Recently, disturbing footage circulated on social media from the well-known and much respected Dov Hikind. He had attended an interfaith conference at Rutgers University. One of the speakers was Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib. When Hikind stood up to ask her about her continued expressions of anti-Semitism, he had the microphone snatched from his hand and was roughly escorted from the venue by police. He posted the footage on Twitter and soon it was seen by thousands of Jews who were simply appalled that this could happen.
This is not the first time that Hikind has put himself on the front line in the defense of Israel and the Jewish people, and not the first time police have plucked him from it. His heart is always in the right place when it comes to his passion and love for Jews. I admire the man and consider him a Jewish hero. But his tactics are simply wrong.
Before I moved to the USA some eight years ago, I served for 25 years as the official campus rabbi to the 14 universities of North West England – Manchester, Liverpool, etc. In that role, I attended many conferences and gatherings like the one Dov Hikind was expelled from. It was in that role that I met him for the first time in February 2002. Dov was doing a tour of Europe to research campus anti-Semitism, and Manchester was (and is) a hotspot.
His team and I sat down in a local restaurant over fish and chips, and I told him the whole sorry tale. I started by dipping into my own student days in my hometown of Glasgow in Scotland. That was where the first ever anti-Israel motion in Europe took place and it spread like coronavirus across the continent. I spoke at that event, but unfortunately the “good guys” lost. Faced with large numbers of Muslims and their left-wing supporters and allies (communists, Trotskyists, and others), we were simply outgunned and outvoted when the motion was submitted to a vote.
The tactic adopted by the official Jewish students’ organization, “UJS,” was to carry on engaging the other side in debate and argument over anti-Israel motion after anti-Israel motion. The UJS tried to broker alliances, none of which proved valuable or sustainable. The tactic meant they – we – lost one battle after another until the UK campus war was eventually completely lost.
I recently came across an article I wrote for one of the UK’s Jewish newspapers five years after Dov and I first met. It was entitled “A letter from the Front” and it began as follows:
“So tell me, how do you think Israel did in the war against Hezbollah last summer? Not too good, huh? Well I am writing this from the front line of Israel’s defense, and I have to tell you that once again things aren’t going well.
I am not at the Lebanese border. I am in Manchester, in the North of England. Manchester has more university students than any other city in Europe. Manchester University’s degrees are prized by employers more than any other after Oxford and Cambridge. It is also here, at Manchester University, where a vicious and ongoing campaign is constantly waged to demonize Israel and intimidate Jewish students.
It is a campaign that is succeeding.”
The campaign succeeded indeed.
Europe is meant to be five years behind the USA. Norms and fashions in the U.S. are supposed to take that much time to filter across and seep into European culture. But the anti-Israel campus dynamic worked in exactly the opposite way. What was established and instituted in Europe decades ago quickly flowed over to the USA from Europe with an identical playbook and identical results.
This matters. Nearly three decades of anti-Israel rhetoric and propaganda spread through European universities to their graduates and followed them into the media, education, politics, and every part of Europe’s cultural fabric. Those countries’ politicians then went on to decide policy towards the Middle East. Those politicians and their media limited Israel’s room for political and military maneuvering. Jewish lives were then lost as action and strategy that could have saved those same lives were curtailed or refused over concerns about what the West – especially Western media – would say.
In that old article I wrote: “Israel’s tactics are wrong and should never have ignored the propaganda war. Israel’s resourcing of its troops in the propaganda war was and is inadequate. Israel has been blind to the enemy’s build-up.
It is high time to adopt new tactics before this venom from Europe seeps across and poisons through an identical process Israel’s strongest ally, the U.S., and causes it to start to question its alliance and friendship towards the Jewish State.
If it does not, it will result in one American campus defeat after another… until eventually we lose the war on every front.”
It turns out that what I wrote was prophetic. Warren, Buttigieg, and Sanders have all publicly threatened to use U.S. aid as a weapon to pressure Israel and dictate her policy.
So to Dov Hikind, someone I like and admire and salute as a proud defender of his people and the State of Israel, I repeat: Your tactics are simply wrong. They are old; they have been applied before and were a complete and total failure. Try this instead: There is only one thing that a university like Rutgers, given its doubtful history of toleration of anti-Semitic activity, will react to – and that is legal action.
Dov should take his video footage to a nice, aggressive, and talented lawyer and let him sue Rutgers for failure to defend Dov’s constitutional rights to freedom of speech. He should sue the police for ejecting him from that meeting for the exercise of those rights. The next time a Jewish student is threatened verbally or physically on the Rutgers campus, sue the university for not protecting that student. Don’t worry about the cost – crowdfunding will allow ordinary Jews the chance to support you and fight back. I will promise you the first $100 to get the ball rolling.
Let word of this action seep through to America’s anti-Semitic and “woke” academia and university administrations across the land. Then you will start to see victories on American campuses, not videos of Dov Hikind being schlepped out like some criminal, followed by defeat after defeat.