Israel has a history of helping, sometimes saving, Jewish communities in distress. The idea that Israel is responsible for all Jews has a special place in the Israeli ethos.
This week the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of the Knesset held a meeting to discuss the case of a Jewish community in distress. The bipartisan meeting was jointly called by MK Anat Berko of the right-of-center Likud Party and MK Nachman Shai of the left-of-center opposition party Zionist Union.
Strangely, the Jewish community in question was not one living in a failed state or an oppressive dictatorship. Instead, the focus of the meeting was on the United States—specifically, the Jewish students at its universities.
American universities are, of course, a major arena of anti-Israeli activity including Israel Apartheid Weeks, BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) advocacy, and the silencing—often through violent disruption—of Israeli or pro-Israeli speakers.
The Knesset members were told that:
· Jewish students in institutions such as NYU, the University of Pennsylvania, Connecticut College, the University of Oklahoma, Harvard, Claremont College in Los Angeles, Vassar College in New York, and many others have been subjected to harassment by BDS and Students for Justice in Palestine activists, including the taping of eviction notices to their doors. Jewish students who have approached campus administrations for help say they avoid taking action. In one case, at NYU, some anti-Jewish students who had posted “eviction notices” were expelled.
· Students for Justice in Palestine has been compiling lists of Jewish students on American and Canadian campuses with details of their dorm addresses, raising real concern about the students’ safety.
· The universities claim to oppose anti-Israeli and antisemitic activity—and, of course, abuse of any kind on a racial, ethnic, religious, gender, or sexual-orientation basis, to the point of providing “safe spaces” and the like for students who feel they have been offended. Yet, in reality, it’s open season for students who engage in such activity as long as it’s directed at Israel or Jews. At the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, students and former students tied to Students for Justice in Palestine and the Muslim Students Association have praised Hitler, threatened violence, incited violence, and endorsed terror organizations in social-media posts. Jewish groups in Tennessee have expressed “anger, disappointment and worry” at the university’s “tepid response” to complaints.
· Out of 941 reported antisemitic incidents in the U.S. in 2015, 90 occurred on university campuses. Those 90 marked an increase of almost 100% from 47 in 2014. Amnon Goldstof, head of an Israeli reserve-soldiers NGO call Reservists on Duty that has recently toured the U.S., told the Knesset committee that “Jewish students are the most persecuted minority on [U.S.] campuses.”
· MK Berko said that it has become almost impossible for Israeli or pro-Israeli speakers to address students at U.S. campuses. She told the committee that “when she was supposed to give a lecture on a US college campus, it had to be moved because protesters blocked the hall where it was supposed to take place.” Also attending the meeting was Tzahi Gabrieli of the Strategic Affairs Ministry, who “said the physical intimidation of the sort Berko faced is the most common on campuses.”
The latter part of the meeting, in which Gabrieli detailed the Strategic Affairs Ministry’s approach to countering the anti-Jewish phenomena, was held behind closed doors.
Meanwhile, New Jersey governor Chris Christie has signed a law prohibiting the state’s public worker pension fund from investing in companies that boycott Israel and support BDS.
New Jersey thereby becomes one of over a dozen states that have passed anti-BDS laws this year. This is a welcome and laudable development. It is, though, strangely discordant with a situation where “pro-Palestinian” activists are allowed to attack Jews on U.S. campuses. Even stranger is that a distant, foreign country—Israel—is taking upon itself the task of doing something about it.
The time for the U.S. authorities to crack down on these thugs is now.