Imagine the outcry if students on a university campus in California set up “checkpoints” to find out whether students with tan complexions are really African-Americans, or whether students heard conversing in Spanish are citizens or illegal immigrants. Screams of protest would rise if students set up similar barriers to check whether olive-complected schoolmates are outfitted with suicide bombs, or if anyone stopped students of any type demanding to know their sexual orientation.
Cries of bigotry would be deafening – and accurate.
But when Muslim student groups at UC Berkeley in 2010 dressed in combat fatigues and carrying fake but genuine-looking weapons manned such checkpoints and demanded that passing students tell them if they were Jewish? No outcry, no protest.
Nothing at all. Not a peep from the large corps of university administrators. Not a move by campus police, even when a counter-demonstrator was whacked with a shopping cart. No demonstrations anywhere.
The only action came from two students who filed a lawsuit charging that Berkeley administrators disregard intimidation by Arab students and foster a climate of anti-Semitism. Meanwhile, the checkpoints have continued sporadically on campus.
Now a federal court says any attempt to stop them would “raise serious First Amendment issues.” So, implied U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg of San Francisco last month, campuses can ban use of “hate speech” like the N-word and anti-gay smears, but outright physical attempts to intimidate Jewish students and impinge on their walking space are OK.
This, of course, all comes in the guise of protest against policies of the Israeli government. But no one stops students to see if they are Arab citizens of Israel. No one asks whether Jewish students are Israelis. For those who dislike or hate Israel, all Jews are fair game. That’s also true around the world, where synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses from Argentina to France and New York to Los Angeles have been victims of pro-Palestinian bombings and other vandalism, regardless of whether they had any link to the government of Israel.
Which takes this phenomenon beyond the realm of political protest and into anti-Semitism.
Then there’s Cal State Northridge, where mathematics Prof. David Klein maintains a page on the college web server devoted to calumnies against Israel (http://www.csun.edu/~vcmth00m/boycott.html). It’s laughable to believe that taxpayers who fund that server intend it to be a platform for one-sided political rhetoric from a faculty member specializing in mathematical physics, teacher education and standardized testing.
As an aside, if it’s true, as Klein says on his publicly-funded page, that “Israel is the most racist state in the world at this time,” why does Israel offer unlimited sanctuary to black African refugees trekking on foot from Darfur in the south Sudan who defy Egyptian threats to shoot them if they continue trying to reach Israel by crossing the Sinai desert?
But Cal State Northridge lets Klein keep using its server even when he makes no sense at all, with the campus’ retiring president, Jolene Koester, giving it an official OK.
There is also Cal State Long Beach, which does nothing to restrain psychology Prof. Kevin McDonald, labeled for years as an anti-Semite by the Southern Poverty Law Center and other civil rights groups. McDonald, says Wikipedia, claims that Jews, “conspire to out-compete non-Jews for resources while undermining the power and self-confidence of the (non-Jewish) majorities in Europe and America whom he insists Jews seek to dispossess.”
McDonald told this column last year his work isn’t anti-Semitism, but “science.” In fact, it resembles the pseudo-science Nazis used to justify the Holocaust. But McDonald uses the cover of academic freedom to stay on the public payroll with a six-figure salary. Does anyone think this could happen if he had spent his career vilifying blacks or Latinos or gays or women?
The only significant recent exception to the pattern of essentially condoning on-campus anti-Semitism came last year at UC Irvine, where 11 members of the school’s Muslim Student Union repeatedly interrupted and heckled Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren during a 2010 speech, orchestrating their outbursts to make sure they continued even when some of shouters were forcibly ejected from the auditorium.
The 11 faced university discipline and ten later were convicted of misdemeanor offenses despite claiming they were simply exercising their right to free speech.
The UC Irvine outcome was far from typical in a state where public universities host and help fund dozens of conferences that nominally look only at ways to eliminate Israel as a nation. Hardly anyone denies those events, on UC campuses from Berkeley and UCLA to Davis and San Diego, along with Cal State campuses like San Diego State and Northridge, leave many Jewish students feeling threatened.
Two key questions emerge for top administrators: Even if hate speech were allowed, why are state funds being used for these activities? And why are blatantly political messages permitted, even encouraged, on publicly-funded Web sites?