Anti-Semitism fulminates at the University of Chicago

February 6, 2022 • 11:00 am

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.)

24 thoughts on “Anti-Semitism fulminates at the University of Chicago

  1. SJP should certainly advise students against taking any courses which mention sh*tty zionist UN Resolution 181. That Resolution, passed by the General Assembly on November 29, 1947, called for the establishment of a Jewish state in what was then the British Palestine Mandate. Logically, SJP should boycott any class which mentions this history, or the sh*tty zionist outfit the UN which passed it (by a 33:13 majority), or the USB flash drive (invented in the Zionist entity), or the Nobel Prize (six of which in Chemistry have been awarded to natives of you-know-where).

    1. Strictly speaking, UN Resolution 181 proposed the establishment of a second Arab state in Palestine (the first being Trans-Jordan), to be cut out of the Jewish state already delineated – with actual borders from river to sea – by the League of Nations. The UN had absolutely zero to do with the establishment of the state of Israel, as that was already accomplished by the Treaty of San Remo and the Mandate for Palestine of the League of Nations.

      Resolution 181 was, technically, an abrogation of the Charter obligations of the UN to complete the establishment of the Jewish state in Mandatory Palestine as delineated by the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine.

  2. “A recent report by the NGO Israel Democracy Institute showed that the majority of Israeli Arabs do not, in fact, identify as Palestinian but as Arab or Israeli Arab. Only 7% of those surveyed even identify as Palestinian. A subsequent poll showed that 81% of Israeli Arabs prefer to live in Israel over living in the US or in any other Western country. I guess life isn’t that bad under “Israeli domination,” contrary to the lies Amnesty spreads about our lives in the only democracy in the Middle East.”

  3. Consider this a reaching out of support to you and colleagues, for what it’s worth.
    Je suis sioniste. (channeling Charlie Hebdo here.).

  4. I believe it is correct that the only people who will see that post on Instagram will be those who are looking for it, or come it across it in a blog such as this one. I think Instagram doesn’t have feeds where stuff gets shoved at users like Facebook does. It seems like the right place for a group like SJP to post their stuff – public enough to satisfy that need, but out of the way for the rest of us. I also commend your tolerance of their blather.

    1. They have a Facebook page, too.

      Also Twitter, with this stuff on the more used Arabic Twitter page:

      And they tweeted the above post here:

      I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make; that it doesn’t matter because nobody sees the stuff? The Jerusalem Post did, as did the Rabbi quoted in the article. Please explain, because it seems to me the Jewish community here would WANT to know these sentiments.

      1. What I meant was that since for free speech reasons the SJP should be allowed to post somewhere, hopefully they will not reach a very wide audience. It is the first I have ever heard of them.

  5. The SJP could certainly learn something from the tolerance shown by our host towards views that he disagrees with.

  6. Being just a bit eccentric, when I married in 1980, I turned down the full Royal Navy wedding ceremony deal at Greenwich Chapel for a register office ceremony followed by an elopement for a cheap honeymoon on Menorca. That’s by the by, and the point is that I decided to have TWO best men – one on each side to frogmarch me in if I changed my mind. Both good Jewish lads who were fellow medical students (at the ‘godless institution of Gower Street’), although not fellow Jews as I was born into the Church of England and by then I was quite happy to leave it alone. A mere 42 years later I spent two hours this afternoon on a Zoom call with them both. One has retired from a career in service as a GP in the UK, and the other went on to become a virologist and then a venture capitalist(!) in California. I love them both dearly, and wish we were not continents apart. Maybe I don’t qualify as an honorary Jew just for having made such a wise choice for my best men, but all the same, I shall still decry anyone exhibiting the slightest degree of anti-semitism. To that extent, it is personal for me. They are my best friends and always will be. So, yes, Je suis sioniste!

  7. “Support the Palestine movement for liberation by boycotting classes on Israel or those taught by Israeli fellows.

    Jews take note: if the Woke Revolution ever comes, you won’t be spared just because you were a good little anti-Zionist. They want boycotts on anyone from Israel, period, no matter the person’s views. You know they’d ask for a boycott of classes taught by Jews — because who knows where a Jew’s allegiances really lie — if they thought they could get away with it, but we’re not quite at that point yet. Of course, anyone who knows even a bit of Jewish history should know that they won’t be spared for following that dictates of the groups that ultimately hate them.

    It’s fascinating how much these “anti-racists” are, at heart, race essentialists. Separate facilities (e.g. “affinity housing,” which sounds a lot better than “Jim Crow”), original sin based on skin color or ancestry, and so on.

    So much of what these people do is the very definition of regressive. Sex/gender stereotyping; separating and claiming differences between people based solely on skin color and ancestry; treating people differently based on sex/race/religion/[x number of other things]; purging “wrongthink” and the ideas of free speech, debate, reason, and even objectivity; trying to change history to fit their own preferred narratives; setting up kangaroo courts and witch hunts to sniff out the people who aren’t properly toeing the line; forcing people to sign pledges of agreement and fealty if they want access to certain jobs (e.g. “diversity statements”).

    Hell, they’ve even managed to start rolling back the sexual revolution. When I was growing up, sex and sexual experiences were largely fun, care-free, and openly discussed in such terms, but they’re even making sex once again a fraught and anxious experience where every moment is a potentially life-destroying disaster, and where everyone needs to be put through lectures on just how dangerous sex is. I truly do pity the kids growing up with this. I can’t imagine what college would have been like if I had to deal with all of this, not to mention being Jewish!

    EDIT: and that’s a nice little edit by them to try and save themselves from coming right up to the line of saying, “just avoid anything taught by a Jew.”

    1. Fortunately that’s one area I think we can probably count on the University being strong on. I expect if some undergrads comes to a science department head or the larger administration and complains that they can’t take class X or section X because it’s taught by a Jew, and would they put someone else in charge of the class/section, the Dept.Head or Provost or whomever is going to (very diplomatically) tell them to go pound sand.

      Undergrads get to choose their subject matter classes anyway, so opting not to take some class because of subject matter is just party of the regular experience, I’m not sure I’d even count that as a boycott. But if they complain about the race or ethnicity of one of the TAs or Professors, I can’t see much budge. At least in the hard sciences.

  8. I’m just taking a different look at this kind of thing. If someone is putting out lies and obviously incorrect information they should have to remove it. Free speech after all was Bill of Rights and the purpose was to protect citizens from government. Does not include private institutions and should not include false information about a private company. Even Facebook removed the number one lying bastard from the platform..

    1. While you are technically correct that the First Amendment and all of the Bill of Rights applies to government actions and conduct, it is my view that a fully consistent commitment to free speech requires that you apply your views about it to the private sector as well as to government. Anything less demonstrates a weak commitment to free speech. I personally do not apply one free speech standard to government conduct and another free speech standard to non-government entities.

  9. SJP has a right to promote these views, however distorted they may be. Here in the U.S. the state does not control political speech. We rely on our social constructs and institutions to determine what is appropriate and what is not. This cuts both ways. Sometimes, as with most manifestations of racism, our social institutions *eventually* guide the right behaviors and language. Other times, as with the “woke” or what John McWhorter terms the “Elect,” our social constructs lead us astray. Either way, free speech must be protected, no matter how ugly that speech may be. The exchange of words is the mechanism that enables our social institutions to adjudicate differences and reach consensus. Without free speech, our American way of making progress can only fail.

    I agree that the U of C statement was close to the mark. I, too, would have left out mention of specific groups because as the quotation is shared behind the current incident, the context will be lost, leaving a statement that might be taken as meaning that anti-Palestinian bias and antisemitism deserve special mention.

    1. Just to be clear, I am a complete and unapologetic supporter of both the First Amendment, free speech as a principle, and academic freedom as a principle. I’m not suggesting they remove their posts or be punished for them; rather, I hope that, some day, such things will be reported even 1/5 as widely as they would be if they were targeted at some other groups, and that antisemitism in general will be treated by both administrators of institutions like college, as well as the media, in the same manner that racism toward other minorities is treated.

      1. I agree. I’m exasperated at the muted response to antisemitism by universities and the media. Those are among the social institutions to which I refer in my post. Up to this point, those institutions are failing to call out antisemitism with the vigor it deserves. I attribute this failure to fear of the wrath of the woke, and can only hope that other institutions—such as this web site and its contributors—will help to redress the balance.

        1. I agree. Not to legitimize SJP’s views or language, but wanted to ask your opinions on how to appropriately denounce Isreali government human rights abuses and minimize one’s risk of accusations of being anti-Semetic. By extension, the same problem comes up with denouncing US human rights abuses.

  10. “A recent report by the NGO Israel Democracy Institute showed that the majority of Israeli Arabs do not, in fact, identify as Palestinian but as Arab or Israeli Arab. Only 7% of those surveyed even identify as Palestinian. A subsequent poll showed that 81% of Israeli Arabs prefer to live in Israel over living in the US or in any other Western country. I guess life isn’t that bad under “Israeli domination,” contrary to the lies Amnesty spreads about our lives in the only democracy in the Middle East.”

  11. This conflict is a long one with both sides having their own narratives. But it is a battle of words in which people try to gain the ‘moral high ground’. It is hard to see how this is going to end anytime soon. Nortern Ireland is cakewalk compared to this, but it reminds us that even this conflict can be solved. Apartheid comes to mind when I think of the situation in occupied territories and the Palestinian state rather than Israel proper (which does have some resemblance with the homelands the apartheid regime gave the blacks) or the reservations for natives in the United States. Of course, other places are worse. You can also argue that blacks in apartheid South Africa were better off than most blacks in the rest of Africa, and that many regimes in Africa were much worse. But that does not change the nature of the regime itself. But then again, if Israel opens the borders, then the next day there will be bomb attack in a bus, and 50 people are killed.

    1. “You can also argue that blacks in apartheid South Africa were better off than most blacks in the rest of Africa…”

      Apartheid in South Africa was a grotesque system and indefensible as far as I am concerned. Of course it would be foolish to pretend that the rest of Africa has not had more than it’s fair share of wars, famines and despotic leaders but that does not justify in any sense the existence of the apartheid regime. Even allowing for the problems that have undeniably existed elsewhere in Africa the suggestion that most blacks in the rest of Africa were worse off than South African blacks is highly contentious. To take one measure, in 1984 the infant infant mortality (ie within 12 months of birth) rate for the whole of South Africa (i.e. including white children) was 95/1000 live births which was worse than Kenya and Botswana and about the same as Uganda. Within blacks the rate varied between different groups (settled urban workers, migrant worker families and families permanently restricted to bantustan homelands) with the rate in the families permanently restricted to the homelands estimated at 282/1000 which was worse than that recorded in such poor countries as Burkina Faso (210/1000) and Sierra Leone (206/1000) – countries that had vastly less natural resource wealth than SA.

      1. ‘You can argue that’ just means that you can argue that. This type of defence I heard to justify apartheid. This type of defense I also hear about the situation in the occupied territories. The situation in the occupied territories is not particularly good either. Many Arabs have a better life.

  12. I agree their statements and the BDS generally are anti-semitic, and objectionable. The charge of “pinkwashing” is probably most egregious. “Apartheid State” seeks to draw comparisons to South Africa, and that‘s where boycott-divestment-sanction tactics are apparently taken from. For this, and a discussion on the details of boycott and divestment strategies in case of Israel, see ”On Israel-Palestine and BDS — Those dedicated to the Palestinian cause should think carefully about the tactics they choose” by Noam Chomsky in the Nation (July 2, 2014).

    The majority in the world would like the conflict in Israel and Palestine to end amicably, but the USA and Israel‘s far right don‘t. The reasons are as usual: expansion, (military) business and geostrategic interests trump human rights and peace. The UN resolutions paint a stark picture. They usually go Israel/USA on one side vs the rest of the world, hundred plus states. Europe is often neutral, but that is actually shrill criticism of the US-Israel side.

    Alas, you then make assertions that appear to go against established facts.

    Every anti-Semitic trope in existence is here: […] 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).

    Here are a few entries, each densely sourced.

Leave a Reply