March 7, 2024 | Washington Examiner

Anti-Israel faculty group adds fuel to a raging fire

March 7, 2024 | Washington Examiner

Anti-Israel faculty group adds fuel to a raging fire

“It’s not safe to be a Jewish student at UC Berkeley.” That was the message a Jewish student delivered before the House of Representatives’ Education and the Workforce Committee last Thursday, just days after anti-Israel agitators at UC Berkeley assaulted Jewish students.

To shut down an event featuring an Israeli speaker, the mob last week spat on, shoved, choked, and harassed Jewish students and broke windows and a door. Police acceded to the intimidation and canceled the speech. If Jewish students at Berkeley hoped their classrooms would offer a reprieve from the anti-Israel hostility on the quad, they would be sadly mistaken.

Berkeley has long been a hotbed for anti-Israel activity. Hatem Bazian, a Berkeley professor, in 1992 or 2001, depending on the account, launched at Berkeley the first Students for Justice in Palestine chapter, which has frequently engaged in disruptive behavior. In 2002, 79 SJP members were arrested for protesting a Holocaust memorial event, and in 2010, SJP’s leader was arrested for ramming a Jewish student with a shopping cart.

Berkeley made headlines in October 2023 when an instructor offered extra credit to students for attending a pro-Palestinian rally. In November, Jewish students sued the university for becoming a hub of “unchecked” antisemitism. Berkeley’s administration tried to have the case thrown out in February, claiming the First Amendment constrained its ability to check this “political speech.” Meanwhile, Berkeley became one of approximately 80 schools to host Faculty for Justice in Palestine, an anti-Israel faculty advocacy group.

FJPs stepped into the void created when college administrations began disciplining SJP chapters for violating codes of conduct and chanting genocidal slogans against Jews and Israelis. Statements from several FJP chapters have blamed Israel for Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack. Rutgers professor and FJP signatory Noura Erakat declared at a rally in November that Israel and Western powers are on a “depraved pursuit of wealth and privilege!” And Harvard FJP member Walter Johnson signed a letter defending the use of a slogan widely interpreted as advocating ethnically cleansing Israel.

In February, Harvard’s FJP branch posted a blatantly antisemitic cartoon on Instagram, just after House Republicans subpoenaed the university and barely a month after antisemitism and plagiarism scandals forced Harvard’s president to resign. This cartoon was not particularly subtle. It showed a hand stamped with a Star of David and a dollar sign holding a noose around the necks of black boxer Mohammad Ali and former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Faculty activism against Israel is nothing new. In March 2023, Indiana University’s McKinney School of Law hosted a webinar on Muslim fundraising featuring convicted Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist Sami al-Arian. At Princeton in the fall of 2023, a course included literature promoting the blood libel that the Israeli army was harvesting Palestinian organs.

Barely a week after Hamas’s deadly Oct. 7 massacre, a Cornell professor addressed a rally and called the attacks “exhilarating” and “energizing.” This rhetoric has seeped into classrooms or extracurricular teach-ins. At a teach-in at New York University, an adjunct professor denied that Hamas raped Israelis on Oct. 7 and denounced New York as a “Zionist city.”

The NYU professor’s tirade against Zionists demonstrates how attacks on the Jewish state often bleed into attacks on Jews in the States. With the vast majority of Jews supporting Israel, Jews become targets for defending a supposed oppressor. If that weren’t enough, a December 2023 Harvard CAPS-Harris poll found that two-thirds of American voters aged 18-24 deemed Jews to be oppressors. In line with an increasingly popular framework that divides the world into two classes — the oppressed and the oppressors — Jews are allegedly on the wrong side of the oppression divide.

A 2016 Brandeis University study found that the presence of an SJP group was “one of the strongest predictors of perceiving a hostile climate toward Israel and Jews.” Faculty-sponsored anti-Israel activism will only make things worse.

U.S. campuses have long been breeding grounds for anti-Israel hostility, but the organization of anti-Israel faculty groups is new and pernicious. While Jewish students have had to contend with antagonism emanating from their peers, they now increasingly face organized hostility stemming from authority figures on campus.

David May is a research manager and senior research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where Sabrina Soffer is a research intern. Follow David on X, formerly known as Twitter, @DavidSamuelMay.