Deborah (Dvora) is the only woman judge mentioned in the Bible. She embodies the fighting women of the ancient world, warrior women who became victorious despite great odds and the initial reluctance of their men to go into battle. Deborah delivered the ancient Israelites from the oppression of the Canaanites. She aroused the Israelites from their long suffering and mobilized them by the thousands. But not all! The Song of Deborah rebukes three tribes who stood by while Deborah’s forces went into battle against a fearsome and mechanized army.
The glory of ridding the land of the oppressor belonged, however, to two women. Deborah mobilized her people to overcome their fear, but it was Jael, who ultimately fulfilled Deborah’s own prophecy of ridding the land of the dreaded Assyrian general Sisera, who led the Canaanites, by killing him.
From time immemorial, Israel has been saved by the valor of her women. So too, now, two women have bravely stepped into this tradition, filling a void created by the reluctance, inaction, and cowardice of others.
Tammi Rossman-Benjamin and Leila Beckwith, two University of California faculty members, have bravely stood up against campus anti-Semitism, a hatred whose virulence and prominence is attested to by numerous campus incidents and the convoluted and manufactured official denials of university administrators, who have ironically given new meaning to the idea that nothing is to be believed until it is officially denied.
Leftist faculty and campus administrators have given a wink, a nod, and an expansive tolerance to campus anti-Semitism in a way that no other vile form of bigotry would be tolerated. The double standard of the University of California administration’s response to attacks on protected classes in contrast to its responses to anti-Semitism has been well documented, but one set of incidents provides an indelible example because it took place at the same school and within close proximity.
In February 2010, a student at the University of California, San Diego, left a noose dangling from a bookcase in the school library. Although the noose was directed at no individual student, the racial overtones of this symbol of the Southern lynch mob provoked predictable outrage.
In protest, students occupied the chancellor’s office. A campus teach-in on tolerance was held. African American students were encouraged to express their indignation, pain, and fear to a sympathetic campus administration. The chancellor issued an uncompromising statement condemning the incident and pledged to eliminate hatred on campus.
Once the racial cauldron bubbled over, a coed came forward and took responsibility for the incident. She wrote a letter of apology to the school newspaper and said that she never intended to make a racist statement. She had no idea of the historic implications of the noose. She herself was a member of a minority group.
The administration suspended her. Although by all accounts she was guiltier of abject ignorance than a hate crime, the campus administration asked the city and county attorneys as well as the FBI to file hate crime charges.
In May of the same year, David Horowitz spoke on the same campus. During the question and answer period, Jumanah Imad Albahri, a member of the Muslim Student Association, unflinchingly announced her support for killing Jews.
The chancellor’s office was not stormed. Albahri was not suspended. The campus administration did not seek prosecution for a hate crime. The FBI was not called. The student government did not even announce that it would no longer commit $37,000 to fund the MSA’s Jew-bashing Israel Apartheid Week. Ms. Albahri was simply expressing her constitutionally protected opinion.
We all know what would happen if someone stood up at a campus event and advocated killing blacks, shipping illegal aliens back to Mexico, or saying that there are no great women mathematicians because women are emotional and can’t think logically. There would be Star Chamber proceedings, demonstrations, and the offending student would be fortunate to escape being drawn and quartered at high noon on the campus quadrangle. But advocate killing Jews, even amidst the climate of political correctness, and the campus community will be reminded that hate speech is protected by the First Amendment.
The situation on California’s campuses is all too reminiscent of the behavior of Germany’s intellectuals during the rise of the Third Reich. Prominent members among Germany’s intellectual class were drawn to Nazism and its cancerous anti-Semitism. Nobel Laureates Phillipp Lenard, Gerhart Hauptman, and Johannes Stark were all strong supporters of National Socialism. Hauptman, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1912, described shaking hands with Hitler as the greatest moment of his life.
The theoretical foundations of National Socialism were framed by such renowned German thinkers as Oswald Spengler, Moeller Van den Bruck, and Carl Schmitt. Martin Heidegger, arguably one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th Century, was an early supporter of Nazism. As a mass movement, Nazism was given a theoretical foundation by some of Germany’s best minds.
Jonah Goldberg has shown that a large number of American intellectuals, principally those rooted in the populist tradition, were ardent supporters of fascism. And one could argue that there is a deficiency among the intellectual classes that draws them to both fascism and anti-Semitism.
And this affinity for anti-Semitism, this deficiency of the intellectual class, is no doubt the motivation behind some faculty. But to equate modern campus administrators, who have struggled through the intellectual demands and rigorous scholarly challenges required to get a doctorate in education administration, with the intellectual classes in Germany and America of the early twentieth century is to insult the philosophical craft of the framers of National Socialism.
Rather, our campuses are now run by what the Yugoslav political theoretician Milovan Djilas would recognize as a New Class — a class of second-raters and bureaucrats, the people who do not think but implement. To remotely suggest that these people are capable of framing an ideology rather than just parroting one is to see them as having creative gifts they are neither capable of possessing nor desiring.
What they respond best to is political pressure. That they understand. At one university with which I am very familiar, the African American faculty and staff held a demonstration outside the administration building every year for one hour. Dumbfounded, I asked one of my African American colleagues why they did this given that the administration bent over backwards to respond to their demands. My colleague uttered these profound and politically insightful words, “It is necessary to remind them that we are still here and still capable of mobilizing should the need arise.”
But the Jews are not anywhere on campus. The professional organizations have abandoned the campus. The campus has been ceded to Hillel. And each campus Hillel has a different orientation and different set of strategies when it comes to issues of Israel and anti-Semitism. For years, Berkeley’s Hillel refused to display an Israeli flag in the lobby, didn’t celebrate Passover, but did celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Hillel at Berkeley has what is called an inclusive policy; all are welcome. So, while Berkeley Hillel is in the forefront of combating the campus’s anti-Israel boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign, Hillel is also the meeting place for Jewish students who support that cause and work prominently with Students for Justice in Palestine to implement it.
When it comes to anti-Semitism, what the Gletkins of the administrative class know is that the major Jewish organizations, generally, will be absent. This is why it was possible for five administrators at UC, Davis to stand by and watch while Jewish students were kept from going to class and assaulted by a group of Muslims and their leftist allies setting up mock checkpoints in one of the classroom buildings. Imagine if a bunch of white supremacists kept black students from going to class and administrators were found to have stood by and watched with bemusement. They’d be looking for new jobs. But to date, there has been no disciplinary action taken against them, and there is not going to be. Anti-Semitism in the University of California system is looking more and more like anti-Semitism in 1930s Germany.
Into this political treacherous minefield our two women of valor, two modern-day Deborahs, have entered, exposing the incidents, writing administrators, documenting their efforts, and successfully getting approved a complaint filed with the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice asking for an investigation into anti-Semitism at the University of California. And while they have broad support in the community among the activists and some rabbis and congregations, the Jewish organizations are like the three Israelite tribes who refused to follow Deborah into battle. They are conspicuous by their absence, so conspicuous that our Deborahs are ignored by the administration and denounced with the common, overworked, and meaningless neologism of radical Islam, as Islamophobics. Of course, a phobia is an irrational fear. There is nothing irrational about the fear Jewish students have of harassment, intimidation, and the scurrilous display of anti-Semitic symbols. They are all too real.
For having the courage to stand up to anti-Semites, to go where the major Jewish organizations remain reluctant to go, Tammi Benjamin has been condemned by the student senates of the UC campuses of Berkeley, Santa Barbara, Davis, and Irvine, the latter to be expected as it is a hotbed for radical Islam, a place where Jewish students have been made to feel uncomfortable and unwanted, despite administrative statements to the contrary.
Professor Leila Beckwith is retired but Tammi Benjamin is an untenured instructor, whose position is vulnerable. Moreover, she has become the subject of an organized hate campaign on YouTube. If she were African American or Latino, the administration would come to her aid and assure that the campus organizations behind these campaigns were subjected to the university’s harassment policies. But Tammi Benjamin is a Jew, and none of the major Jewish organizations are joining in the fight to protect what easily could be more than her career but her very safety.
In the Song of Deborah (Judges 5), the three tribes that failed to join in the fight against the Canaanites are cursed. So too should be those in our community organizations who abandon our women of valor.