(JNi.media) Connection to Israel is the strongest predictor of perceiving hostility toward Israel and Jews on American campuses, including personal experiences of antisemitic verbal harassment, says a new report titled “Antisemitism and the College Campus — Perceptions and Realities,” issued by Brandeis University’s Maurice and Marilyn Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies
The study was designed to understand the extent of hostility toward Israel and antisemitism on North American campuses, and to assess the relationship between these trends and Jewish students’ support for and connection to Israel.
“Those who were highly connected to Israel were more likely to perceive their campus environment as hostile toward Jews and Israel and to report being blamed for Israel’s actions,” states the discussion part at the end of the report. “The underlying dynamic is unclear, but it is likely that those who are highly connected to Israel become a target of antisemitic or anti-Israel sentiment because they make their support for Israel known. It is also likely that those who are more connected to Israel are more sensitive to criticism of Israel, or more likely to perceive such criticism as antisemitic. Both dynamics are, perhaps, in play.”
It’s the old question of who came first, the anti-Semitic chicken or the Jewish egg.
The study is based on a survey conducted by researchers from the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish studies at Brandeis University, who targeted a sample of eligible applicants to the summer 2015 Taglit- Birthright Israel trips. The Data were collected from April 15 to May 7, 2015, before any respondents went on their trips to Israel.
The survey respondents were offered the opportunity to win one of three $100 Amazon.com gift cards for answering an online questionnaire. The sample frame included approximately 32,000 individuals, out of whom a simple random sample of 12,049 eligible applicants was drawn.
Some of the key findings of the survey were:
More than one-quarter of undergraduate respondents describe hostility toward Israel on campus by their peers as a “fairly” or “very big” problem and nearly 15 percent perceive this same level of hostility toward Jews.
Nearly one-quarter of respondents report having been blamed during the past year for the actions of Israel because they were Jewish. Twenty percent report that this happened occasionally and five percent that it happened frequently or all the time.
About one-third of college undergraduate respondents report having been verbally harassed during the past year because they were Jewish.
Nearly three-quarters of respondents report having been exposed at one time during the past year to at least one of six antisemitic statements, including the claims that Jews have too much power and that Israelis behave “like Nazis” toward the Palestinians.
It is likely that those who are highly connected to Israel become a target of antisemitic or anti-Israel sentiment because they make their support for Israel known.
It is also likely that those who are more connected to Israel are more sensitive to criticism of Israel, or more likely to perceive such criticism as antisemitic.
A few schools have particularly high levels of hostility toward Jews or Israel. In particular, Canadian universities, schools in the California state system.
To a lesser extent, large land-grant universities in the Midwest are over-represented among schools with the highest average levels of hostility toward Jews and Israel.
The current levels of students’ connection to Israel are higher than those found among similar individuals in 2014, before the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Less than a quarter of respondents indicate having followed news of the Israeli elections—which were held in the month prior to the survey—“somewhat” or “very much.”
Respondents appear to have a low level of knowledge and/or few firm convictions about Israeli politics.