Ruth Contreras, Ph.D. Vienna Austria, Chair
Judith R. Jacobson, Dr. P.H., Columbia University
Richard Benkin, Ph.D., Chicago IL
Edward S. Beck, Ed.D, CCMHC, NCC, LPC., Susquehanna Institute
Approved March 20, 2003 by the Scholars for Peace in the Middle East Board of Directors)
“The existence of the Jewish state of Israel is an expression of the world’s willingness to let the Jewish people live. It is nearly impossible for non-Jews to appreciate the meaning of the scar that the Holocaust, and the centuries of persecution leading up to it, have left on the Jewish soul.” Harold Kushner, “Why We Love Israel” in To Life! A Celebration of Jewish Being and Thinking ( Little, Brown and Co, 1993)
Anti-Semitism means hatred of Jews. The term was never intended to refer to Arabs or Semites in general. The term anti-Semitism was first used in Germany in the nineteenth century, but Jewish history and anti-Semitism have been linked together for millennia, culminating in the organized annihilation of Jews during the Holocaust.
In the years following World War II, expressions of anti-Semitic sentiment became associated with the horrors of the Holocaust and lost their respectability.
However, with the second “Intifada” – the Palestinian Authority’s war of terrorism against Israel -, developments after September 11, 2001, and the new anti-war and anti-globalization-movement, what Lawrence Summers of Harvard University and others have called “the new anti-Semitism” has arisen within academia. Many academics espouse this new anti-Semitism, using traditional anti-Semitic canards to justify hatred for Jews and Israel.
Anti-Semitism has become commonplace once more in mainstream academic settings in classrooms and extracurricular affairs with tacit approval from many university officials, who assert that such discourse is protected as academic freedom and need not be treated as hate speech.
One reason for the focus of hostile attention on Jews is the growing presence on campus of Arab/Muslim faculty, students, and outsiders, some of whom spread biased or outright false information about the Middle East conflict. Playing on the misplaced sympathies of uninformed colleagues, they have misrepresented this conflict as the effort of oppressed Arabs to throw off their colonialist Israeli occupiers rather than as the legitimate attempt of Israel to secure itself as a nation authorized by the UN.
Even well intentioned, but frequently misinformed or misguided academics fail to realize that the terrorists in Israel are not responding spontaneously to oppression; but are funded by the oil-rich Arab countries and the European Union. Too few people on campus are aware that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. Most of Israel’s neighbors have laws that discriminate against or outright exclude non-Muslims. Israel, unlike her neighbors, does not practice apartheid but in fact guarantees freedom of religion as well as academic freedom. Arabs in Israel can vote and hold political office. And prior to the economic havoc wrought by the “Intifada”, Israel’s Arabs, including those in the occupied territories, had a better standard of living than those elsewhere in the Middle East..
Whether inspired by ignorance or malice, academic anti-Semitism has taken such forms as:
- Firing and refusing to hire Israeli academics
- Boycotting Israeli academic meetings
- Harassment, assault, and menacing of Israeli and non-Israeli Jewish academics and students
- Academic journals’ refusal to consider the work of Israeli scholars for publication.
- Petitions to universities to divest from companies that are based in or supply goods or services to Israel.
- Denial of campus access to legitimate Jewish student organizations, such as Hillel
- Cancellation of invitations to Israeli or non-Israeli Jewish speakers, often on the grounds that the speaker’s presence on campus may lead to a riot
- Inviting speakers known to be associated with terrorist groups and known to have advocated murder of Israeli or non-Israeli Jews
- Failure to prevent or control mob action against Israeli and non-Israeli Jewish speakers and legitimate student groups, such as Hillel
The rhetoric that accompanies these actions includes:
- Justification and even encouragement of acts of terror against Israel’s civilian population as acts of liberation from oppression.
- Charges that Israel practices apartheid and colonialism.
- The equation of support for Israel and Zionism with Nazism, Fascism, Racism and Apartheid.
- Claims that the United States supports Israel only because of coercion from American Jews.
- Questioning the right of Israel to exist at all.
Academics who continue to justify terrorist bombings are completely ignoring the tide of world opinion of groups such as the United Nations Security Council, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other bodies who declare that there is no moral or political justification for these acts and that they can be construed as war crimes. They also abuse their authority and purposely deceive their students in pursuit of their personal and political ends, both of which are cardinal sins against academic integrity.
- Scholars for Peace in the Middle East joins Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the United Nations Security Council in declaring terrorist acts against Israeli civilians to be war crimes.
- SPME was formed to expose the lies spread by organized anti-Israel and anti-Semitic forces, and to sensitize universities to the threat these forces represent.
- SPME vigilantly monitors anti-Semitic activities and incidents on campuses worldwide and advocates international co-operation to combat anti-Semitism.
- SPME distinguishes between criticizing the behavior of individuals and groups – which is protected free speech – and threatening or advocating violence against them.
- SPME values open and free discussion that reflect genuine academic tradition
- SPME seeks to work with university students, faculty, and administrators to combat anti-Semitism.
- SPME is forming a task force to help members respond to anti-Semitic incidents on campus
- SPME has a Speakers Bureau and has developed programs, conferences, seminars and material online at spme.org to inform students and faculty members about what is really happening in the Middle East and on campus and the relevance of academic freedom.
- SPME will continue to work on campus and with international organizations to point out and address anti-Semitism whether in an a traditional or new form wherever it may exist, since expressions of anti-Semitism are not protected by academic freedom, but fall within the category of hate speech and raise moral turpitude issues.