The sick American university system has just gotten a little bit sicker. Some will remember the glory days when places like Duke, Notre-Dame, UCLA, Yale, NYU were sought after institutions. They were so because they had a reputation for quality higher learning, an ethical academic staff and for being a fair platform for a balanced exchange of ideas without threats, criticism or xenophobia. Gone are those days!
It is a known fact that much moulding of the mind occurs at the College and University level. Students come in their freshman year with opinions somewhat formed even in their infancy stage and by the time they graduate, their opinions are solidly formed. American universities are more liberal than conservative and as such, their influence might appear to some as unfair, or biased at the very least. But this is America, “Land of the Free.” Free speech, free thinking and free press are very present on US campuses, and that is a good thing…at least in essence.
Unfortunately, all of this has been challenged lately by the rise of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanction) movement against Israel as well as the increase in what we can call Campus Intifada. Universities like UCI (University of California Irvine), USC or even UC Berkeley have hosted many conferences and events promoting the Palestinian narrative. The Muslim Student Association (a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood) and Students for Justice in Palestine (first established at UC Berkeley in 1993) are at he helm of this movement.
One would expect that a university campus would be a platform where a civilized exchange of ideas could take place. After all, it would be acceptable to promote the Palestinian narrative if Zionism was given equal air time. But it is almost always never the case. Pro-Palestinian speakers and lecturers are invited to spread their antisemitic poison, unchecked and unbridled, while the pro-Israel side is ignored, repressed, insulted and even abused. So much so that the Board of Regents of the University of California had to finally adopt a policy earlier in 2016 that links anti-Zionism to antisemitism. While we cannot honestly claim that anti-Zionism is always antisemitism cloaked in social justice, it is often the case. A healthy criticism of Zionism has the right to exist in any democracy, but not at the expense of the Jewish people or the Jewish students opposing it. But when it comes to Israel and Palestine, most of the world is guilty of using their own set of double standards.
I applaud the Board of Regents new policy. It was needed and will hopefully encourage other US campuses to follow suit. That is of course if it is properly enforced and judging by the latest class offered at UC Berkeley in the Fall of 2016, it seems to be hardly the case. Dr. Hatem Bazian (affiliated with American Muslims for Palestine) is sponsoring the class titled: Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis. The course description remains vague, yet its foundation will undoubtedly be a shaky mix of historical revisionism and antisemitic narrative. Reading requirements from people like Ilan Pappé, will obviously tip the scale towards the Palestinian side. As a matter of fact, instead of looking a both sides of the Middle East crisis academically and ethically–two words that once would have been redundant within the same sentence–the class syllabus is pretty much a shameful piece of Palestinian propaganda.
Based on the false assumption that Palestinians have been in the Land of Israel for centuries, the class will most certainly paint Israel as the colonizing invader who doesn’t belong. This argument is easily debunked if one is interested in factual history. But this is hardly the case anymore. It seems that all parties interested in the pro-Palestinian narrative are really more interested in the anti-Israel agenda, wherever that will lead them. At the end of the day, if an antisemitic agenda leads one to choose camps that are less than ethical and possibly lethal to Israel…it will be a small price to pay.
So it is fair to say that being pro-Palestinian might be more of a by-product of being anti-Zionist than a just cause in and of itself, and this definitely qualifies as antisemitism. Starting in the fall of 2016 at UC Berkeley, you will even be able to get university credits for it!