The Arabist MESA Continues the War on Israel by Other Means

08.12.21

Editorial Note


On December 2, 2021, the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) 36 members voted on a proposal to advance, in early 2022, a BDS resolution to the full membership vote. The resolution endorses the 2005 Palestinian call for BDS. If ratified next year, the resolution would direct MESA to find ways to uphold the call for an academic boycott of Israeli institutions, “in alignment with the association’s mission to defend academic freedom, and in a manner consistent with MESA’s bylaws as well as relevant U.S. federal, state, and local laws.” MESA is calling for solidarity with the Palestinians as “they work to safeguard their human rights, including the right to education and academic freedom during their annual meeting.”

MESA’s mission to defend academic freedom and safeguard Palestinian human rights is highly hypocritical because it does not include Palestinian violations.


The Palestinian leaderships are notorious for abusing human rights. For example, on October 23, 2018, Human Rights Watch published a 149-page report titled “‘Two Authorities, One Way, Zero Dissent:’ Arbitrary Arrest and Torture Under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.” It evaluated arrest and detention conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The report detailed over two dozen cases of people detained for no apparent reason beyond writing a critical article or Facebook post or belonging to the wrong student group or political movement.   Tom Porteous, deputy program director at Human Rights Watch said: “Twenty-five years after Oslo, Palestinian authorities have gained only limited power in the West Bank and Gaza, but yet, where they have autonomy, they have developed parallel police states… Calls by Palestinian officials to safeguard Palestinian rights ring hollow as they crush dissent.”

Also, Amnesty International’s report of 2020 stated that: “The Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and the Hamas de facto administration in the Gaza Strip continued to crack down on dissent, including by stifling freedoms of expression and assembly, attacking journalists and detaining opponents. Security forces in both areas used unnecessary and/or excessive force during law enforcement activities, including when imposing lockdown measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees were committed with impunity. Women faced discrimination and violence, including killings as a result of gender-based violence. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people continued to face discrimination and lacked protection. In the West Bank, authorities made widespread use of administrative detention without charge or trial. In Gaza, civilians continued to be tried before military courts. Courts in Gaza handed down death sentences. Palestinian armed groups in Gaza occasionally fired rockets indiscriminately into Israel. Two Israeli civilians were killed after lone attacks by Palestinian individuals.”

However, in support of the MESA boycott call, MESA President, Dina Rizk Khoury, Professor of History and International Affairs at George Washington University, who graduated from the American University of Beirut, said: “Since Palestinian civil society first called on the international community to engage in boycotts, divestment, and sanctions in order to pressure Israel to end its military occupation and other rights violations, our members have been engaged in thoughtful discussions about what it means to participate in academic boycotts, and other ways of showing solidarity with fellow scholars whose lives and livelihoods are under attack… Today’s vote clears a path for our full membership to collectively determine how we can do our part to support the academic freedom and education rights of Palestinian scholars and students, not to mention Israeli scholars facing attacks from their own government for criticizing its policies.” 

Rizk-Khouri is a long-time pro-Palestinian activist, as per the Spring 2001 newsletter of the Palestinian American Research Center (PARC) -“Promoting Palestinian Studies and Scholarly Exchange on Palestinian Issues.” Khouri and her colleague “have already jumped into action on PARC’s behalf, and we are delighted to have them on the steering committee.” The newsletter stated that “Khoury fully supports PARC’s goal to provide support to scholars in Palestinian studies.” She is quoted as saying, “There tends to be very little funding for work for Palestinian studies from other organizations in this country… I think an organization that deals with Palestinian issues and funds research in them is long overdue.” The newsletter noted that in addition to her academic interests, “Khoury, who is from Lebanon, is married to a Palestinian and maintains many connections in the region through family and friends.” In the newsletter, Rizk-Khoury and her husband Alfred Khoury are registered as founding members of PARC. Worth noting that PARC has been a partner organization of MESA since 2018.

MESA has been calling for the boycott of Israel for years and complained about Israel’s arresting Palestinian students in a letter of protest in July 2021. As reported by the media, the 45 students of Bir-Zeit University were members of a Hamas student organization. Some were in the midst of terrorist activities. Interestingly, the Palestinian Authority, fearing Hamas’s take over the West Bank, as happened in the Gaza Strip, tries to prevent it by performing arrests as well. The PA canceled the general elections for fears of Hamas’s win. But MESA’s politics will not criticize the PA. 

It cannot be ignored that the attacks on Israel by MESA and others go hand in hand with the rise of anti-Semitism on campus. 

A recent article by Abigail R. Esman, a freelance writer based in New York and the Netherlands, detailed the experience of students in the UK, the Netherlands, and Belgium:  In the UK, The Times newspaper declared last month that “antisemitic abuse on university campuses has reached record levels,” at 59 percent higher than in 2020. For example, one student at Glasgow University was told to “go gas herself;” another was sent a photoshopped image of her head in a guillotine.  Also important, a recent study in the UK revealed that only 52 percent of Brits knew the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust; other studies found that 10 percent of British students believed no more than 100,000 Jews perished. 

In the Netherlands, Jewish students on campus felt insecure at the University of Maastricht, as detailed in an interview with a Jewish student.  Also in the Netherland, in 2018, members of the campus chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine at the Vrij Universiteit (Free University) in Amsterdam, supported by far left group Revolutionaire Eenheid, invited Palestinian terrorist Rasmieh Odeh to speak.  Odeh participated in two 1969 bombings in Jerusalem which killed two Jewish students. Also in the Netherland, a recent survey conducted by the Anne Frank Foundation, found that 40 percent of Dutch students didn’t know that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

In Belgium, a professor at the University of Maastricht told a Jewish colleague, “If you want to keep your job, don’t tell anyone that you’re Jewish and that you support Israel.” A Jewish student wrote about anti-Semitism in a student Facebook group, the responses were “Filthy cancer-Jew, I hope that they turn the gas chambers back on;” and “your stinking people will be destroyed.”   Another student found a swastika painted on his student housing door, and his mezuzah smashed.  The majority of his professors have signed up to efforts to boycott, divest, and sanction Israel. The student was told that “universities and student groups will only work with them if Jewish students turn against Israel and establish no links with Israel during joint events.”  Also in Belgium, the University of Gent releasedstatement in May, during the last escalation between Palestine and Israel, declaring “solidarity with the Palestinian people who, since 1948, have opposed a settler-colonial regime involved in ethnic cleansing … and apartheid.”  Thirteen hundred professors, researchers, and students signed the statement.

There is an unmistakable atmosphere of anti-Israel and anti-Jews sentiments on campus, mostly driven by Palestinians and their Arab peers. They ignore Arab and Palestinian human rights abuse and instead customarily target Israel.

Since the Palestinian call for a boycott in 2005, the delegitimization of Israel took another turn, and MESA is part of it.

References
https://mesana.org/news/2021/12/02/mesa-members-vote-to-advance-bds-resolution-to-full-membership-vote-in-early-2022

MESA Members Vote to Advance BDS Resolution to Full Membership Vote in Early 2022

  • DECEMBER 02, 2021
  • NEWS

NEWS UPDATE

December 2, 2021

Contact: secretariat@mesana.org

Middle East Studies Association Members Vote to Advance BDS Resolution to Full Membership Vote in Early 2022

Resolution Endorses Palestinian Civil Society’s Call for Solidarity As They Work to Safeguard Their Human Rights, Including the Right to Education and Academic Freedom

During their annual meeting, members of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) voted to advance a resolution endorsing the Palestinian call for solidarity in the form of boycotts, divestment and sanctions, or BDS, to a full membership vote in early 2022. The resolution was proposed by 36 MESA members based in the United States, Canada and Europe. If ratified next year, the resolution would direct MESA to find ways of upholding the call for an academic boycott of Israeli institutions in alignment with the association’s mission to defend academic freedom, and in a manner consistent with MESA’s bylaws as well as relevant U.S. federal, state, and local laws.

“Since Palestinian civil society first called on the international community to engage in boycotts, divestment, and sanctions in order to pressure Israel to end its military occupation and other rights violations, our members have been engaged in thoughtful discussions about what it means to participate in academic boycotts, and other ways of showing solidarity with fellow scholars whose lives and livelihoods are under attack,” said MESA President Dina Rizk Khoury. “Today’s vote clears a path for our full membership to collectively determine how we can do our part to support the academic freedom and education rights of Palestinian scholars and students, not to mention Israeli scholars facing attacks from their own government for criticizing its policies.”

The BDS resolution outlines ways that the Israeli government systematically violates Palestinians’ right to education. Some of the violations cited in the resolution include restricting the freedom of movement for Palestinians, attacking Palestinian educational institutions, harassing Palestinian students, teachers, and professors, and destroying Palestinian archival material.

The call for an academic boycott extends to Israeli institutions, which the resolution states, are complicit in Israel’s violations of human rights and international law through their provision of direct assistance to the Israeli military and intelligence establishments. The resolution also states that the boycott will not target individual students or scholars, and reiterates the right of individual MESA members to choose whether or not they wish to participate in an academic boycott.

For interviews or further information, please direct inquiries via secretariat@mesana.org

-End-

The Middle East Studies Association (MESA) is a non-profit association that fosters the study of the Middle East, promotes high standards of scholarship and teaching, and encourages public understanding of the region and its peoples through programs, publications and services.

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Resolution regarding BDS
Whereas, Palestinian civil society issued a call in 2005 for boycott, divestment, and sanctions
(BDS) against Israel; and
Whereas, Members of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) have organized various
forums for discussion and debate of that call through MESA’s commitment to academic freedom;
and
Whereas, International intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations,
including Palestinian and Israeli monitoring groups, have documented and verified successive
Israeli governments’ systematic violations of the human rights of Palestinians living under Israeli
direct or indirect control; and
Whereas, Systematic violations include restricting freedom of movement for Palestinians;
isolating, undermining, or otherwise attacking Palestinian educational institutions; harassing
Palestinian professors, teachers, and students; harassing Israeli professors and students
criticizing Israeli policies; destroying, confiscating, or otherwise rendering Palestinian archival
material inaccessible; and maintaining inequality in educational resources between Palestinians
and Israelis; and
Whereas, Israeli universities are imbricated in these systematic violations through their provision
of direct assistance to the Israeli military and intelligence establishments; and
Whereas, The United States government has systematically shielded successive Israeli
governments from being held accountable for such violations and facilitated them through
unprecedented diplomatic, military, and economic support; and
Recalling that the BDS campaign against Israel is one that targets institutions and not individuals;
and
Recalling that MESA recognizes the right of scholars to academic freedom as well as the right of
scholars to choose whether or not to participate in an academic boycott;
Be it resolved that the majority of the MESA membership
(1) Endorses the 2005 call of Palestinian civil society for BDS against Israel; and
(2) Directs the MESA Board of Directors to work in consultation with the Committee on Academic
Freedom to give effect to the spirit and intent of this resolution, in a manner consistent with
MESA’s bylaws as well as relevant US federal, state, and local laws.

=====================================================
https://events.eventact.com/AIS/33634/uploads/Statement_on_MESA_Resolution_on_BDS.pdf

AIS Statement on MESA Proposed Resolution regarding BDS
The Association for Israel Studies, as an affiliated society of MESA, is deeply concerned regarding
the proposed resolution in support of BDS.
The Association for Israel Studies is neither an Israeli association nor one that takes any
particular political stance on matters of Israeli policy or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The
AIS is committed to academic freedom, fundamentally the freedom to engage in the pursuit
of knowledge without fear of sanction. Membership in AIS has no ideological litmus test, and
members in fact reflect the full range of views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Many AIS
members are also members of MESA. We express our view, then, as an affiliated society
with a strong interest in and commitment to academic freedom.
The proposed resolution accuses Israel alone of violations of human rights. By charging
Israeli universities as being “imbricated in these systematic violations”, it casts a net of
collective and inescapable guilt over any citizen of Israel and ignores the broad range of
opinion and political stances articulated by members of the Israeli academic community. It
effectively calls for collective punishment for all who are thus guilty by association. While the language
of the proposed resolution claims that it will “target institutions and not
individuals”, it is clear that its primary impact will be precisely its effect on individuals,
including many individual members of MESA.
Although claiming to be operating in the spirit of “MESA’s commitment to academic
freedom”, this resolution in fact represents an effort to curtail and to suppress precisely that
freedom for any scholar associated with Israel or with Israeli academic institutions.
In short, If the proposed resolution in support of BDS is passed, MESA will have taken a
clear stance in opposition to academic freedom, and will have transformed itself from an
academic association committed to the free exchange of ideas to an ideological advocacy
organization in which only some ideas are permissible. The damage to MESA and to
academic activity in the field of Middle East Studies will be unambiguous and profound. We
call on the MESA membership to maintain the association’s commitment to academic
freedom and reject this discriminatory and censorious resolution.
Sincerely,
Prof. Arieh Saposnik
AIS President
Association for Israel Studies
University of Haifa | Department of Israel Studies
Eshkol Tower, 1407 |199 Abba Khoushy Ave. | Haifa, 3498838 | Israel
ais@aisisraelstudies.org | www.aisisraelstudies.org

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https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/boycotting-israel-middle-east-studies-association-197478

Boycotting Israel at the Middle East Studies Association
December 4, 2021

Individual Middle East scholars are of course free to their own opinions and approaches. But scholarly organizations endorsing discrimination is both a bad look and self-destructive, both morally and practically.

by Asaf Romirowsky Alex Joffe

The crisis in higher education, faculty, students, and administrations adopting ideological positions radically at odds from those of most Americans and in the process reshaping institutions, is becoming better understood.

But none of this is new. Another Israel boycott resolution being considered by the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) reminds us that the rot in higher education set in long ago and was focused, not surprisingly, on Jews and the Jewish State.

So deep is the rot that the association seems totally oblivious (or indifferent) to the fact that its ongoing endorsement of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, and attendant efforts to obstruct the containment of resurgent anti-Semitism on U.S. campuses, have effectively crossed the thin line between “normal” Israel-bashing and classical Jew-baiting.

Back in 2015, a MESA referendum approved a resolution which not only lauded the “calls for [anti-Israel] institutional boycott, divestment, and/or sanctions [BDS]” as “legitimate forms of non-violent political action” and deplored opposition to these exclusionary moves as an assault on the freedom of speech, but “strongly urge[d] MESA program committees to organize discussions at MESA annual meetings, and the MESA Board of Directors to create opportunities over the course of the year that provide platforms for a sustained discussion of the academic boycott and foster careful consideration of an appropriate position for MESA to assume.”

Now another resolution will be considered at their annual meeting this week the invitation for the annual meeting:

Resolution regarding BDS

Whereas, Palestinian civil society issued a call in 2005 for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel; and

Whereas, Members of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) have organized various forums for discussion and debate of that call through MESA’s commitment to academic freedom; and

Whereas, International intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations, including Palestinian and Israeli monitoring groups, have documented and verified successive Israeli governments’ systematic violations of the human rights of Palestinians living under Israeli direct or indirect control; and

Whereas, Systematic violations include restricting freedom of movement for Palestinians; isolating, undermining, or otherwise attacking Palestinian educational institutions; harassing Palestinian professors, teachers, and students; harassing Israeli professors and students criticizing Israeli policies; destroying, confiscating, or otherwise rendering Palestinian archival material inaccessible; and maintaining inequality in educational resources between Palestinians and Israelis; and

Whereas, Israeli universities are imbricated in these systematic violations through their provision of direct assistance to the Israeli military and intelligence establishments; and

Whereas, The United States government has systematically shielded successive Israeli governments from being held accountable for such violations and facilitated them through unprecedented diplomatic, military, and economic support; and

Recalling that the BDS campaign against Israel is one that targets institutions and not individuals; and

Recalling that MESA recognizes the right of scholars to academic freedom as well as the right of scholars to choose whether or not to participate in an academic boycott;

Be it resolved that the majority of the MESA membership

(1) Endorses the 2005 call of Palestinian civil society for BDS against Israel; and

(2) Directs the MESA Board of Directors to work in consultation with the Committee on Academic Freedom to give effect to the spirit and intent of this resolution, in a manner consistent with MESA’s bylaws as well as relevant US federal, state, and local laws.

The irony that calls for academics to discriminate against an entire society is cast in terms of alleged infringements on academic freedom is equally blatant but is not especially new. Both overt hostility to Israel and anti-Semitism under the guise of anti-Zionism have for years dominated the field of Middle East Studies, a fact illustrated by the parade of anti-Israel vituperation on display annual at MESA conferences and its routine, almost United Nations-like, condemnations of Israel.MESA has thus gone from merely endorsing the call to boycott Israel to calling on its members to do so, and actively doing so itself. Israeli universities, among the most liberal (and multicultural) institutions in that society, are branded as human rights violators. Individual Israeli academics are not formally targeted but will be in reality, as MESA members evaluate job applicants, visiting speakers, grant proposals, and the like. The litmus test for MESA members, and Israelis, is blatant.

But intellectual intolerance is spreading rapidly in academia and American society. Witness the growing chorus of calls on and off campus, from faculty and students alike that there are “no two sides” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that the Israelis and supporters have no right to even be heard. This is one of the sources of “cancel culture,” smugly self-assured, willfully ignorant, and often resolutely racist.

Like most of academia, MESA seems largely impervious to criticism. But the damage being done is precisely to academia’s standing with society as a whole. As more faculty expose themselves as blindly hateful and anxious to judge, American society has reacted in horror. The collapse in the standing of the humanities and social sciences is matched by the actual collapse of those disciplines in terms of enrollments.

Across the board, from Middle East Studies to English, as academia has become strident, judgmental, and one sided, students and society have fled. An Israel boycott resolution that calls on an entire academic discipline to shun a single society is worse than a crime, it is a mistake. The exposure of Israel hatred and anti-Semitism within high school “ethnic studies” curriculums has caused equal shock and disillusionment.

Individual Middle East scholars are of course free to their own opinions and approaches. But scholarly organizations endorsing discrimination is both a bad look and self-destructive, both morally and practically.

Asaf Romirowsky is executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) and the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA), Alex Joffe is a senior non-resident scholar at the BESA Center at Bar-Ilan University.

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Middle East Studies Association to vote on BDS resolution next year

“Today’s vote clears a path for our full membership to collectively determine how we can do our part to support the academic freedom and education rights of Palestinian scholars and students, not to mention Israeli scholars facing attacks from their own government for criticizing its policies.”

BY MICHAEL ARRIA

DECEMBER 3, 2021

On December 2 the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) overwhelmingly voted to advance a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolution at the beginning of 2022.

“Since Palestinian civil society first called on the international community to engage in boycotts, divestment, and sanctions in order to pressure Israel to end its military occupation and other rights violations, our members have been engaged in thoughtful discussions about what it means to participate in academic boycotts, and other ways of showing solidarity with fellow scholars whose lives and livelihoods are under attack,” said MESA President Dina Rizk Khoury. “Today’s vote clears a path for our full membership to collectively determine how we can do our part to support the academic freedom and education rights of Palestinian scholars and students, not to mention Israeli scholars facing attacks from their own government for criticizing its policies.”

The resolution was introduced by author, activist, and human rights attorney Noura Erakat. “93% of MESA’s membership voted to push this BDS resolution out of committee and to a full membership vote,” she tweeted. “This reflects a tremendous amount of collective labor and a cultural-political shift. There is no turning back regardless of how this plays out.”

MESA, which was founded in 1966, is the largest Middle East academic body in North America.

You can read the full text of the resolution below:

Whereas, Palestinian civil society issued a call in 2005 for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel; and

Whereas, Members of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) have organized various forums for discussion and debate of that call through MESA’s commitment to academic freedom; and

Whereas, International intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations, including Palestinian and Israeli monitoring groups, have documented and verified successive Israeli governments’ systematic violations of the human rights of Palestinians living under Israeli direct or indirect control; and

Whereas, Systematic violations include restricting freedom of movement for Palestinians; isolating, undermining, or otherwise attacking Palestinian educational institutions; harassing Palestinian professors, teachers, and students; harassing Israeli professors and students criticizing Israeli policies; destroying, confiscating, or otherwise rendering Palestinian archival material inaccessible; and maintaining inequality in educational resources between Palestinians and Israelis; and

Whereas, Israeli universities are imbricated in these systematic violations through their provision of direct assistance to the Israeli military and intelligence establishments; and

Whereas, The United States government has systematically shielded successive Israeli governments from being held accountable for such violations and facilitated them through unprecedented diplomatic, military, and economic support; and

Recalling that the BDS campaign against Israel is one that targets institutions and not individuals; and

Recalling that MESA recognizes the right of scholars to academic freedom as well as the right of scholars to choose whether or not to participate in an academic boycott;

Be it resolved that the majority of the MESA membership

(1) Endorses the 2005 call of Palestinian civil society for BDS against Israel; and

(2) Directs the MESA Board of Directors to work in consultation with the Committee on Academic Freedom to give effect to the spirit and intent of this resolution, in a manner consistent with MESA’s bylaws as well as relevant US federal, state, and local laws.

====================================================

AEN Statement on MESA Members Vote to Advance BDS
The Academic Engagement Network (AEN) writes to express its dismay at and opposition to the decision by members of MESA (Middle East Studies Association) taken during its recent annual meeting to advance a BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) Resolution against Israel to a full membership vote in early 2022.
AEN is an educational nonprofit which organizes over 800 faculty members on more than 250 campuses across the U.S. to foster a rigorous study of Jewish identity and experience, promote academic freedom and free speech, and combat antisemitism. As an organization committed to open intellectual exchange and inquiry, we find it deeply ironic that this Resolution is being presented within the framework of MESA’s “commitment to academic freedom,” when BDS is, in fact, antithetical to this very principle and core value that defines the academy.
The endorsement of BDS will inevitably – and inequitably – discriminate against, exclude, and isolate Israeli scholars by singling out the Israeli academy for boycott. Indeed, the Resolution’s assertion that BDS targets only “institutions and not individuals” is untenable. The boycott of Israel’s universities cannot be meaningfully separated from the faculty and students who work, teach, and study in them. BDS is therefore more aptly described as a blacklist which punishes individual academics on the basis of their nationality, political views, and the policies and actions of their government.
We dispute the reasoning put forward to justify endorsing BDS against Israel. Proposed by 36 MESA members, the “Resolution regarding BDS” maintains a singular focus on Israel – and a deafening silence about the travesties committed by many other nations. It paints a picture of a monolithic Israeli academy malevolently hostile to Palestinians when in fact there is a wide range of opinions and many academics in Israel object to the Israeli government’s policies and actions. It accuses Israel alone of causing harm to Palestinian professors and students, ignoring how the academic rights of these scholars and students are severely restricted by the intimidation, harassment, and even violence routinely perpetrated by Palestinian governing authorities as well as radical societal groups. It asserts that Israeli universities are “imbricated” in the oppression of Palestinians when the reality is that Israel’s campuses are a model of diversity and coexistence, with Jews, Arabs, and others studying, researching, and teaching together. In fact, in the past decade the number of Palestinian Arab students in Israel’s higher education institutions has doubled.
At a transformational time in the Middle East and North Africa, when there is ever-more potential for new academic partnerships and exchanges between Israel and its neighbors, the endorsement of BDS will undercut potential opportunities for collaboration, dialogue, and mutual understanding in MESA across national, religious, and cultural divides. Furthermore, should this Resolution be ratified by the full membership in the coming year, it will be profoundly damaging to the association, which will have transformed itself from an academic association ostensibly committed to open intellectual inquiry into an advocacy group mandating political and ideological orthodoxies.
We urge MESA’s membership to reject this Resolution and to reaffirm its commitment to academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas.
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https://www.investigativeproject.org/9082/europe-jewish-students-face-anti-semitic-onslaught

Europe’s Jewish Students Face Anti-Semitic Onslaught

by Abigail R. Esman
IPT News
December 6, 2021

If there were a survival handbook for Jewish students at the universities of Europe, it would probably begin with this:

  1. Tell no one that you’re Jewish
  2. Condemn Israel as a terrorist, genocidal state
  3. Get used to it.

This, at least, has been the experience of students at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, according to recent reports and an eye-opening interview with a Jewish student leader there. But students at universities in Belgium, France and the UK have faced similar forms of anti-Semitism on campus. The UK declared last month that “antisemitic abuse on university campuses has reached record levels” – a full 59 percent higher than in 2020. One student at Glasgow University was encouraged to “go gas herself,” according to the Times; another was sent a photoshopped image of her head in a guillotine.

And it’s not just students. As one professor at the University of Maastricht told a Jewish colleague, “If you want to keep your job, don’t tell anyone that you’re Jewish and that you support Israel.”

Speaking to the Dutch online newspaper Israel Nieuws, Maastricht student Ethan Gabriel Bergman described dozens of incidents at the school, including the administration’s decision to ignore International Holocaust Remembrance Day on the school calendar, noting only “Chocolate Cake Day,” which falls on the same date. This past May, as anti-Israel demonstrations rocked Europe, protesters at the university carried banners claiming that “all [Israel] wants to see is blood. Arab blood, as much as possible – blood, the more the better – blood, the main thing is that Arab blood is spilled,” as others repeated anti-Israel chants in Arabic.

Yet when a Jewish student wrote despairingly of this in a student Facebook group, the replies that came in were anything but supportive. “Filthy cancer-Jew, I hope that they turn the gas chambers back on,” one person wrote, and another: “your stinking people will be destroyed.”

Seeking disciplinary action, the student, who remains anonymous, reported the incident to university administrators. The response: Don’t you think you deserved it for being so unfriendly?

Bergman, too, has seen his share of Jew-hate. Earlier this year, he returned to his apartment in student housing to find a swastika painted on his door, and his mezuzah smashed to the ground. And the majority of his own professors, he told Israel Nieuws, have signed on to support efforts to boycott, divest, and sanction Israel (known as the BDS movement) – a trend that he, as a member of the European Jewish Association (EJA), has seen spreading internationally. The EJA itself, he said, has been told that “universities and student groups will only work with them if Jewish students turn against Israel and establish no links with Israel during joint events.” This, he said, amounts to telling Jews that they must support the BDS movement in order to be accepted by non-Jews.

Despite this history, when Holland’s Jewish human rights organization, Centrum Informatie en Documentatie Israel, asked the University of Maastricht to respond to Bergman’s interview, its board of directors denied knowledge of any of the incidents or trends he described. “Neither employees nor students have made complaints of any concrete instances of discrimination,” they stated.

Maastricht – one of Europe’s top 50 universities, with over 21,000 students – is also not the only university in the Netherlands with a rabid antisemitism problem. In 2018, members of the campus chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine at the Vrij Universiteit (Free University) in Amsterdam, supported by far left group Revolutionaire Eenheid, invited Palestinian terrorist Rasmieh Odeh to speak at the school. (Similar campaigns supporting Odeh, who participated in two 1969 bombings in Jerusalem – one of which killed two Jewish students – also took place at Harvard Law School in 2016.)

Meanwhile, in Belgium, the University of Gent released a statement last May declaring “solidarity with the Palestinian people who, since 1948, have opposed a settler-colonial regime involved in ethnic cleansing … and apartheid.” Thirteen hundred professors, researchers, and students signed the statement, according to Belgium’s Mondiale News.

Some of this anti-Israel mentality can be explained simply by demographics. Muslim students vastly outnumber Jewish students in both secondary schools and universities in Europe. Non-Muslim students have more exposure to Muslims, have more friends who are Muslim, and are more widely exposed to the viewpoints of their Muslim peers, who inevitably support Palestine. As Bergman points out in his interview, he is often the first Jew his fellow students ever meet.

But that doesn’t explain the full aggressiveness of the anti-Jewish hate on Europe’s campuses, nor does it explain the pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel sentiments of so many European professors. Alongside the rapid spread of misinformation via social media is the lack of real knowledge many young Europeans (and Americans) have of the Holocaust, let alone of the history of Israel and the Israel-Palestinian conflict. A recent study in the UK revealed that only 52 percent of Brits knew the number of Jews killed in the Shoah; other studies found that 10 percent of British students believed no more than 100,000 Jews perished. In a survey conducted by the Anne Frank Foundation, nearly 60 percent of Dutch students were aware that 6 million Jews were killed, but that left over 40 percent who don’t know.

What’s more, Holocaust survivor Regine Suchowolski-Sluszny, who regularly gives lectures in Belgian schools about her own experiences, told Israel Nieuws that teachers often come to her with questions about Israel and Palestine, attempting to compare the Nazi regime with Israel.

“They have little knowledge of the history or the actual situation in the Middle East,” she said. “It isn’t of interest to them, and so they go along with what they hear on TV.” Even the books they use, she said, are “far from objective.” The result: Belgium has one of the lowest views of Israel, and of Jews, in Europe. “It is not politically correct to openly support Jewish people,” Suchowolski-Sluszny noted. “And certainly not the state of Israel.”

At times, it goes further. In one instance, she said, a student told the school director, “I will not shake the hand of a Jewess.”

That young people across Europe continue to have either insufficient or inadequate understanding of the Holocaust and little real knowledge of the Israel-Palestinian conflict is causing many Jews to fear for their future, particularly in countries where, as in the Netherlands, anti-Israel protests frequently include Taliban flags and calls for the restoration of the Caliphate.

Moreover, the media, Suchowolski-Sluszny maintains – particularly social media – does not help. “Attacks on Jewish Israelis rarely appear in the news,” she said. “Only the reactions by Israel to the stabbings, the destruction, the rocket attacks from Gaza – they get the news [coverage]. When there is no real explanation of why, it just feeds the antisemitism … And the circle goes around again.”

IPT Senior Fellow Abigail R. Esman is a freelance writer based in New York and the Netherlands. Her new book, Rage: Narcissism, Patriarchy, and the Culture of Terrorism, was published by Potomac Books in October 2020. Follow her at @abigailesman.

Copyright © 2021. Investigative Project on Terrorism. All rights reserved.

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