Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
Barack Obama’s abstention from a vicious, anti-Israel Security Council resolution is merely the latest attack in the West’s long, shameful war against Israel. That the historical birthplace of political freedom and human rights should make a pariah of its cultural offspring is an indelible stain on the honor of Europe and America.
That such irrational bigotry and moral idiocy should find a comfortable home in universities is even more reprehensible. Higher education is supposedly the protected space where critical thought, fidelity to truth, and humanistic principles are honored. But as Richard L. Cravatts meticulously details in his indispensable collection of essays Dispatches from the Campus War against Israel and Jews, universities and colleges today foster and promote the most vicious slanders and lies about a country that for nearly a century has had to continually fight for its existence, yet still has remained a bastion of liberal democracy and human rights in a region devoid of both.
Cravatts is the author of Genocidal Liberalism: The University’s Jihad against Israel and Jews, a recent president of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, and a board member of the AMCHA Initiative at the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under the Law. His new book catalogues in fine-grained detail how universities and scholars across the world have betrayed their professional integrity and moral decency by obsessively demonizing Israel. The intensity and irrationalism of this “deranged hatred of Israel,” as Cravatts writes, has made it “a covert, and surrogate, form of anti-Semitism itself,” one that reprises all the slanderous tropes of traditional Jew-hatred.
One technique of this cognitive bait-and-switch is an Orwellian degradation of language. Calling Israel a “colonial” or “imperialist” power bespeaks a willful ignorance of history. The use of question-begging epithets like “racist,” “genocide,” and “apartheid” is a way to camouflage bigotry and make Israel responsible for the aggression and terrorist attacks it has suffered for nearly a century. Even more despicable is the false analogy between Zionism and Nazism, the greatest killer of Jews in history. It takes a particularly brazen moral stupidity to equate the victims of genocide with their murderers.
Professional malfeasance likewise fosters the academic hatred of Israel. The popularity of the fraudulent literary critic Edward Said has corrupted not just Middle East Studies departments, but disciplines like English, history, and the social sciences. Add Muslim student groups sympathetic with jihadist organizations and their eliminationist goals; left-wing bitter-enders who see Israel as a neo-colonialist outpost of Western imperialism; and juvenile admirers of “revolutionary” violence and noble-savage multiculturalism, and the result is, as Cravatts writes, “the compromised purpose of higher education, where scholarship has been degraded by bias and extremism on the part of a left-wing professoriate with a clear political agenda that cites Israel as the new villain in a world yearning for social justice.”
Cravatts analyzes numerous instances of this reprehensible dynamic. In an article published by the esteemed medical journal Lancet, British doctors retooled the old medieval blood libel by accusing Israelis of wantonly and willfully targeting children and women in Gaza during operation Cast Lead, with no acknowledgment that Israelis were responding to a barrage of 10,000 rockets indiscriminately fired into their country. Similarly, the New Weapons Research Group fingered Israel for high concentrations of metals in the hair of Gazan children, and once again Lancet made Israel responsible for the “direct and indirect health effects of the Israeli occupation.” There is no similar concern for the traumatic consequences of Israeli children living under the constant threat of terrorist murder and rockets fired from Gaza and Lebanon. “By dressing up old hatred against Jews, combined with a hatred of Israel, and repackaging them as seemingly pure scholarship,” Cravatts writes, “Israel’s ideological foes have found an effective, but odious way” to blame Israel for the aggression against it.
Another example of academic anti-Semitism is the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which is attempting to wage economic war on Israel as a way of weakening it and pressuring it to change its policies, if not outright destroying it. The movement is based on an egregious analogy between Israel and South Africa in the 1980s, when such international opprobrium and economic pressure were successful in ending apartheid. The BDS gang especially targets universities and their foundations in order to coerce them into divesting from the Israeli economy. Of course the analogy is blatantly false, as Cravatts notes: “That Israel’s society is multi-racial, ethnically diverse, and one in which Arabs, as twenty percent of the population, enjoy more civil and human rights” than in neighboring Arab countries is ignored. Buttressed by a false history accusing Israel of “occupation,” “genocide,” “land theft,” and “illegitimacy,” BDS attempts to combine the sins of colonialism and racism into one weapon for destroying Israel’s right to exist.
A constant theme in Cravatts’s grim catalogue is the egregious double standards used to judge Israel. The National Women’s Studies Association approves a boycott of Israel based on “the interconnectedness of systemic forms of oppression,” which leads to “sexual and gender-based violence” perpetrated by Israel against Palestinian Arab women. Ignored is the misogyny and sex-based discrimination encoded in the Koran, Hadith, and sharia law foundational to Islam. As Cravatts point out, the religiously inspired misogyny accounts for the high levels of violence against Arab women, and the internalization of the excuses for this violence by women who find it justified if, for example, they leave the house without their husband’s permission. Western “feminists” continually rail at such “false consciousness,” but when it comes to Palestinian Arab women, it “seem to have slipped off the moral radar screens of the NWSA.”
Or take the academic boycotts of Israeli scholars, who are banished from conferences and other scholarly gatherings because of their alleged complicity in “colonialist and racist policies,” as a Modern Languages Association member put it. Of course, scholars from tyrannical, misogynistic, anti-Semitic, and homophobic Arab states are still welcomed, their government’s depredations excused as the justified response to “colonialism” and “imperialism.” More despicable is the hypocrisy of American scholars whose universities reap billions in federal grants––famous Israel-hater Noam Chomsky’s MIT got nearly a billion dollars from the Defense Department in 2009 alone––yet are not similarly held accountable for what they think are their government’s evil foreign policies.
And let’s not forget the egregious double standard regarding free speech, which is not just a Constitutional right, but a corner-stone of academic freedom and its commitment to open critical discourse. Even as pro-Muslim and pro-Palestinian Arab student organizations openly and freely demonstrate and protest without hindrance from anyone, at the same time pro-Israel speakers “are shouted down, booed, jeered, and barraged with vitriol,” Cravatts writes. For example, in 2015 a lecture sponsored by the Minnesota Law School by Hebrew University professor Moshe Halbertal “was delayed for thirty minutes by the unruly heckling and chants of some 100 protestors” from anti-war and pro-Palestinian Arab groups. The same year, at the University of Texas, Dr. Gil-Li Vardi was disrupted by protestors who tried to prevent the event and continued to disrupt it. Cravatts documents numerous other examples of Israel-hating activists compromising academic freedom and free speech, all the while they are allowed to exercise their own right to peddle lies and hateful slanders of Israel
After reading Cravatts’s detailed exposure of the campus war against Israel and the Jews, one may wonder what can be done. One thing a president Trump and a Republican Congress can do is turn the progressives’ weapons against them. Campus political correctness of the sort that has fostered hatred of Israel and harassment of its supporters has been empowered and encouraged by the federal government’s ideological and overreaching interpretations of civil rights and sexual harassment law. A Trump Department of Education and civil rights division of the Department of Justice can warn universities and colleges that violations of Constitutional rights to free speech and due process, and tolerance of double standards in enforcing those rights, will be met with investigations and reductions of federal funding. Given that universities today receive billions of dollars in taxpayer funds––$76 billion in 2013–– most campuses will be highly motivated to start living up to the standards of reasoned discourse, balanced dialogue, and critical discussion that they tout in their recruitment brochures but serially ignore.
Until then, Congress can start by holding hearings on the illiberalism and corruption of American higher education––and by making sure they put Richard L. Cravatts high on the list of expert witnesses.