In 1978, the significant Regents of the University of California v. Bakke case brought the term “diversity” into the lexicon of higher education. Although the Court found that the medical school at the University of California at Davis had used an unconstitutional quota system in denying Alan Bakke admission, Justice Lewis Powell made his now-famous observation that, notwithstanding the inherent defect of such a quota system, universities could likely enhance the quality of their enrollments by striving to create a “diverse student body” engaging in “a robust exchange of ideas,” and that there was “a compelling state interest” in trying to achieve such a goal and in promoting the inclusion of historically underrepresented groups on campus.
Rather than helping students adapt to the real diversity of society outside the campus walls, however, the campaign to increase diversity has served to create balkanized campuses where victims of the moment segregate themselves into distinct and inward-looking racial and cultural groups—exactly the opposite intention of the university diversocrats and their bloated fiefdoms with which they promote this theology of victimization, racial justice, and inclusion.
It seems, though, that not all ethnic groups warrant the concern of woke campus social justice warriors. Jews, a tiny but highly visible and influential minority group, are regularly ignored when victim groups compete for recognition on the sensitivity scale. More than that, the very individuals whose role it is to ensure that all people are recognized and all groups protected have been shown to harbor a particular animus towards Jews and the Jewish state, Israel.
In the rarified atmosphere of racial equity and discussion about oppression and victimhood, Jews are now considered to be white and enjoy “white privilege,” that even though they have long been a maligned and hated minority, Jews are now excluded from victim classification and have themselves become targets for condemnation, criticism, and censure—even from those diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) professionals whose primary role it is to create campus environments free from bigotry, hatred, and bias.
Corporations like Google, along with Facebook and Twitter, have revealed themselves to be core facilitators of contemporary woke culture, but nowhere are identity-based fiefdoms more apparent than on university campuses where DEI officers, “diversity czars” on their respective campuses, decide who comprises this generation’s victim groups and how they should be coddled and their grievances rewarded.
But, troublingly, a 2021 report from Jay Greene and James Paulat the Heritage Foundation, “Inclusion Delusion: The Antisemitism of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Staff at Universities,” has revealed that the very people charged with creating campus environments free from bigotry and places where all groups feel welcome harbor particularly dark and hateful attitudes when it comes to Jews and Israel, the Jewish state.
The study, based on an analysis “of the Twitter accounts of 741 DEI staff members at 65 universities to document whether there was evidence of antisemitism to support anecdotal claims about anti-Israel activity by DEI staff,” revealed the DEI professionals were not impartial observers of campus climates and made it “clear that DEI staff at universities actually function as political activists, articulating and enforcing a narrow and radical ideological agenda.”
And, in keeping with the current campus campaign to libel and slander Israel relentlessly in helping to support Palestinian self-determination, these DEI officers target Israel promiscuously, so that the report authors “. . . found that DEI staff are obsessed with Israel, communicating about the Jewish homeland almost three times as often as about the country [China] that is actively interning their Muslim citizens.”
And the obsession with Israel was, predictably, not positive. In fact, the report found, “Tweets about Israel were also uniformly negative: 96% were expressing criticism . . ,” while “[i]n contrast, 62% of the tweets referencing China [included in the report as a comparison] were favorable.”
The tweets examined in the report also confirm that these DEI diversocrats frequently engage in speech that is clearly anti-Semitic based on the International Holocaust Remembrance Association’s (IHRA) working definition. “The frequent use of terms [in the tweets] such as apartheid and colonialism are meant to portray Israel as a racist endeavor and deny its right to exist as the homeland of the Jewish people,” one of the definition’s indications of anti-Semitic speech.
Not only that, in holding Israel to a standard not expected or demanded of any other country undergoing similar challenges, the DEI officers are demonstrating another example of anti-Semitism according to the IHRA definition. “The forceful denunciation of Israeli responses to rocket and terrorist attacks prominently feature a double standard,” the report found, “as only the Jewish state is expected not to defend its citizens in a way that all other countries would. The sparsity of criticism of China relative to Israel is also strong evidence of a double standard. Accusing Israel of genocide or ethnic cleansing is clearly meant to equate Israeli policy with that of the Nazis”—other anti-Semitic actions, according to the definition.
What are the report’s final observations? The authors suggest that, because it is perceived that “‘Jews, unlike other minority groups, possess privilege and power, Jews and victims of Jew-hatred do not merit or necessitate the attention of’” those in DEI positions of authority. In fact, the report concludes, it is “becoming painfully clear that many Diversity, Equity and Inclusion staffers charged with pursuing these laudable goals are betraying their mission, at least when it comes to Jews.”
Though by any normal measure Jewish students would be seen as a group worthy of protection from bias, hatred, and harassment by their peers and professors, the debate about Israel and the Palestinians has put Jewish supporters of Zionism and Israel in an uncomfortable position, often where they have found themselves excluded from progressive movements. Radical activist groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine have often been successful in recruiting black, Muslim, gay, and Hispanic students to the anti-Israel campaign that positions Israel as a white, colonial oppressor of a brown indigenous people, with the result being that students and faculty who support Israel are condemned as unrepentant racists and supporters of an apartheid regime.
Liberal students, who may well support the progressive values and beliefs of their peers but support Israel, therefore, frequently find themselves shut off from participating in campaigns for racial equity with which they actually sympathize but which, due to their allegiance to Zionism and Israel, brands them as liberal outcasts.
And because Jews are, rightly or wrongly, perceived as being powerful, of being “white” and enjoying “white privilege,” DEI officers have been less than sympathetic when Jewish students complain about the harassment and vilification they often receive as a result of virulent anti-Israel events, pro-Palestinian guest speakers, and anti-Israel faculty who load syllabi with one-sided anti-Israel, anti-Western, and sometimes anti-Semitic course materials.
That someone charged with fostering inclusion, diversity, and equity among students could at once purport to care about this goal and yet publicly despise Israel and Jews would seem to be contradictory, yet an example of this doublethink is currently roiling the University of Southern California campus. That case involves the vile Yasmeen Mashayekh, a student in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering who a group of some 60 USC faculty has accused of “ongoing open expressions of anti-Semitism and Zionophobia.”
Incredulously, though possibly not coincidentally, Ms. Mashayekh is a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion senator in USC’s graduate student government yet, as cataloged on Canary Mission (a website that compiles dossiers of anti-Semitic, radical students and faculty), on May 9, 2021, Mashayekh tweeted: “I want to kill every mother f**king zionist.” When Canary Mission responded to that odious tweet with one of their own, claiming that her tweet was “horrifying,” Mashayekh tweeted: “Oh no how horrifying that I want to kill my colonizer!!”
In June, Mashayekh tweeted: “Death to Israel and its b**ch the US.,” and retweeted a tweet that read: “May i****l [Israel] burn to the ground. #SaveSilwan.” And in case there was any doubt about her feelings about the Jewish state, her June tweets included support for terrorism and the death of Jews: “If you are not for the complete destruction of Israel and the occupation forces then you’re anti-Palestinian;” “Death to Israel;” and “Yes I f**king love hamas [sic] now stfu [shut the f**k up].”
But while a group of faculty called on the USC administration to take some proactive action to denounce the rhetoric and sentiment of this vicious student, others who support Mashayekh have been busy transforming her from a hateful, anti-Semitic bigot into a victim of Islamophobia and racism, and someone even experiencing reputational damage.
Mashayekh could thus insulate herself with a mantle of victimhood and was free to attack Zionism, Jews, and Israel with impunity, presumably due to her victim status and the fact that the targets of her vile ideology are “white” Jews, defenders of a racist state who, in her mind, at least, do not deserve protection from hatred.
At Stanford University, the DEI program of the University’s Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) division is at the center of a lawsuit filed by the Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law on behalf of two CAPS mental health counselors, Dr. Ronald Albucher and Sheila Levin, who experienced “a hostile and unwelcoming environment for Jews in its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) program, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.”
“The DEI program,” the lawsuit claimed, “advanced the stereotype that Jews, including Ms. Levin and Dr. Albucher, are ‘white’ or ‘white passing,’ and invoked the classic anti-Semitic trope that Jews are powerful, wealthy and privileged.” At DEI training sessions, Levin and Albucher were confronted with the language of victimization that animates the progressive ideology on campuses, language which includes “white” Jews as oppressors of people of color. “By endorsing an anti-Semitic narrative that designates Jews collectively as ‘oppressors,’responsible for systemic racism, while simultaneously denying Jewish ancestral identity,” the lawsuit reads, “the DEI program fosters anti-Jewish sentiment and encourages hostility toward Jews.”
And while the “DEI program was designed to ‘help all staff develop the skills and confidence to engage with students from different backgrounds,’” disqualifying Jews and the Jewish experience from protections afforded other ethnic groups clearly violates both the spirit and intent of that DEI mission. More troubling, the lawsuit notes, “when the DEI program ignores anti-Semitic incidents on the Stanford campus and spreads the anti-Semitic canard that Jews have ‘immense power and privilege,’ it teaches Stanford’s mental health professionals to disregard the mental health consequences of anti-Semitic incidents.”
This conflation of Jews and white supremacy, the central ideology of Nazism, is, of course, historically absurd and morally perverse, as is the assumption that Jewish students and faculty enjoy “white privilege.” It is also potentially dangerous for Jewish students, who now may have to defend themselves—not only from the perennial accusations of supporting the racist, apartheid regime of Israel that oppresses the hapless Palestinians—but also that they are part of a larger, more sinister movement that includes, in the minds of DEI officers and other woke campus leftists, the worst, most radical elements of the alt-right, supposedly emboldened and given visibility and influence during the Trump administration: conservatives, Republicans, Zionists, and assorted cranks from the neo-Nazi fringe.
The relentless focus on diversity, inclusion, and equity has purposely excluded Jews from this ideological mission, and, in the process, the rights and safety of Jews have been compromised, ignored, and minimized.
“Indeed,” the Stanford lawsuit noted in addressing the broader issue at play here, “this case serves as a cautionary tale: those [DEI professionals] . . . who are engaged in the important and necessary work of combating systemic racism and discrimination, must be careful to ensure that in the process of opposing bigotry that targets one group, they do not in the process promote or perpetuate harassment and discrimination of another group.”
Good intentions aside, Jews need to count.
Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D., a Freedom Center Journalism Fellow in Academic Free Speech and President Emeritus of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, is the author of Dispatches From the Campus War Against Israel and Jews.