Anti-Zionism as Anti-Semitism
With the beginnlng of the intifada-the Palestinian uprising against
Israel in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank-in December 1987, campus
anti-Semites had a seemingly endless supply of material to justify
their claims of "Zionism is racism" and "Zionist
imperialism." Many of these anti-Israel statements were more
than mere criticism of Israeli policy, which would, of course,
be legitimate; they were anti-Semitic because they questioned
Israel's right to exist, singled out the Jewish state for harsh
criticism while ignoring anti-Israel terrorism, condoned international
Zionist conspiracies or reflected other double standards. Anti-Jewish
sentiments were often mixed into anti-Israel speeches or written
pieces, showing that many of the critics were not seeking a political
discussion, but were intent on spreading hateful stereotypes. Anti-Zionism became an acceptable way to express anti-Semitic
Anti-Israel statements also became socially acceptable material
for college newspapers and speakers in the late 1980s. When Jewish
students would attempt to protest editorials or lectures, they
were sometimes accused of attempting to stifle the free exchange
of ideas. For example, Kwame Ture (the former Stokely Carmichael),
a Black nationalist figure, was often applauded by large segments
of students for regularly vilifying Zionism, Israel, and Judaism
in frequent appearances at colleges and universities beginning
in the mid-1980s. He coined one of his favorite phrases, "The
only good Zionist is a dead Zionist," at Columbia University
in 1985, and used it regularly. At Colgate University in February
1991, he said that Zionism was a "diabolical movement,"
and that Zionists were "enemies of the people." The
day after he spoke at Tufts University in March 1991, an Israeli
flag owned by four Jewish students living off-campus was set on
fire and the charred remains placed back in the stand.
In another example of the former acceptability of Anti-Zionism,
the University of Michigan's daily newspaper regularly published
anti-Israel rhetoric during the 1988-89 academic year. The editorials
included support for a "Zionism is racism" statement,
censure of a Jewish group that tried to call attention to Arab
terrorism, and an accusation that Israel had been behind the bombing
of Pan Am Flight 103. These unfounded attacks on Zionism prompted
a protest by 200 members of the Jewish student community and drew
- The Changing Mood
- The Rabin Assassination
The Changing Mood
But with the 1991 Gulf War, the subsequent election of the Labor
government in 1992, Israeli troop withdrawal from Gaza and parts
of the West Bank, and increasing acceptance of Israel by the Arab
world, campus Anti-Zionism has become largely passe. Israel, once
treated as a pariah by many nations, has been clearly accepted
by most of the world, as demonstrated by the large number of countries
that have established diplomatic relations with Israel in recent
years and by the overwhelming turnout of foreign dignitaries for
the funeral of assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in November
1995. While Muslim student organizations at a few schools-such
as the University of California at Berkeley, San Francisco State
University and the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee-are still
engaged in anti-Israel and Anti-Zionist propaganda as if the intifada
never ended, and other radical student groups continue to sponsor
anti-Israel speakers and materials, college and university campuses
have mirrored the world's acceptance of the Jewish state.
However, while campuses were overwhelmingly sympathetic to Israel
in the wake of the Rabin assassination and the spate of Hamas
suicide bombings in Israel in February and March 1996, these tragedies
perversely gave Israel-bashers at some schools a fresh excuse
to spout their rhetoric. The violence in Israel served as a catalyst
to show that Anti-Zionist beliefs more common to the 1980s are
still held by some students.
Four days after the round of deadly Hamas suicide bombings in
Israel, U.C. Berkeley's Muslim Unity Group, which includes Hamas
supporters, staged an anti-Israel rally on campus on March 8,
1996. The Jewish Bulletin of Northern California reported
the following about the incident: "In front of a few hundred
onlookers . . . Muslim students and Hamas supporters trampled
and spat on an Israeli flag as they glorified the recent suicide
bombers and chanted 'Destruction! God is great!' in Arabic. A
half-dozen men wearing military fatigues and Hezbollah headbands
accepted blessings from a Muslim cleric and vowed to become martyrs
for the cause."
On the same day, two advertisements ran in the student newspaper.
One was sponsored by the local Jewish community and featured a
Star of David and language "condemning these vicious acts
of terrorism." It was signed by 67 individuals and groups,
including government officials, the University religious council,
and student campus leaders.
However, it was not signed by Berkeley's Chancellor, Chang Lin
Tien. A university spokesman said Tien sponsored a separate advertisement
to avoid the appearance of taking sides. While the task of balancing
competing interests often proves a delicate one for university
heads, incidents such as the bombings fall outside the pale of
normal political disputes and should be treated as such. Instead,
the Chancellor issued an ad that called violence and the deaths
of innocent people "reprehensible," and stated, "I
encourage the entire campus community to engage in constructive
and respectful dialogue on these important issues."
Tien also declined to issue a statement after the pro-Hamas rally.
Coupled with his refusal to forcefully stand alongside the Jewish
populace in its hour of grief, this lack of action outraged the
Jewish communities of Berkeley and the surrounding area. ADL wrote
a letter to Tien that stated in part:
While we wholeheartedly support the right of free speech . . .
we feel it is incumbent upon the Administration of Cal to exercise
moral leadership and disassociate itself from such poisonous rhetoric
and conduct that threatens the very security of Jewish students.
While we commend your initial statement . . . we feel that it
doesn't go far enough in addressing the hurt, outrage, and overt
threats felt by the students and the community at large. Your
encouraging the campus community to engage in dialogue implies
condonation of a vile and hateful activity like the March 8 rally.
The Rabin Assassination
The assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, an event that traumatized
Israel, also proved an excuse for some students to engage in anti-Semitism.
One of the most flagrant examples came from the pages of the newspaper
at California State University, Fresno, The Daily Collegian.
While hardly representative of the response on the nation's campuses
to the Rabin murder, it demonstrates the depth of hatred that
still exists among some students.
The newspaper's lead story on the Monday following the assassination,
November 6, 1995, (incorrectly dated as November 7) was a venomous
attack on Israel. The writer, Hadi Yazdanpanah, wrote of "varied
reactions" on campus to the assassination, but the article's
first quotation was of an anonymous student who said, "I
was kind of happy." Given the shock and outrage with which
most of the Western world greeted the shooting, this quotation
hardly seems representative of most students' reactions.
Yazdanpanah went on to quote the student as saying, "When
they [the Jews] disobeyed God, they broke the covenant; from that
point on it's no longer their land." Paraphrasing the source,
the reporter wrote, "he is against the proposed peace accords
because it will return only part of the land taken over entirely
by the Zionist-Jews to the Palestinians."
These quotations and statements took up the first part of a lead
news article, not an Op-Ed piece. It contained far more opinion
than reporting, and in no way purported to explore the real range
of reactions on campus. The editors failed in their responsibility
to draw a line between balanced writing and racist implications.
The editors showed their judgment to be flawed once again by publishing
an extended commentary by Yazdanpanah on Monday, November 13.
Entitled, "Rabin's military barbarism forgotten while world
mourns," it began, "Yitzhak Rabin was the most despicable
mass murderer that the 20th century has seen, making Hitler look
like Big Bird." The piece descends from there into blatant
anti-Semitism, with references to "the Jew-nited States of
America" and "the Jew-nited Nations." He wrote
that "The Zionist-Jews have the American government on a
dog leash . . . bowing to Israel." Its bigoted rhetoric fell
far outside the pale of a serious Op-Ed page.
On November 17, after criticism by Jewish students and the surrounding
community, university president John Welty issued a statement
that condemned Yazdanpanah's pieces but did not mention anti-Semitism.
The writings "indicate to me that simple civility and respect
for others has diminished markedly during the past few months,"
Welty wrote. While his comments were on the right track, and while
he did write that "intolerance . . . will not be supported,"
Welty's comments fell short of a strong, direct response to such
clear Jew-hatred. Yazdanpanah's writing reflected much more than
simple lack of respect and civility, and should have been treated
Following criticism by ADL and others for his inadequate response,
Welty wrote a letter to the editor of The Collegian on
November 20, for publication. It was a much stronger condemnation
of Yazdanpanah's Op-Ed piece and of the newspaper for publishing
The article is a shameful example of bigotry and hatred which
has no place in civilized discourse. . . In choosing to print
the November 13 opinion piece, The Collegian staff failed
to either recognize or exercise [their] responsibility. There
was a failure to recognize the difference between opinion and
bigotry; between public discussion of the issues and hatemongering;
between editorial and tirade. Further, in spite of your claim
that six hours were spent verifying the accuracy of content, the
piece is riddled with inaccuracies.
Sources: Schooled in Hate: Anti-Semitism On Campus, ADL, 1997. Copyright Anti-Defamation League
(ADL). All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.