This past spring, I spoke at a synagogue in Skokie, IL. about the situation of Jewish students on our college campuses. As a professor at a large midwestern university who is faculty advisor to a pro-Israel organization (Israel Council at Purdue or ICAP), it wasn’t difficult for me to identify the increasingly perilous circumstances of Jewish students. In essence, these circumstances link traditional anti-Semitism to the increasingly fashionable academic hatred of Israel. I described the roots of the problem as follows:
1. Jewish complacency. Jewish students, in the fashion of their elders, have typically been raised to believe that Jewish safety and survival are now pretty much assured. This view has to change. The only people that now face true genocide in the Middle East are the Jewish People. This is an almost unspeakable irony, but one that must be more widely understood.
2. The mainstream media often have a pointedly anti-Israel bias. Jewish students now need to be made more aware of alternative sources of information about Israel, Jews and the Middle East. Much of this better information can be found online, and in The Jewish Press. Contrary to the wisdom of the professors, there are alternatives to The New York Times. Coping with the Israel-haters on campus requires prior knowledge by the Jewish students.
3. The Arab-Islamic threat to Jews and the Jewish state is very carefully organized and orchestrated. Jewish students are not similarly organized/ orchestrated. On the contrary – and too often, like their parents – they are preoccupied with social events and utterly personal concerns. It goes without saying that most Jewish education in the United States is largely devoid of serious Jewish commitment and purpose. We continue to see weddings and bar mitzvas as little more than an opportunity to show off. It is also unseemly that some American Jewish congregations go on with their weekly social activities with nary a reference to the murder of their brothers and sisters in Israel. Or even worse, some American Jews – sitting safely and smugly at home in places like Skokie – dare to blame their brothers and sisters in Israel for fighting back.
4. There is a compelling need for organized Jewish counter-movements to combat the flagrant lies and propaganda of the Arab-Islamic groups and their generally naive student/professor allies. This, of course, will require some prior understanding of Jewish history. For example, it is not possible to combat the lies about Israel’s “Occupied Territories” without first knowing the true history of Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
5. Jewish students typically want to be like everyone else. Too often, this means Jewish denial
altogether. Jewish survival requires Jewish authenticity. Following the present American war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, there will be substantial scapegoating of Jews. (What else is new?) That must be challenged and refuted.
6. There needs to be special vigilance in the universities. Sadly, one of our biggest dangers lies in Jewish university professors. With few exceptions, they can usually be relied upon to be vigorously pro-Arab and anti-Israel. To some extent, this problem is merely a different manifestation of the one I just mentioned about Jewish students – not wanting to be different. It is an inexcusable problem, but one that cannot simply be wished away or ignored.
7. There is, more generally, a psychological reason why so many Jews are worried more about their enemies than their own people. I suspect it has to do with an unwillingness to face up to a terrible truth; that is, that we are still very vulnerable. One way to ward off unbearable weakness is to deny that weakness, but this is a “remedy” that is worse even than the disease.
8. Have you ever noticed that every seeming infraction by the IDF elicits oceans of righteous
indignation by Jews – especially American Jews nesting safely in small town America? But there are never corresponding objections by Arabs about Palestinian suicide-bombers. Never! Ever! Where is the Arab peace movement? Its complete absence should tell us something; something very important.
9. It is not difficult for Jewish students to discover the obvious slander and lies of the pro-PLO groups. All it takes is a brief excursion to any of the pertinent Arab/Islamic web sites. There they will find a map of “Palestine” that includes ALL of Israel. So, they must now inquire, where is the heralded “two- state solution?” As it is an obvious propaganda ploy – and an undisguised one at that – our Jewish students must now speak out.
10. The Palestine Liberation Organization was founded in 1964 ? three years before Israel came to “occupy” West Bank (Judea/Samaria) and Gaza. What were they trying to “liberate?” It is time for our Jewish students to ask this question, of themselves and of their antagonists.
11. Jewish students need to understand that anti-Israel sentiments are largely anti-Semitic sentiments, and that anti-Semitic sentiments are largely anti-Israel. Our Jewish students must recall that Israel is the Jew in macrocosm; and that we are microcosms of the State of Israel. This is true whether we like it or not.
12. Returning to an earlier point about Jewish/Israeli vulnerability, it is an incontestable irony – of the highest magnitude – that the most dangerous place on Earth for Jews, as Jews, is now the State of Israel. The genocidal destruction of Jews has been made easier by the concentration of so many of our people in so small a geographic area. The Arabs needn’t worry about bringing Jews to the gas; they can now bring gas to the Jews. Many Arab/ Islamic web sites even say that Allah brought the Jews together in “Palestine” for precisely this reason. They are unabashedly genocidal on these web sites.
13. The origin of Arab/Islamic hostility to Israel is religion. It has nothing to do with territory. It has nothing whatever to do with “settlements.” Israel is hated because it is Jewish. Period. Jewish students should read the Koran.
14. Jewish students need to learn much more about Judaism and about Israel.
15. There is developing a special sort of anti-Semitic/anti Israel sentiment. It is the result of a sinister fusion between traditional European anti- Semitism and evolving Arab/Islamic antiSemitism. This must now be widely understood and examined.
16. The statement by Congressman Jim Moran (that the Iraq War was engineered by “The Jews”) reveals that anti-Semitism is again becoming somewhat acceptable in the public domain. This is the case even though Moran was rejected by the Congressional leadership for his disgusting remarks.
17. Jewish students must understand the outrageousness of comparing Arab terror with Israeli
counter-terror. There is a major difference between premeditated murder, directed consciously, toward innocents, and a reluctant use of force to combat such murder – force that is directed, consciously, at military targets. Does anyone seriously believe that Israelis want to send their sons into Arab refugee camps merely because they enjoy the military operation?
18. Jews must reject a visceral opposition to all war – to war in the generic sense. There are just wars. Elie Wiesel made this clear several months ago in a column for The New York Times. It is an idea well-established in Jewish law and philosophy.
19. The recent war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq is a manifestly just war. What sort of “peace” would have left a mass-murderer unpunished and still preparing to annihilate various populations, including those of the State of Israel?
20. Israel was universally condemned (even by the United States) when it preemptively destroyed the Osiraq reactor outside of Baghdad on June 7, 1981. Today, it is plain to all that this expression of anticipatory self-defense was not only legally correct, but that it saved the lives of thousands of others – including American soldiers – who would otherwise have had to
face Saddam’s engines of atomic destruction.
LOUIS RENE BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and publishes widely on international law and international relations. He is Strategic and Military Affairs Analyst for The Jewish Press.