Campus fears here and there
By BRENDA KATTEN
To what extent are governors conscious of the hatred resulting from those Israeli academics that promote boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel? This coming week will see the start of the annual meetings of the boards of governors of a number of Israeli universities, with members arriving from all over the world.
As contributors to their respective universities, one wonders if the governors are aware that many students feel threatened by the language of some professors? Language that condemns the Jewish state, calling it a “colonial power whose indigenous population, the Palestinians, has been kicked out by the Israelis.”
These students are being educated to see Israel as a pariah state.
Those students who are shocked by these pronouncements are frequently too afraid to speak out against the views being projected. They worry that to openly disagree is to pave the way for a poor mark. (Prof, Amnon Rubinstein referred to this in a November op-ed in The Jerusalem Post in which he spoke of the rights of the students.)
To what extent are governors conscious of the hatred resulting from those Israeli academics that promote BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) against Israel? Is it not strange that they are able to travel abroad calling for the boycott of the very universities from which they receive their livelihood?
Do governors recognize the devastating effect of this Israel-bashing on students in their respective countries? For example, a number of Israeli academics spearheaded the recent “Israel Apartheid Week” (now in its sixth year) aimed to show the country as an apartheid state like South Africa was. London was the scene of major anti-Israel activity during this “Apartheid Week,” led by an associate professor from Tel Aviv University. The prime objective was to isolate, delegitimize and dehumanize the one Jewish state. This is particularly disturbing when seen in conjunction with Jewish students who feel unable to stand up to the increasingly virulent anti-Israel bombardment on campus.
WHILE WE pride ourselves on being a democratic country where free speech is a given right, every society places a limit on free speech. Surely it is unacceptable that there are those employed by Israeli universities who educate their students to see the country as a colonial and pariah state as well as travelling abroad to call for BDS.
Today, it is quite clear that there is a turning away from Israel – sadly also among Jews – the result of both an effective anti-Israel media campaign together with an Israel whose leadership has long dismissed the relevance of hasbara. The student on campus is at the forefront of the battle for Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. The question is, are Jewish students receiving the necessary support to confront the ever-growing hostility?
As a former chair of the Hillel Foundation in the UK, I can say that some 12 years ago Jewish students spoke up for Israel with pride and eloquence. Today, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find student activists willing and capable of standing up and being counted. While it is incumbent on communities worldwide to support the Jewish students by ensuring they are armed with the facts, it would seem that we now have to address a second challenge, that of those who educate toward the demise of Israel.
It is from universities that tomorrow’s leaders will emerge. This applies to the political leadership in each country as well as leadership for the respective Jewish communities. Surely it is incumbent on all of us, but especially on those who have connections with universities here, to do all we can to ensure that our students are not educated to turn away from Israel. It is of vital importance to our Jewish future that our students are made aware of our people’s right to its historic homeland, and to feel pride in all that this little state has achieved since its rebirth in 1948.
The writer is co-chair of Europeans for Israel and public-relations chair of World WIZO