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  • Mark Lavie

Dealing with antisemitism on US campuses




One thing is clear about the antisemitic wave flooding American university campuses, leaving Jewish students and professors uncomfortable, even fearing for their lives:

It’s going to get worse. Just follow the money.

What’s needed is a plan to deal with it. The range of possibilities includes abandoning those campuses and setting up our own.

Worse? It’s been getting worse for decades. I attended one of the universities where the today’s “pro-Palestinians” set up an encampment. I was there in the famous ‘60s, when students were also protesting. The difference is—they, we, were protesting a war the US was actually involved in, with 500,000 soldiers in Vietnam at the time.

Today, while the US does send weapons and money to Israel, this is not a conflict that touches the US directly, any more than the larger, bloodier conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Sudan—the list goes on and on—and no one seems to care about them. That’s evidence, if any more is needed, that this unrest has little to do with Israel—we’re dealing with pure Jew-hatred here.

Back then I was a journalism student. After rising to the post of editorial page editor of the university newspaper, I encountered a student editor who was constantly on my back, making my life miserable. After a couple of months of this, a fellow Jewish student asked me, “Do you think it’s because you’re Jewish?”

I’m the son of Holocaust survivors, so antisemitism is deeply embedded in my psyche—but my honest answer was, “That never occurred to me.” And in the end, it wasn’t the reason.

Now follow along the next six decades, and you’ll see the gradual rise of antisemitism on university campuses. It’s bought and paid for by a concerted, long-term campaign by Arab countries to pour money into the universities, fund professorships, sponsor students, finance departments and programs.

One compilation determined that Qatar alone has syphoned more than 5 billion dollars into American universities. The largest recipient of Arab funding is Cornell, raking in more 1.5 billion dollars. So no wonder that Cornell was one of the first to “erupt.” Harvard, in contrast, has received “only” 187 million dollars.

Up to now, Jewish students, professors and professional advocacy organizations have been complaining loudly, calling for university action against the lawbreakers, and applauding the sending of police onto campuses. None of those actions accomplish more than putting out an occasional fire. We need to do more than that, and more than whining to each other on antisocial media.

First, consider these two options:

·        Abandon the battlefront campuses and enroll in universities where Jews are welcomed as members of the student body and faculty like everyone else.

·        Stay and fight, demanding the right of Jewish students to study undisturbed, because since Jewish student quotas were done away with in the last century, that’s been a basic right in American society.

If you choose the first option, getting out of the conflict zones for the sake of getting an actual education in something besides battlefield survival, consider these possibilities:

·        Creating a new university. Its guidelines would begin with requiring all students and staff, from campus cops to top professors, to sign on to the IHRA definition of antisemitism, with an addition that while criticizing Israeli policy is legitimate, targeting Israel as a state or calling for attacks on its people are not—and anyone who violates those terms is automatically and immediately expelled or dismissed.

Housing a new university is more feasible now than ever. Because of the COVID pandemic and the move by so many people to work from home instead of in the office, there’s a glut of business real estate in many places, even New York and San Francisco.

Jewish philanthropists who have donated to tainted universities should be ready to contribute instead to a project where Jewish students are not targeted and endangered. They could fund purchase of an office building to be converted into a university.

With another portion of those donations, professors who feel more comfortable teaching and researching in an atmosphere of academic freedom, and not required to accept “progressive” mantras, mindsets, and now violence, could be encouraged to move to the new university.

And donor-funded scholarships would be offered to students who agree to the terms of the university.

·        Expand, strengthen, and improve the existing Jewish-oriented schools—Brandeis, Touro, and Yeshiva University.

Working in the same frame as above—requiring a commitment to the IHRA definition and the Israel addendum—these schools would be bolstered by thousands of additional students, hundreds of professors and staff, and a rash of new buildings to accommodate them.

A concerted effort would be made to raise the academic standing of all of them while accepting as many Jewish students as possible—two somewhat contradictory goals but not necessarily incompatible.

After a few years, the universities that made Jewish students unwelcome would begin to see their academic ratings fall, just as the academic ratings of the Jewish-friendly universities rise. Sweet justice.

·        Send students to Israel for their university years. There are already well-established, successful academic programs for visiting students at top Israeli universities.

These would be expanded to accommodate many thousands of students who would likely jump at the chance to go where they’re really welcome and get a top-notch education, too. Present tuitions for overseas programs in Israel are considerably less than those for “prestigious” universities in the US. There’s even a world-class graduate-level university where the language of instruction is English—the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, where I live.

So there are five options to choose from. And as in the most annoying multiple-choice questions—the best answer is “all of the above.”

All the university programs would be coordinated. A student could decide to be a warrior for Jewish rights for a year, then transfer to one of the Jewish-oriented universities, then to Israel, then back to the US, seamlessly.

The goal is to offer every Jewish university student a proper education in a welcoming atmosphere, a shelter from the burgeoning Jew-hatred on university campuses, and a chance to excel academically.

Ambitious? Yes. Possible? It has to be. The Jewish community needs to mobilize and redirect donations like never before, enlist the best academic minds, and pull together to make this vision a reality—because it will get worse. It’s only a matter of time until there’s bloodshed on today’s antisemitism-stained campuses.

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