Anti-Semitism Comes Home to Roost

Kali Jerrard

CounterCurrent: Week of 10/30/2023

We at the National Association of Scholars must walk a fine line between respecting the rights of students and faculty members to say abhorrent things, and the need to express the countervailing force of civilized condemnation. What does it mean to tolerate speech while condemning its content? [. . .] We can and will hold the apologists for terror accountable for their efforts to make atrocities an acceptable part of political disagreement. But we will not reciprocate by silencing them. — Peter Wood

Over the years, the National Association of Scholars (NAS) has done extensive work tracing the roots of anti-Semitism in higher education and calling attention to the individuals, departments, and institutions which engage in it. Colleges and universities have and should remain places where the exchange of ideas and freedom of speech reign. But the abominable events in Israel begun by Hamas on October 7, 2023, have further solidified the presence (and acceptance) of anti-Semitism in American academia—in disgusting displays of anti-Semitic rhetoric and actions.

It might be surprising to some that anti-Semitism runs rampant in higher education. That’s why NAS has put time and resources into unearthing this horrific trend through reports, research, and articles on the subject to educate the public. Think of this edition of CounterCurrent as a guide through some past work on the subject, current thoughts on higher education’s treatment of Israel, and what must be done for the future to root out anti-Semitism in academia for good.

Bruce Gilley, professor of politics and global affairs at Portland State University and a member of the NAS Board of Directors, traces the intellectual history of Hamas from 1988 to the present. The article details the gestation of major ideologies that shaped this terrorist organization and their prevalence on campus. “The Academic Roots of Hamas’s Terror” also states that “[t]he violent and hate-filled doctrines that motivated the Hamas attacks are directly connected to the theories taught on today’s American college campuses.” Read more here.

David Randall, NAS research director, calls out colleges and universities that position themselves as neutral or sympathetic to Hamas in his article “Turning Our Universities Against Barbarism.” “Our institutions of higher education morally besmirch themselves by an admixture of open sympathy for slaughtering Jews, toleration of such sympathy, postures of ‘moral equivalence’ between the killers and the killed, and cowardly silence.” Read more here.

Peter Wood, president of NAS, writes in his recent statement about the terrorist attack on Israel and the celebration it received by many in academia: “This is a moment when both criticism and condemnation are indeed necessary: criticism of the inhumanity of those who celebrate cruelty, and condemnation of the ideology that makes such repugnant views persuasive to many faculty and students and compelling to those so credulous as to indulge it.” Read on here.

Ian Oxnevad, NAS senior fellow for foreign affairs and security studies, wrote an extensive report on the “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” (BDS) movement where he outlined how it not only threatens Jewish students and scholars, but also the political neutrality of American academia. “The BDS movement promotes a one-sided narrative that demonizes the Jewish state while disproportionately amplifying narratives of Palestinian grievance and Arab victimhood.” Read more here.

By no means is this an exhaustive list of the work done on this subject by NAS (Minding the Campus also has many pieces on Israel, BDS, and more). But the point remains that anti-Semitism doesn’t start and end with one professor, student, or administrator on a college campus. It pervades whole departments and institutions through tolerance of anti-Semitic rhetoric and through politically motivated funding. Until higher education returns to institutional neutrality, eschews agenda-fueled foreign funding, and recenters its mission on the search for truth over activism, the roots of anti-Semitism cannot be weeded out effectively. 

Until next week.

CounterCurrent is the National Association of Scholars’ weekly newsletter, written by the NAS Staff. To subscribe, update your email preferences here.

Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash

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