Gross hypocrisy or willful complicity: The US campus

Free speech is hardly being respected on campus, anti-Semitism is.

Matthew M. Hausman, J.D.

OpEds Matthew Hausman
Matthew Hausman

Anti-Semitic hate speech has become common on American college campuses, where the classroom is used to promote radical ideals and students with dissenting viewpoints are ridiculed and harassed.  Leftist academics abuse their positions as teachers to disseminate anti-Israel propaganda while their institutions provide safe-havens for Jew-hatred misrepresented as political commentary.  

They claim their words are shielded by the First Amendment, but deny the same constitutional protection to those with contrary views.  Jewish students and advocates are routinely slandered and denied any forum for rebuttal, and when progressive invective leads to physical violence, faculty stooges often blame the victims.
The annual spectacle of Israel Apartheid Week shows how easily anti-Semitism is accepted and how firmly traditional stereotypes are entrenched in multicultural ideology.  Demagogues on both the right and left have traditionally used straw enemies as bogeymen to generate support for radical programs, and anti-Jewish hatred has always been an effective tool for riling the masses – particularly in Europe and the Muslim Mideast.  But whereas conservatives in America have confronted the past and denounced anti-Semitism, the left continues to demonize Jews as it justifies radical Islam and delegitimizes the Jewish State.  
Despite the myth of progressive tolerance, the left has always been ambivalent regarding Jewish religion and nationality, which were reviled by many of the fathers of European liberalism from Voltaire on down. Considering today’s progressive affinity for enlightened churches that promote liberal values and for Islamists who do not, there is clearly more to the left’s defamation of Jewish religion and nationhood than political ideology.  How else to explain progressive sympathy for radical Islam despite its rejection of democratic ideals?  In the absence of similar core values, this “red-green alliance” seems more bound by common hatred of Jews, Israel, and western society.  
For one week during the year, Israel Apartheid Week brings into sharp focus the anti-Semitism that is prevalent on so many college campuses year-round, as evidenced by revisionist history taught in classrooms and Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions activities endorsed by faculty and students alike.  Anti-Semitic incidents have been reported at some of the most elite universities, where dubious speech is often defended as freedom of expression.  

Despite codes of conduct prohibiting hate speech at many such institutions, Jew-hatred is frequently heard but rarely punished.
The recent kerfuffle over controversial comments by a professor at Oberlin College in Ohio illustrates the ubiquity of focused hatred in academia.  In a series of posts on social media, Israel was blamed for 9/11, the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and the ascendancy of the Islamic State.  Such allegations echo classical anti-Jewish conspiracy theories that have persisted for generations and have become conflated with Israel through constant repetition over the internet.  
Rather than denounce these comments outright, Oberlin’s president wrote in part:
Cultivating academic freedom can be difficult and at times painful … The principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech are not just principles to which we turn to face these challenges, but also the very practices that ensure we can develop meaningful responses to prejudice. This freedom enables Oberlin’s faculty and students to think deeply about and to engage in frank, open discussion of ideas that some may find deeply offensive.
Intentionally or not, these words dignified the offensive postings by implying they constituted an “open discussion of ideas” rather than a recitation of repellant calumnies.  But when does prejudice ever serve such lofty purpose?  Would Oberlin College – or any other liberal arts university – show such equanimity if students or faculty were to post messages deemed misogynistic, homophobic or racist to any minority other than the Jews?
The reluctance to condemn anti-Semitism stands in stark contrast to the punishments routinely dispensed to those who use politically-incorrect language or express conservative viewpoints.  Campus radicals who shout “death to Israel” while bullying Jewish students hypocritically demand “safe-spaces” where they can be free from “micro-aggression,” a term that appears intended to stifle any expression upsetting to their worldview.  They seem to believe the First Amendment protects only their speech, not that of their opponents, and in this regard they sound far more totalitarian than the conservatives they frequently accuse of fascism.
They often invoke the First Amendment to defend hateful speech in any forum, though it actually applies only to the government.  The Constitution does not recognize a right to incite or harass, and does not require private individuals or entities to entertain speech they find abhorrent.  The language of the First Amendment simply provides that:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. 
This language on its face applies only to government.  It does not require private citizens or organizations to countenance odious or threatening speech, particularly when it impinges on the rights and sensitivities of others.  The U.S. Supreme Court has long recognized the right to limit speech in the workplace, the home, and private settings – and in fact has acknowledged that even the government may sometimes restrict speech and the press during times of war or national emergency.  
Ironically, some of the very universities that permit anti-Jewish agitation on their campuses also maintain disciplinary codes that prohibit speech deemed offensive to women and minorities, and mandate punishments without due process for real or perceived violations.   Such rules protect only those whom progressives deem worthy of protection, however, and are applied neither equally nor meritoriously.  Any criticism of Muslims or Arabs is treated as discriminatory, though they do not constitute a world minority, while Jews – who represent the most persecuted minority on earth – are accorded little or no protection from harassment and abuse.
The First Amendment does not require private universities to allow repugnant speech, though in their attempt to emulate Constitutional principles many institutions choose to permit and even facilitate it as a privilege.  However, institutions that allow such speech by right or privilege should be obligated out of fairness to provide equal time for dissenting views, particularly by those seeking to defend themselves against abuse justified as free speech in the first place.  The failure to do so evidences gross hypocrisy.  Or willful complicity.  Regardless of whether anti-Semitic programs are permitted under the guise of constitutional right or elective privilege, colleges and universities that deny equal time to those under attack are complying with the spirit and letter of neither.
Educational institutions often justify anti-Jewish speech and programs as political expression, and progressives do likewise by artificially distinguishing “anti-Zionism” from anti-Semitism and equating Jewish nationalism with bigotry against Arabs.  However, simply designating offensive speech “political” does not magically erase baleful motive or intent, especially when content is premised on false narratives and malignant stereotypes.  
Those who deny Israel’s cultural, historical and ethnographic antecedents can do so only by relying on politically-charged revisionism.  The propensity for western progressives to embrace the Palestinian cause by ignoring thousands of years of Jewish history would be difficult to explain in the absence of anti-Semitic sensibilities.  In belittling the Jewish connection to Israel, the political left baldly rewrites history with a Nazi-like audacity reminiscent of the Big Lie.    
Perhaps the biggest lie of all is the canard that the Arab-Israeli conflict is caused by Israel’s refusal to cede territory for the creation of a Palestinian state.  Those who claim thus seem to forget that Arab-Muslim rejectionism long predated Israel’s liberation of Judea, Samaria and Gaza in 1967, and that there was no demand for an independent Palestine during the nearly twenty years when Jordan and Egypt controlled these territories. 

In reality, such a country never existed and Jerusalem was never the capital of a sovereign Arab or Muslim state. But rather than discuss these issues honestly, progressive critics of Israel accuse all who raise them of Islamophobia and anti-Arab bias.
Nevertheless, the only sovereign nation ever to exist between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea was Jewish, though modern Israel comprises only a portion of the ancient homeland.  After the British gave eighty percent of the Palestine Mandate to the Hashemites in 1922 and the Arab nations rejected partition in 1947, the Jews were left with only twenty percent of their birthright.  And yet the international community persists in hawking a two-state solution that would leave Israel with only a fraction of her ancestral lands and indefensible borders.  There would be no peace even if Israel were to submit, however, because the majority of Palestinians reject the legitimacy of any Jewish state in the Mideast.
​Progressive academics who vilify Israel while ignoring Arab-Muslim culpability in creating and perpetuating conflict in the Mideast are peddling propaganda, not truth.  They sow seeds of hatred and abuse positions of authority to intimidate and indoctrinate without fear of censure.  Though the First Amendment protects even reprehensible speech from government censorship, it does not prohibit private citizens from identifying hate-speech for what it is and shaming its purveyors.  And there’s certainly plenty of shame to go around on America’s college campuses.