While terrorism and violence have forced the world to search for safe spaces to avoid the aggression and trigger-happy fingers of Islamic radicals, American college students are busy looking for their own “safe spaces” while avoiding “micro-aggressions” and “trigger warnings.” This new lingo of campus crybabies, with demands born of sensitivities run amok, would be laughable if their ramifications weren’t so dangerous.
Fueled by the Black Lives Matters movement and a hyper-politically correct environment, sensitivity seems to be boiling over in all the wrong places. Student protests recently forced the resignation of Tim Wolfe, president of the University of Missouri, over accusations that he minimized supposed racial incidents. His exit was quickly followed by that of Mary Spellman, dean of students at Claremont McKenna College, who was forced to step down because of a poorly worded e-mail.
Shortly afterward, students occupied the office of the president of Princeton, demanding that he remove the name of its famous “racist” alumnus Woodrow Wilson from all its buildings.
And who can forget the ludicrous student harassment of faculty at Yale University over “offensive” Halloween costumes?
Affirmative action and diversity quotas seem to have become inadequate for the rabble-rousers. Identifying with the left-wing agenda of angry black students and their supporters seems to have become the new path toward earning a college degree, with or without any justified credits. And nursing imaginary racial grievances has become the predominant focus in the halls of higher education.
The threat to free speech notwithstanding, white students, many of them Jewish, are flocking to the cause while ignoring the very real and documented grievance of campus anti-Semitism. And despite the increasingly hostility and intimidation plaguing Jewish students, no “Concerned Student” groups have risen up on their behalf.
Raucous protests and a hunger strike at the University of Missouri resulted from a single swastika and a drunkard yelling racial slurs. But why has there been no similar uproar when swastikas have become so rampant on campuses that the AMCHA Initiative (a non-profit organization dedicated to investigating, documenting, and combating anti-Semitism at American universities) instituted a Swastika Tracker on its website?
Jewish students are subject to anti-Semitic graffiti in residential halls, public areas, and Hillel houses. They have been the victims of physical aggression and harassment. And they are routinely smeared, by faculty members and groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine, as “baby killers” and practitioners of “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing.” The BDS movement and other initiatives dedicated to demonizing Israel are gaining momentum in a climate where any presentation of Israel’s point of view is suppressed and disrupted.
This past November, Jewish students at Loyola University who wanted to participate in an emergency day of action in solidarity with protesting students at the University of Missouri discovered that students who had opposed divestment from Israel were not welcome at the rally. Instead they were treated to interwoven chants of “Black Lives Matter, Free Free Palestine.”
Amid overt intimidation, many Jewish students have taken to hiding their Stars of David along with their support for Israel. In what has become a typical reaction, a Jewish student at UCLA described in an AMCHA posting how “instead of being proud to openly support Israel, I, and many others, find ourselves either defensive or forcibly silenced.”
Even Hillel houses at universities like Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania have bent to the pressure, breaking with Hillel International’s guidelines by hosting speakers promoting BDS.
Not surprisingly, most of these students are either unaffiliated or Reform or Conservative Jews who, having imbibed the rhetoric of their environment, are ill equipped to properly defend Israel. A college student in California explained her dilemma on an AMCHA posting” “I am proud to be descended from Israelis. But I am also ashamed of much of Israeli policy, saddened by children who have lost their homes and disgusted by actions that have left them destitute and isolated.”
Too many of these young students are growing up in an era and atmosphere of extreme political correctness. They live in a world where Israel is routinely pilloried and issues like transgender rights have made their way to the top of social concerns. And this millennial generation is the very group that is increasingly disconnected from Judaism, as indicated by the most recent Pew Research Center survey.
One really can’t blame these kids when their leaders are at the forefront of these agendas. The Reform movement was proud to pass a path-breaking resolution affirming the equality of transgender people and welcoming them into congregations. And at Reform’s Biennial in Orlando last month, movement president Rabbi Rick Jacobs said about Israel, “Our Reform movement has long opposed Israeli settlement policy in the West Bank. The occupation threatens the very Zionism that we hold dear…. It causes pain and hardship to the Palestinians and alienates Israel from friends and allies around the world.”
While one of the predominant themes of the Biennial was the younger generation’s dwindling interest in and support of Israel and Judaism, the movement’s platform itself prevents a reversal of this trend. As part of a culture that validates the very agenda they should be resisting, not only are Jewish students not up to the task of defending Israel, they actually feel far more comfortable defending transgender, gay, and black rights than the rights of Jews.
The fact that such Jews make up the bulk of American Jewry is why it is so crucial to focus on methods to combat this trend. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s announcement last month that the Israeli government would directly fund Reform and Conservative Jewish communities in Israel severely compounds this problem. Outreach to these groups should focus on trying to transform their destructive attitudes toward Israel and traditional Jewish beliefs rather than on importing those attitudes from America into Israel.
Israel and the Jewish religion are under assault from within. The only way to halt this threat is to acknowledge it and fight it. Any other approach will only perpetuate the very agenda that needs to be opposed.