The targeting of Jewish students and anti-Israel activities on American campuses has gotten so nasty that some institutions are investigating approaches to stop the harassment.

Richard Landes, professor of history at Boston University, takes an in-depth look at anti-Jewish incidents on one Massachusetts campus and concludes that there has been a hostile takeover of a chair endowed for Jewish historical and cultural studies

During Chanukah, two students defaced a Menorah at Northeastern University, and Northeastern’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) led an ugly anti-Israel/pro-Hamas rally in Copley Square. One observer noted “the virulence of the chants and messages on the placards… suggest that more sinister hatreds and feelings… were simmering slightly below the surface.” Such sentiments suggest that our campus has imported some of the ugliest and most belligerent aspects of the Middle East conflict, including the murderous desire of those who want to eliminate Israel and rule over “Palestine, Palestine, from the river to the sea!”

University officials, of course, called the defacing of the Menorah unacceptable, but Northeastern president Joseph Aoun did so in generic remarks that failed to mention Jews or anti-Semitism, a signal that neither he, nor any other administrator, is likely to deplore the SJP’s hate-fest in Copley Square, even though it is both more disturbing, and constitutes a more direct indictment of the university itself.

The Popular Nazi Meme

Northeastern has had a checkered career in dealing with anti-Semitism, Israel and the Middle East. In 1991, Bernard Stotsky, a World War II veteran, endowed a chair in Jewish historical and cultural studies, with particular emphasis on the Holocaust. But holders of the chair have tended to veer in other directions. By the middle of the last decade, the chair was occupied by a professor who supports the anti-Israel BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions).  A series of revelatory documentaries by a watchdog group called Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT), drew attention to Northeastern’s abuse of the Stotsky chair.

Northeastern’s treatment of the Holocaust was also disgraceful.  To commemorate Holocaust Awareness Day, the university hosted a screening of Defamation, a film that compares Israeli solidiers to Nazis. Worse, it insinuates that many Holocaust survivors have attempted to profit from their horrifying stories.

A Hostile Academic Takeover

The meme that Israelis are the new Nazis, though popular with anti-Semites everywhere, including some allegedly serious academics, defies reason. Morally, this rhetoric is verbal sadism (when Jews embrace it, masochism), that seeks to degrade and humiliate Jews. In academic terms it deserves attention, not as a serious representation of reality, but rather as a weapon, a “lethal narrative” in a cognitive war developed by racist Palestinians to mark Jews as a legitimate target of violent revenge. Hence the chant of the SJP in Copley square: “When people are occupied, resistance is justified.” Of course, we all know, the primary Palestinian form of “resistance” (especially from Gaza) is targeting Israeli civilians.

Landes concludes with the following assessment:

All told, APT’s work reveals a stunning degradation of both the academic integrity and the collegial sociability of campus life at NEU where matters concerning the Middle East, Jews, and Muslims are concerned. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect is the abysmal  level of intellectual discourse, a willful ignorance that systematically avoids discussing anything that challenges this belligerent orthodoxy, and excludes any voices that might offer students an opposing view. Is this where Northeastern wants to be?