Amid daily examples of politically correct lunacy plaguing our college campuses, it’s easy to lose sight of a darker undercurrent sweeping the country’s institutions of higher learning – a hateful, malignant movement of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activism.
The new book Dispatches from the Campus War Against Israel & Jews by Richard Cravatts, published by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, expertly explores and explains this alarming phenomenon. He covers the ideological roots of academic Jew-hatred, the BDS movement, Students for Justice in Palestine, the demonization of Israel, the “altruistic evil” of social justice, and more.
Dr. Richard Cravatts has written over 400 articles and book chapters on a wide range of topics from campus anti-Semitism and free speech to real estate and social policy in such publications as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, and Chicago Tribune,. He is the author of Genocidal Liberalism: The University’s War Against Israel & Jews. He is a past-president of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and a board member of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under the Law, and the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism.
I reached out to Dr. Cravatts with some questions about his important new book.
Mark Tapson: Can you explain how two influential buzzwords of academia – diversity and multiculturalism – have contributed to the ramping up of anti-Israelism on campus?
Richard Cravatts: Thanks so much for the opportunity to speak with you and your readers.
The desire to achieve diversity on campuses has seen administrations bending over backward to accommodate the sensitivities of minorities and perceived victims of the majority culture—usually at the expense of fairness and rationality. And multiculturalism has brought with it a type of moral relativism in which every country or victim group is equal, regardless of what vagaries, weaknesses, or fundamental evil may underpin its social structure.
Thus, the decades-old emphasis on bringing multiculturalism to campuses has meant that faculty as well as students have been steeped in a worldview that refuses to demarcate any differences between a democratic state struggling to protect itself (such as Israel) and aggressive, genocidal foes who wish to destroy it with their unending assaults (such as the Palestinians, Hamas, and Hezbollah).
Thus, this inclination to worship multiculturalism forces liberals to make excuses for those cultures that have obvious, often irredeemable, moral defects, such as the Islamist foes who currently threaten Israel and the West.
The sensitivity over diversity has regularly led to charge of racism against Israel, and of the many libels from the world community against Israel, perhaps none has gained such traction on campuses as the accusation that the Jewish state now practices apartheid in its treatment of the Palestinian Arabs. The same left-leaning activists from universities who carried the banner against the South African regime have now raised that same banner—with the same accusatory language—and superimposed on Israel that it is yet another apartheid regime oppressing Third World, “colored” victims.
The charge of apartheid is valuable to Israel’s detractors, for it both devalues the nation by accusing it of perpetuating what is to the left the greatest crime—racism—in the form of apartheid, while simultaneously absolving Arabs of responsibility for the onslaught of terror they continue to inflict on Israel, another unfortunate by-product of worshipping diversity and multiculturalism.
MT: Tell us about the “moral sadism” of academics who have managed to recast Israelis and Jews as Nazis inflicting “apartheid” and “genocide” upon the Palestinians.
RC: My insightful colleague, Professor Richard Landes of Boston University, commented that the trend of academics to draw comparisons between Israel and the Nazis represents what he termed “moral sadism.” What did he mean by that? That accusing Jews in the Jewish state—many of whom, or their parents and grandparents, were themselves victims of the Third Reich—is perverse and cruel at the same time, because it accuses Israelis of now having devolved into being the same barbaric monsters as their Nazi tormenters were in perpetrating the Holocaust.
What is troubling today is that the characterization of the Israeli-as-Nazi is a trope now promulgated by Western elites and so-called intellectuals in an odious campaign to defame Israel by Nazifying its people and accusing Jews as being the world’s moral and existential enemies as demonstrated by their oppression and brutality toward the Palestinians. We see examples of this in anti-Israel hate-fests sponsored by radical student groups with such repellent names as “Holocaust in the Holy Land,” “Israel: The Politics of Genocide,” or “Israel: The Fourth Reich.”
This is a lethal narrative because when it is believed the world community naturally asks itself: if Israel is a Nazi-like, apartheid regime, standing in opposition to everything for which the civilized community of nations stands, who cannot hold Israel accountable and judge it harshly for its transgressions? That against all historical evidence and the force of reason the calumny against Israel that it is a murderous, sadistic, and genocidal regime has been successfully promoted and continues to gain traction indicates that Israel’s academic defamers have been successful in inverting history and minimizing the actions of the actual Nazi regime as part of the modern day incarnation of the world’s oldest hatred.
MT: How have the willful blindness and double standards of social justice warriors created a moral inversion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
RC: In debating the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, social justice activists demonstrate their hypocrisy by endlessly dwelling on the many evils of Israel without bothering to examine or measure the Palestinians’ own central role in contributing to the many pathologies endemic to their civil society and institutions. As is frequently the case when speaking about the conflict, the discussion often glosses over the real problems of Palestinian culture, politics, and society—including its cult of death, terrorism, and martyrdom—and targets all criticism on the perceived defects of Israel, Zionism, and Jewish power.
Some radical academics broaden the significance of Israel’s errant behavior by pointing to it not only as a political and social issue demanding a just resolution, but as the principal obstacle to peace in the Middle East and the chief cause of terrorism against Israeli and Western targets. What is more, anti-Israel activists often contend—using a moral inversion in which Jews are blamed for the virulent Jew-hatred which targets them—Muslim rage will be aimed at the United States as well as, deservedly, at Israel.
In continually libeling and delegitimizing Israel, pro-Palestinians habitually demonstrate a double standard in assessing both the perceived defects of Israel and the purported virtue of the Palestinian campaign for statehood. Thus, on campus today Israel is regularly, though falsely, condemned for being created “illegally”—through the “theft” of Palestinian lands and property—and thus has no “right to exist.” The government is accused of a “brutal,” illegal “occupation” of Palestinian lands, of being a “colonial settler state,” a Zionist “regime,” a land-hungry nation building an “apartheid wall” as a further land grab, a usurper of property that was lived on and owned by a Palestinian “people” “from time immemorial.” Zionism, as I mentioned earlier, is regularly equated with Nazism, and the perceived offenses of Israel’s government and military are likened to Nazi crimes against humanity.
At the same time, conveniently, Middle Eastern countries are exculpated from responsibility for their cultural pathologies and radical Islamic impulses. Imperialism, colonialism, and racism are the root causes, according to anti-Israel academics, not the failure of many Arab states to confront modernity and construct civil societies. Palestinian terrorism—the deliberate and intentional attempts to murder Jews—significantly, is not blamed on the Palestinians themselves, but is the fault of Israel—because the so-called “occupation,” and the brutal suppression of Palestinian human rights by the militant Zionist regime, have left the otherwise peace-loving Palestinians with no other option than to confront Jewish control with “resistance,” a euphemism for genocidal terrorism and murder.
For social justice warriors, Israel’s self-defense is aggressive and unwarranted, but Arab terrorism is a virtuous form of justified resistance to what is believed to be an illegal occupation. Jewish self-determination is racist and imperialistic; Palestinian self-determination is so noble a cause that it warrants the extirpation of the Jewish state, if necessary, to facilitate the creation of a new Arab state in place of it.
MT: Can you talk a bit about the two-pronged campus strategy against Israel: the relentless demonization of the Jewish state and the “weaponized intolerance” of suppressing pro-Israel voices and arguments?
RC: While campus radicals fulminate regularly against Israel and America, give tacit support to these countries’ enemies, and heap vitriol on the Jewish state and its supporters—much of it exceeding what would be considered reasonable or rational criticism of a democratic state—they regularly cloak themselves with the protective shield of “academic free speech,” that sacrosanct philosophy which has come to mean that liberal academics can express themselves, even loathsomely, and expect no one to question their poisonous rhetoric or answer back with a vigorous defense from the other side. When the Left derides Israel and promotes false, biased, or hateful ideas about Zionism, the Israel government, or military policies, and defenders speak back and commentators call them on their defective views, the common claim is that the outspoken critics of Israel have been “silenced” by the accusation of anti-Semitism and that their free speech is being “suppressed.”
When campus radicals and Leftist professors are not moaning about how the dreaded “Israel Lobby” attempts to suppress all criticism of Israel, or complaining about how any scrutiny of radical Islam, Palestinian terror, or Arab intransigency constitutes “hate speech” that will intimidate or harass Muslims, they have found other means to insure that countervailing opinions about Israel and the Palestinians are shut out. With greater frequency, Muslim student groups, radical, anti-Israel professors, and even college officials themselves have taken it upon themselves to either restrict the ability of conservative or pro-Israel speakers to appear on campuses, or to deny them access to campus altogether. The radical group, Students for Justice in Palestine, even has a policy of trying to shout down pro-Israel speakers, preventing them from speaking with disruptions and heckling.
When confronted with the possibility that a speaker will voice ideas contrary to their own reflexive ideology, anti-Israel activists often try to have the speaking event cancelled in advance by college officials. Rather than have to go through the intellectually inconvenient process of having to confront views other than their own, anti-Israel, anti-American groups try to demonize and marginalize the views of conservative speakers—in advance of their visits—by painting them as Islamophobes, Zionists, right wing hate-mongers, or fundamentalists. Appeals to university administrators by these victim groups commonly claim that the prospective speaker is known for “hate speech,” that his or her views are too controversial or “hurtful” for campus audiences, or that the political views of a speaker are so controversial and potentially offensive to Muslims that the speaker should not even be able to speak at all—even if some students on campus do wish to hear the views.
MT: What are the ideological roots of the BDS movement?
RC: For campus activists against Israel, the defamatory essence of the racism accusation found a perfect use when, in 2000, it formed the basis of a Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign designed to bully universities into ending their financial ties with companies doing business with Israel. Basing its efforts on the South African divestment campaign of 1980s, the anti-Israel model was grafted onto the now-familiar charge and solution: since Israel, like South Africa, was perceived to be a nation practicing racism in an apartheid society, at the expense of an oppressed minority, university investments would be curtailed until Israel amended its racist ways and met the demands of those calling for divestment.
That is why calls for divestment and boycotts against Israel are so appealing to the moral defectives and Western elite who wish to superimpose the South African model of oppression—even though it is not at all honest or accurate to do so—on Israel’s own society.
Positioned as a morally upright effort to assert and protect the rights of the long-suffering Palestinians, these efforts at demonizing Israel are in fact not benign gestures of peace activists and well-meaning academics in pursuit of social justice for the Palestinians. There is a far more sinister and deadly agenda which aims to create a new Palestinian state, not, as is frequently though disingenuously described as one that will exist side by side with Israel in peace, but actually as a new entity that will either economically or demographically subsume Israel—a war of propaganda, falsehoods, slanders, and distortions of history by which Israel’s enemies vanquish the Jewish state with ideas rather than arms.
The sinister intentions of leaders of the BDS campaign are clearly revealed when one looks at the demands that are included in calls for campus boycott and divestment actions. Even in the worldwide effort to end South African apartheid, there was no interest in also, after ending racist policies, dismantling the entire South African state. But that is exactly what BDS proponents have in mind for Israel: all of the tactics used in their campaign are designed, not only to libel and delegitimize Israel, but also to weaken it, economically and militarily, with the ultimate hope that it will disappear as a sovereign Jewish state. The specific demands of the BDS movement—ending the occupation, tearing down the “apartheid wall,” preventing companies that supply military hardware to Israel to continue to do so, allowing for a “right of return” of millions of Palestinians into Israel proper to demographically subsume the Jewish character of it, and excusing terrorism as legitimate “resistance”—are not designed to bring peace, with two sides living side by side in peace.
These tactics are designed not only to create a Palestinian state—if that is even the primary objective—but to weaken, with the intention of eventually destroying, the Jewish state.
MT: How does the intellectual dishonesty of women’s studies feminists contribute to the demonization of Israel?
RC: This year the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) voted to approve another academic boycott of Israel.
With the characteristic pseudo-intellectual babble of the social sciences and humanities, the NWSA’s recommendation to approve a boycott announced that they “recognize the interconnectedness of systemic forms of oppression,” that “interconnectedness,” no doubt, justifying the singling out of Israeli academics for their purported role in the oppression of women in the Middle East.
Apparently, this rarified “intersectional perspective” has not enabled NWSA members to notice the injustice and violence currently being meted out against Israelis, either as a result of the shower of some 12,000 Hamas rockets launched from Gaza since 2005 with the intention of murdering Jewish civilians, or as part of this year’s “knife Intifada.”
But facts and history are not the concern of the morally-elevated professoriate. Revealingly, the language conjuring up colonial displacement” of Palestinians during the “1948 Nakba” reveals the victim-centric, oppression-laden worldview of the NWSA, in which the legal creation of the Jewish state is framed as an unjust colonial enterprise during which innocent, indigenous Arabs in a factitious country called Palestine were either ethnically cleansed from their lands or remained and now live in the oppressive, apartheid, racist state of Israel.
Most significantly, though, it obviously has escaped the notice of the NWSA experts on gender and sexuality issues that if one wanted to punish any Middle Eastern country for its subjugation and abuse of women, Israel would probably not be the first nation to come under reasonable or justifiable scrutiny for a group dedicated, as they claim, “to principles of human rights, justice and freedom for all, including academic freedom.” Totalitarian and despotic regimes throughout the region have created an oppressive group of social pathologies that negatively affect women, including genital mutilation, stoning of adulteresses, “honor” killings by fathers and brothers who have been shamed, cultures of gender apartheid in which women are seen as property with no emotional or physical autonomy, ubiquitous sexual assault, and a general subjugation of women, complete with regulations governing behavior, movement, speech, and even requirements that women be covered by burqa or hijab.
Like other members of the academic Left, who believe their worldview is correct and virtuous because it seeks to create a world in which social equanimity will be realized by the downtrodden, members of the NWSA, similar to their fellow travelers in other academic associations, are content to support such intellectually dishonest campaigns as academic boycotts because doing so enables them to denounce Israel as an imperialistic, racist, militaristic oppressor. And like many academic critics and libelers of Israel, the NWSA members are eager to distort and condemn every aspect of Israel’s society, political life, and culture, while surrounding Arab nations scarcely receive a comment, despite the glaringly obvious pathologies and cultural defects endemic to Israel’s aggressive neighbors.
MT: The second half of your book contains case studies of the campus war against the Jews and Israel. Can you share one that stands out as particularly representative and/or egregious?
RC: In November of 2012, Northeastern University’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), paralleling the moral incoherence of anti-Israel activists demonstrating elsewhere in American and European cities, sponsored a Boston rally in support of Gaza and, presumably, its genocidal thugocracy, Hamas.
The members of SJP who attended the demonstration, along with their fellow travelers of anti-Semites, Israel haters, and such psychologically mystifying groups as Jewish Voice for Peace, apparently were not sufficiently concerned when some 12,000 rockets and mortars were launched almost daily into southern Israeli towns from Gaza by Hamas over the past seven years, aimed at civilian targets for no other reason than the intended victims were Jews.
What was particularly revealing, and chilling, about the Boston rally was the virulence of the chants and messages on the placards. Several of the morally self-righteous protestors, for instance, shrieked out, to the accompaniment of drumbeats, “Long live Intifada,” a grotesque and murderous reference to the Second Intifada, during which Arab terrorists murdered some 1,000 Israelis and wounded more than 14,000 others.
That pro-Palestinian student activists, and their fellow travelers on campuses around the country, those who purport to be motivated by a desire to bring “justice” to the Middle East, could publicly call for the renewed slaughter of Jews in the name of Palestinian self-determination demonstrates quite clearly how ideologically debased the human rights movement has become. Students on U.S. campuses, who never have to face a physical threat more serious than getting jostled while waiting in line at Starbucks, are quick to downplay Israel’s very real existential threats and the necessity of the Jewish state to take counter measures to thwart terrorism. And quick to label the killing of Hamas terrorists by the IDF as “genocide,” these morally blind individuals see no contradiction in their calls for the renewed murder of Jews for their own sanctimonious cause.
Another deadly chorus emanated from protestors during the rally: “When people are occupied, resistance is justified.” This is an oft repeated but disingenuous and false notion – that stateless terrorists have some recognized human right to murder civilians whose government has purportedly occupied their territory. It may be comforting for Israel’s ideological foes to rationalize the murder of Jews by claiming some international right to do it with impunity and a sense of righteousness. But as legal experts have pointed out, the rally participants and their terror-appeasing apologists elsewhere are completely wrong about the legitimacy of murder as part of “resistance” to an occupying force.
The fact that so many demonstrators feel comfortable with openly supporting a terrorist group with the single purpose of murdering Jews indicates quite dramatically how prevalent, and acceptable, genocidal Jew-hatred has become, both in the streets of Boston and on campuses in America and Europe. This is clearly not, as it is regularly asserted, merely “criticism” of the Israeli government’s policies; this is what many define as a “new” anti-Semitism – an irrational, seething animus against the Jew of nations, Israel.