periods in world history.
This is not just a Jewish question or a question concerning one of our greatest allies, Israel. These are first and foremost people who try to deprive us of freedom of expression in our schools and in our society in general.
James Sinkinson is president of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misconceptions about Israel and its relationship with the United States.