Are North American Jews doing enough to counter anti-Israel and antisemitic sentiment on college campuses?
FEBRUARY 24, 2010 – “Crossing the Line: The Intifada Comes to Campus,” which can now be viewed on the jewishinfoNews video site, is produced by acclaimed filmmaker Raphael Shore. It explores the proliferation of anti-Israel and antisemitic incidents on North American college campuses. In particular, the film explores the rapid growth of such incidents following the launch of Operation Cast Lead by the Israeli military into Gaza in late December 2008 and January 2009. The documentary demonstrates the blurring of anti-Israel and antisemitic lines, showing how the War evoked deep anti-Jewish sentiments amongst university students and professors.
Yitzchak Kerem, is a historian on Sephardic Jewry and the Holocaust, on sabbatical in Los Angeles from university teaching in Jerusalem. He taught Sephardic studies at the American Jewish University of Los Angeles 2008-2009, and is editor of the monthly e-mail publication “Sefarad,” the Sephardic Newsletter.
After watching The Intifada Comes to Campus he writes:
As terrible as it is, the Jewish people and Israel don’t represent the progressives in combating the growing anti-Israel and antisemitism now prevalent on the North American college campuses. Israel is terrible in PR and many of the issues are whitewashed. Israel and the Jewish organizations don’t want to hear from either Jews from Arab and Muslim lands nor those scholars who have more of a perceptive view on the conflicting issues.
Many of the Arab campus protesters are children of Palestinian refugees or fanaticised by the latest Palestinian or Muslim fundamentalist trends. For most of the Jews, the propaganda is inward and there is a problem with many Jewish academics being ignorant of Israel and of being too critical.
I angrily responded to a petition of seventeen Jewish and Jewish study academics condemning Israel’s incursion into Gaza in the press and I was the only Jewish academic to speak out in Southern California. As a result, I was boycotted by the Jewish academics at UCLA and Hillel.
In addition, the Israeli consulate never used me on campuses, especially in the rougher places such as Irvine, Berkeley, and UCLA.
At a pro-Israel demonstration in LA during the Gaza incursion, a Jewish studies colleague at AJU sided with the Palestinians and did nothing when the Palestinians hurled epithets and called to kill the Jews and make fossil fuel of them.
USC published a vehement article for divestment, and the local newspaper wouldn’t publish my response. I received no help from the Israeli consulate or from local LA Jewish organizations.
It would seem to me that most of US Jewry isn’t interested in what I have to say. They pick their antisemitism if it’s good for organizational fundraising.
Yitzchak Kerem is the CEO of the Foundation for Jewish Diversity set up to establish a Sephardi museum and cultural center in Jerusalem, a member of the Knesset public committee for Holocaust survivor affairs, and radio moderator for the Hebrew program “Yahadut Hatefustost” (Diaspora Jewry), Reshet Aleph and Reshet Bet 2004-2007,editor for the Greek section of New Encyclopaedia Judaica, contributor on Balkans for Encyclopaedia of Jews under Islam (Brill), genealogist, and filmmaker.
As a UCLA alumnus (three time over) it saddens me to see that tenets of academic freedom and freedom of speech are so abused on that campus. That university grew from Berkeley’s Agricultural Extension division to its current stature helped in no small part by Jewish scholars who fled Nazi Germany at a time when Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth and Princeton (not to be confused with the Institute of Higher Studies in the city of Princeton where Einstein found refuge) would have none of them. These institutions were not hiring
Jews as a matter of policy until after WWII.
The current crop of UCLA students and faculty who publicly vilify and deligitimize Israel the only democracy in the Middle East, might learn much about the history of their institution in the historical context of the 20th century in general, and then ask themselves the questions: “What am I doing? Where is my head at?”
Comment by Arnold Reisman, PhD (USA) | February 24, 2010