Actually, it’s already been here a while in the form of pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel sentiment, promulgated by anti-Semitic organizations like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). SJP is a pro-BDS organization that wants to get rid of the state of Israel (their ritual invocation is “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, and you know what that means). But now, as the article below reports—and you can verify this by looking on SJP’s Instagram post—this form of hatred has ratcheted up at the University of Chicago. This will undoubtedly affect the climate here for Jewish students, a climate that is already fraught. Why is this happening. Probably because anti-Semitism is an inevitable result of growing Wokeism, for the Woke see Jews and Israel as white colonialist oppressors.
I was appalled when Malgorzata sent me this article from Friday’s Jerusalem Post (click on screenshot to read):
An excerpt from the newspaper article:
The University of Chicago Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter told students in an Instagram post that they should avoid taking “S****y Zionist classes” last week.
The anti-Israel post also declared, “Support the Palestine movement for liberation by boycotting classes on Israel or those taught by Israeli fellows.”
The post states that students attending classes discussing Israel or who are taught by Israeli fellows are “participating in a propaganda campaign that creates complicity in the continuation of Israel’s occupation of Palestine.”
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Jewish human rights organization the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles told The Jerusalem Post on Friday that the “University of Chicago has for decades been a top tier institution of higher learning, a place where world-class faculty and students debated and contributed
the issues of the day impacting on all Americans. Reading these calls for boycotts on classes on Israel and fellow students from the Jewish State is something we experienced in Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia.”
Here’s the SJP’s Instagram Post referred to above:
Every anti-Semitic trope in existence is here: the fake “apartheid state” claim (which states are more apartheid than Palestine, Iran, Afghanistan, and the like, and why does nobody mention that?), the completely bogus “pinkwashing” claim that Israel has extensive LBGTQ+ rights only to distract from its colonial oppression. the fake narrative of the Nakba, arguing that Jews drove Palestinians out of Israel when the state was established (most left because the Arabs, intending to invade, asked them to get out of the way). And the “settler colonialist state” characterization is duplicitous; even if there is room to argue about some of the occupied territories, because SJP wants Israel completely gone, along with its Jews.
Note the “edit for clarification” at the end the Instagram post which apparently, trying to be nice, says that some Jews are okay: those ones who don’t favor the existence of Israel as a harbor for Jews. “Zionism” refers to those who favor the existence of Israel as the country formulated under UN regulations, but “Zionist” has become an anti-Semitic term (you often hear it used disparagingly towards a person by calling them “a Zio”).
It’s immensely saddening to me that this hatred exists within a few blocks of my office. Does it bother me? Of course. Do I feel unsafe? Not at all. They can come get me if they want, but at the U of C that would be an unwise move, for violence and obstruction of speech is a big-time offense.
What was the University of Chicago’s response to this regurgitation of bile? It something close what it nearly always does, and gave what I see as something close to a proper response to this hate speech:
The University of Chicago spokesperson told Fox News Digital: “The University of Chicago is committed to support the wellbeing of all members of our community, to welcome people of all backgrounds, and to provide an environment for faculty and students to engage freely and openly on a wide range of issues. These values compel our steadfast opposition to discrimination, including rejection of antisemitism, anti-Palestinian bias, and other forms of bias that are incompatible with our commitment to diversity and inclusion.”
The only way I’d change this would be to exclude specific mention of antisemitism and anti-Palestinian biases and of “our values” and say this (Coyne’s response in bold):
“The University of Chicago is committed to supporting the wellbeing of all members of our community, but members of our community are also free to exercise their right of speech and discussion.”
If they wanted to add “Bias and discrimination may suppress such rights”, then that might be okay, for it’s reasonable to emphasize policies inimical to the University’s purpose: to foster, thorough learning, arguing, and discussion a freedom of speech that lubricates thinking and learning. But even saying that the university has values against bias goes a bit too far for me, as according to our Kalven Report the University is not suppose to broadcast official values, morals, or ideologies unless they are designed to foster the purposes of the University. My own statement would be in bold above. It reflects my belief that however hateful or offensive speech is, unless it falls within the narrow range of exceptions considered by U.S. courts to violate the First Amendment (and this SJP statement doesn’t), it should not be damned or criticized. There is no calling here for immediate attacks on Jews.
The emphasis on “our commitment to diversity and inclusion”, seems new to me, and may reflect the University partly buying into the DEI narrative.And they should not mention specific ethnic groups. If they want to condemn bigotry, just do it and not mention the groups in contention. After all, in this fracas the students were not making anti-Palestinian statements.
Now of course if Palestinian—or any other—students engage in violating others’ speech, like shouting down speakers, deplatforming them, or blocking entrance to talks, they have violated our policy on free speech and on behavior, and the University has every right to punish those students, as it has. But we don’t see this in this case.
What, then, can the University do to cut down on hate speech like that above? Nothing, as far as I can see, not given our policies on free expression. Individuals can, of course, reach out to support their attacked or harassed colleagues, and should do that.
But eventually, should this climate of anti-Semitism increase, Jewish parents will stop sending their children here to study, and Jewish donors will stop giving money to the University. And the University’s reputation will diminish.. Until then, there is no way, nor should there be, to stop students from expressing whatever views they want.
And so, much as I agree with Rabbi Cooper’s take on the situation here, I disagree that something must done about it immediately:
Cooper added that “in 2022, we need accountability when Jew-haters, racists, and bigots are emboldened to say and do almost anything without fear of consequences. The UC Chancellor’s statement is a deflection from responsibility, not leadership. Robust debate, yes. Providing a blank moral check to those who seek Israel’s destruction is an outrage that poses a further threat to Jews on and off campus.”
This is a “free speech, but” argument. And I say this, and all of the above, as a secular Jew. (And so, by the way, is Chancellor Robert Zimmer.)