Author Topic: When an obsession with Israel enters the abyss of antiSemitism  (Read 1794 times)

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Offline jujyjuji

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When an obsession with Israel enters the abyss of antiSemitism
« on: September 15, 2015, 12:02:52 PM »
Antisemitism is a growing problem in the US and I suppose also elsewhere. Many that criticize Israel often end up blaming the whole Jewish religion and threaten/harass Jewish people.


Guest commentary: When an obsession with Israel enters the abyss of anti-Semitism


By Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, guest commentary © 2015 Bay Area News Group

Posted:   09/12/2015 04:00:00 PM PDT

The California Legislature recently took a courageous step and unanimously passed a resolution that "urges each University of California campus to adopt a resolution condemning all forms of anti-Semitism."

The frightening rise in anti-Semitism on American college and university campuses has been well-documented. In fact, a study released by Trinity College and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law earlier this year found that 54 percent of Jewish college students experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism on campus this past year.

And a newer study released this summer by Brandeis University found that three-quarters of North American Jewish college students were exposed to anti-Semitism and one-third report having been harassed.

In addition, one-quarter of students in the Brandeis University study describe hostility toward Israel on campus as a "fairly" or "very big" problem and nearly one-quarter report having been blamed for Israel's actions simply because they are Jewish.

It is hardly surprising that the University of California -- ground zero for campus-based Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions activity -- provides an unfortunate case study. There has been a huge uptick in anti-Semitic incidents and many are tied directly to anti-Israel BDS campaigns.

Countless acts of anti-Semitism have plagued several UC campuses this year, including swastikas spray-painted on a Jewish fraternity house immediately following an anti-Israel divestment campaign, protests of a Hillel-hosted LGBT event by anti-Israel activists and signs blaming the Israeli army and all Jews for 9/11.

And such acts are often concurrent with contentious anti-Israel BDS demonstrations that include flagrant anti-Semitic rhetoric. The Legislature's move to address this serious and rising threat for Jewish students is significant.

For the UC system to effectively combat anti-Semitism, however, it is imperative for the problem to be correctly defined and understood. Currently it is not.

Too often students and faculty cross the line from acceptable criticism and debate about Israel into blatant anti-Semitism. Jewish students report feeling harassed, targeted and discriminated against, regardless of their personal views on Israel.

The first step is for the university to adopt a standard definition for understanding and educating against anti-Semitism.

The State Department uses a definition of contemporary anti-Semitism that is widely accepted by serious scholars of anti-Semitism and the vast majority of American Jews and mainstream Jewish organizations. It outlines where legitimate criticism of Israel crosses over into anti-Semitism. Rhetoric is anti-Semitic when it uses mendacious arguments and falsehoods to delegitimize and demonize Israel and deny its right to exist.

The State Department definition is based on the scholarly understanding that the Jewish state, like individual Jews in previous centuries, is singled out and judged in ways others are not. When Israel is demonized and delegitimized, and its very right to exist denied, this is anti-Semitism.

There is widespread support for the State Department definition's understanding of anti-Semitism.

Within UC, the State Department definition was actually adopted by student governments on three campuses -- UC Berkeley, UCLA and UC Santa Barbara -- and it was endorsed by 17 UC student organizations.

There has been some concern that adopting this definition will stifle free speech. However, it is important to emphasize that those most opposed to this well-accepted and accurate definition of anti-Semitism are groups complicit in the anti-Semitism.

It is not surprising that groups dedicated to dismantling the Jewish state, and no other state, object to having the true nature of contemporary anti-Semitism clearly defined. As many legal scholars have confirmed, it is nothing more than a definition and does not in any way violate the First Amendment.

What is true is that Jewish students are overwhelmed by the scale and scope of the obsession with Israel on American college campuses. As Anthony Julius explained in his book "Trials of the Diaspora," putting Jews on trial is deeply embedded in Western culture and dates back at least as far as Shakespeare's trial of Shylock in "The Merchant of Venice." The Jewish state is on trial on American campuses today, but the cultural roots of this practice are long and troubling and are almost never discussed. This definition will enable a discussion of when this obsession with one single country, and not with others, has something to do with an age-old obsession with the Jews.

Adoption of the State Department definition will provide a much-needed and necessary tool for understanding anti-Semitism. We urge the University of California to do the right thing and adopt this well-accepted and important definition of anti-Semitism.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin is a lecturer at UC Santa Cruz and the co-founder and director of AMCHA Initiative, a nonprofit that combats campus anti-Semitism.