Challenging the Jew-Hate Safe Space of Universities

August 24, 2020

By Chloe Tsila

For the vast majority of those who carry a Jewish identity, Judaism is the essence of our being and Zionism is the essence of our Judaism. Sadly, our core identity has overwhelmingly in recent years been deemed offensive in many corners of society.

Acting as the catalyst, universities have fanned the flames. University, an environment of “knowledge is power” and “you do not know what you do not know” stops short of the Jewish people. Many students and professors alike share their aversion to basic things like truth when it comes to Judaism, Zionism, and Israel. An unwillingness to go beyond face-value fuels antisemitism.

Let me paint a picture:

Neo-Nazi groups at La Trobe University plaster posters around campus advocating for the execution of Jews.

At Adelaide University students have Shoah themed parties where the dress code is antisemitic tropes: caricature with big hooked noses and striped pyjamas.

A University of London collegiate refused to run an educational event on Antisemitism and Zionism because it would not offer a “broad enough range of political and ideological perspectives”. Implying that a range of perspectives would have to include everything from Peter Beinart to Hitlers Mein Kampf. The demand for multiple perspectives is never raised when an anti-Israel event is staged.

At Concordia University, sitting at a table with an Israeli flag warrants you abuse veiled as legitimate criticism.

At the University of Cape Town posters of Hitler and swastikas have covered campus, reminiscent for Jews of 1930s Europe. The perpetrators claimed it was an act of free speech while many Jewish students refused to go back to campus in fear of the very real danger their grandparents faced not so long ago.

At DePaul University a student was sent hundreds of threats, doxed, harassed, and filmed on campus to the point they had to have security from the Jewish agency and has since been forced to leave university. DePaul legitimised these incidents free speech.

At Bristol University, suspended Labour member over antisemitism, David Miller continues to teach and promote hate.

At the University of Oregon, the mezuzot of Jewish students were ripped from their doorways, and one had a swastika drawn in its place.

At Istanbul Technical University antisemitic slurs are a regular occurrence.

At Palm Beach State College, a kosher student was held down and had pork rammed down their throat.

At CUNY School of Law, Israel is painted as a settler colonial project and Jews are considered white and privileged. Despite such claims being factually disproven, it has done nothing less than fuel Jew-hatred on campus.

At Durban University, its student council issued a call to expel Jewish students, especially those who do not back the Palestinian cause. Tell Jewish students again how anti-Zionism is not antisemitism.

The above is not even a handful of antisemitic incidents on campus. Does every incident worldwide have to be included for administrators and the public to acknowledge the fears of Jewish students?

Unless the issue of antisemitism on campus is addressed, the next generations of political leaders will continue to leave university with an antisemitic and anti-Israel stamp. Without overcoming ignorance and driving education through the provision of tools to enable such change, students and professors will continue to be trapped in their echo chambers and perpetuate antisemitic and anti-Zionist rhetoric, a vicious cycle with proven dangerous effects. Education is the only way to break down walls and reclaim the narrative. If universities wish to be at the forefront of the anti-racism movement, Jews must not be side-lined. Universities must provide constant opportunities for people of all faiths, cultures, and backgrounds to learn about Jewish history, Jewish struggles, and the importance of Israel to the Jewish people.

I, a Jewish student am unwilling to compromise my identity to fit in. I am tired of universities giving a free pass to those who teach hate. Jewish students have had enough, we are sick of being bullied on campus. We demand that our identity be valued and protected. Our Judaism and Zionism should be welcome wherever we choose, and right now, that place is university.

“I refuse to accept the normalisation of demonising the Jewish State followed by a hurtful silence from the university administration. University shapes the leaders of tomorrow and the administration should not be complicit in an indoctrination of hate. Being a Jewish activist on campus is all about building bridges, advancing peace and celebrating our traditions. No student, club or university will stop us in our fight for the recognition of our identity.– Albert Tamman, London.

“I am tired of Jewish history being denied, Jewish peoplehood delegitimised, and my oppressors given free reign on university campuses. I am tired of having my safety threatened. I am tired of being vilified for existing. I am tired of university administrations refusing to take action against blatant, violent antisemitism. I demand action. Now. I deserve to feel safe on my campus.” – Eliyahu Lann, Melbourne.

“I am exhausted by constantly having to defend my existence. As Bari Weiss says ‘Jews are not here to be anti-antisemites. We’re here to be Jews’. I dream of a day when college campuses don’t back kids into corners, forcing them to strip themselves of their dignity and discard their 5,000 years of culture and history to enter. I will never be their version of a “good” Jew. But I am more than this. I am a proud Jew, Zionist, and Human. That’s ‘good’ enough for me.” – Sophie Frieden, Chicago.

Antisemitism has become so normalised on campuses that too many students don’t even know what is antisemitic and what is not. Too many Jewish students have become afraid to speak up but we can’t give up! We must empower our community by giving them the right tools to combat antisemitism. As Jewish students, we have a responsibility to teach our fellow non-Jewish friends about our incredible story and antisemitism. We must create relationships; with students to get them to help us to call out students, professors and institutions so that the leaders of tomorrow can graduate without dangerous ideas about the Jews and Israel in their head”Elie Codron, Boston.

Category: Contributor Op-Eds