Time to Change Direction

Two days ago, I watched with horrified fascination as the presidents of three of the most ‘illustrious’ academic institutions in the country told the world that calling for and inciting the genocide of the Jewish people would only possibly breach their codes of conduct ‘depending on the context’. Rep Elise Stefanik asked the question, and she gave each of them several opportunities to clarify their remarks. They did not do so in their testimony. Like all of you, I was disgusted.

The fact that now it seems all three of them are fighting to keep their jobs should surprise no one. The testimony was an unmitigated disaster, and the reputations of Harvard, Penn, and MIT are in tatters, at their lowest point perhaps ever in their histories.

Deservedly so. But I don’t think this poisonous rot in the heart of academia rests on (or solely on) their shoulders.

  • Academics have been shaping the battlefield of public discourse towards the Critical Theory paradigm which identifies oppressors and oppressed as the only binary designations of parties to a conflict for 50 years. This is the ‘strange fruit’ of their efforts - the casting of Israel as an evil, oppressive, imperialist ‘other’.
  • Ideologues looked to the experience of Algeria and the analysis of Frantz Fanon to mendaciously cast the indigenous Jewish people, and the successful Zionist de-colonization of its homeland, as a ‘settler-colonialist’ enterprise, deserving of the most horrific atrocities, so long as these actions drive them out.
  • Campus activists frame the complex issues of sovereignty and indigenous identity in the context of America’s racial divide, and the Israelis are inevitably cast as racist, white, apartheid and ‘supremacist’, even though most of Israel’s Jewish population is middle eastern, its Arab citizens are a full part of the body politic, it is still facilitating the immigration of Ethiopian Jews, and it is the object of hatred from white supremacists!
  • The Hamas supporting regime in Qatar has invested hundreds of millions of dollars (at least) in creating and funding middle east studies departments at universities across the country. Their influence is massive, and their agenda is as anti-Israel as that of their pet news network Al Jazeera.

Outraged and influential business people like Bill Ackman, Mark Rowan, John Huntsman, and Ross Stevens have pulled hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars from these elite schools. This kind of action may be the only kind that is listened to.

I was reluctant to write this, but several of my colleagues have made the case. I suggest that if you are an alumnus of a university or college that is not protecting its Jewish students, and allowing the dangerous calls for harm against them, it is time to stop funding them. It is time to make your voice heard. And perhaps you could consider redirecting your support to Jewish education, to helping Jewish students, or other Jewish causes such as the work we do at Federation.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Chanukah!