The founder of modern Zionism, Theodore Herzl, was typical of many assimilated Jews of the late nineteenth century. While Jewish, his faith did not define him. He was more focused on pursuing his career and enjoying his life in the cosmopolitan Vienna of his day. As he saw anti-Semitism on the rise around him, his greatest hope was that he and his fellow Jews would be “left in peace.”
But this was not to be. After a couple of particularly ugly episodes, Herzl concluded that he and his fellow Jews “shall not be left in peace.” That’s when he turned his focus to creating the modern Zionist movement as a solution to his people’s problems.
Today, many American college students share Herzl’s original dream. They want to be left in peace to pursue their studies, and to perhaps have a little fun along the way. But it seems increasingly unlikely that they will be left in peace. Anti-Israel activists on campus long ago crossed the line from the legitimate criticism of Israel into the anti-Semitic demonization of Israel. And while they may deny their anti-Semitism, the BDSers are making their true agenda increasingly clear with each day that passes.
Last April, for example, 51 student groups at New York University signed a statement of support for BDS. They not only pledged to boycott Israeli products and academic institutions, but also pro-Israel students on their own campus. In particular, these 51 student groups agreed to never co-sponsor events with two pro-Israel student groups: Realize Israel and TorchPAC.
At George Washington University, a graduate student senator named Brady Forrest went even further. He called for boycotting events co-sponsored by GW Hillel and the Jewish Student Association’s since “Both organizations are complicit with and supportive of the state of Israel and programs and ideology that are exclusive and racist.” The GW student government debated a resolution to censure Forrest for this clearly anti-Semitic outburst, but it failed to receive the two-thirds majority required to pass.
In addition, students at both Stanford and GW have threatened to “physically fight” Zionists on their campuses. And at the University of Michigan, two Jewish students wanting to study in the Jewish state were denied letters of recommendation by teachers intent on boycotting Israel.
This is all ugly stuff. And it’s all the fruit of the poisonous tree of BDS. Wherever BDS thrives, so too does anti-Semitism. This isn’t a coincidence; this is cause and effect.
As this academic year progresses, we hope that Jews on campus will be left in peace. We fear they shall not be left in peace. If and when they choose to fight back, we’re here to help them do so.