American college campuses provide the vanguard for the storm of support in the West for Hamas’s massacre of Israelis. Support for slaughter abroad has been matched with intimidation and violence on campus. If you are “visibly Jewish,” the advice is to hide when the protestors assemble as happened when Jewish students at Cooper Union had to hide in the library to escape a mob. College administrators and professors generally have been silent and unwilling to maintain basic law and order, and too many have sympathized openly with the supporters of Hamas terror. Our universities pose a terrible challenge to America.
Or rather, they pose three separate challenges. One concerns Israel and Jews. A second concerns the American republic. A third concerns the nature of the American university. All three of these are terrifically important—but the third is what the National Association of Scholars (NAS) ultimately must focus on, since our institutional mission is to reform our country’s ivory towers.
The spike of support on campus for Hamas and slaughtering Jews, combined with (as yet) barely restrained thuggery toward visible Jews on campus registers a specific moral and physical threat. There have been long-standing reports that the “diversity, equity, and inclusion” bureaucracy on American campuses fosters Jew-hatred on campus: “Countless faculty and students on campuses nationwide have told me the DEI ideology encourages antisemitism,” reports Tabia Lee. “One study found 96% of Israel-focused tweets by campus DEI staff criticized the Jewish state.” The last month has more than proven these allegations.
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. University of Florida President Ben Sasse noted of his peers at other universities,
You got so many universities around the country [who] speak about every topic under the sun, Halloween costumes and microaggressions. But somehow in a moment of the most grave grotesque attacks on Jewish people since the Holocaust, they all of a sudden say there’s too much complexity to say anything,
More immediately, the Jew-hating left is working to evict “Zionists” from campuses by intimidation and outright violence. The higher education establishment’s tolerance of campus thuggery facilitates this goal. Support for Hamas abroad is intimately tied with a campaign to make American campuses Judenrein.
The Left’s support for Hamas also registers a broader threat to the American republic. The same words used to attack and delegitimize Israel, decolonization and settler colonialism, are used everywhere against the United States. This has been taken as hollow rhetoric—but as the sign painted in support of Hamas says, Decolonization is not a metaphor. We are not yet at the stage where terrorists invade the Burning Man festival and open fire with machine guns. But, as Christopher Rufo has noted, the Democratic Socialists of America now call for “full decolonization of all the occupied lands of the United States,” leading to “the liberation of all people from capitalism and imperialism.” The Left generally has supported discriminatory policies, lawlessness, and lesser violence in America, especially against American whites, on the grounds that America is a product of settler colonialism, and decolonization should proceed by any means necessary. The “intersectional” coalition’s embrace of Hamas’s massacres raises the level of discrimination, arbitrary lawlessness, and violence we may expect that coalition to use against American citizens.
The Left’s support for Hamas, finally, clarifies the nature of the threat it poses to the American university. NAS’s mission statement dedicates it to restoring universities devoted to the search for truth, allied with virtuous citizenship and institutional neutrality. This call is necessary because the higher education establishment, in practice and increasingly in theory, wishes to rededicate the university to the search for power, in service of “social justice.” The radical shift in mission statement always has implied a shift in the composition of the university’s staff, faculty, and students, since they will no longer be defined by and united in the search for truth, but instead will be defined by and united in the search for a defined political program. The Left’s support for Hamas registers the ferocity with which they will seek to expel all political enemies from the university. The total commitment required for genocidal hatred of Jews is intimately tied with the total commitment required for the ideological cleansing of the universities.
This threat, moreover, will endure when Israel’s war with Hamas has ended. What makes demonstrations for Hamas possible on campus is the strategic silence and equivocation of the administration and the faculty. The Hamas massacres and pro-Hamas demonstrations do not seem to have led these masters of strategic silence to admit they have made a fundamental error of moral judgment. Rather, they appear to intend to outwait the outrage of their critics, to maintain control of the universities, and to continue their project to cleanse them ideologically. They will return to the usual justifying pablum, and hope that the American public forgets what the Hamas massacres revealed about the nature of their true goals.
And since American universities continue to form our elites in government and civil society, their ideological cleansing of the universities will be the means by which they revolutionize America—and, not incidentally, thereby achieve their goals of making as much of the world as they can Judenrein.
NAS rededicates itself to its mission to restore universities to the search for truth, allied with virtuous citizenship and depoliticization, not only because that has always been our mission but also because we are more aware than ever how high the stakes are. We are engaged in the long war to reclaim our universities, because the only road to victory, for all the battles we face, is through that long war.
NAS also rededicates itself to its mission to preserve Western civilization, because to convey that civilization is to teach our children not to embrace barbarism. It is to teach our children to have a soul, a conscience, that can pierce at last the murderous frenzies of ideology. Whittaker Chambers wrote of this eloquently in Witness:
What Communist has not heard those screams? They come from husbands torn forever from their wives in midnight arrest. They come, muffled, from the execution cellars of the secret police, from the torture chambers of the Lubianka, from all the citadels of terror now stretching from Berlin to Canton. … But one day the Communist really hears those screams. … He hears them for the first time. For they do not merely reach his mind. They pierce beyond. They pierce to his soul.
Chambers said that every man has a scrap of soul with which to hear the screams, but it helped that Chambers had received an education in the liberal arts at Columbia University, to educate his soul to listen to suffering and, at last, cast away the deliberate deafness of political commitment. NAS is committed to Western civilization because truth and virtue are synonyms for the education of souls to know, at last, that no political commitment is worth ignoring, much less relishing, the screams of a soul in agony.
Our universities once taught that lesson; we work so that they will teach it again. There is much other work to be done as well, but we have set ourselves to this indispensable task.
By Thomas Cole - Explore Thomas Cole, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=183045