Since the beginning of 2002, there has been an appreciable increase in antisemitic phenomena on campuses all over the United States and Canada. These activities have taken the form of radical, and sometimes violent, pro-Palestinian activities as well as in blatantly anti-Zionist and antisemitic statements. Already in the first five months of 2002, at least 63 significant events were recorded on campuses in the United States alone, and increase of 320 percent over 2001! The largest number of such events occurred in April 2002.
In the wake of the 11th September events, there was a perceptible decrease in the political activities of Arab students in North America. Since the beginning of 2002, there has been a decided change in the pattern of the activities of these students on the major and prestigious campuses, and these changes brought in their wake an increase in the number of violent on-campus anti-Israel and antisemitic incidents.
Most of these activities are organized by pro-Palestinian elements, mostly Muslims and students of Arab origin, who are joined by radical left-wing and "green" organizations, and human rights groups identified with the radical left.
These anti-Israel activities, which, include dissemination of propaganda and harassment of Jewish students and faculty, deviates far beyond what would be acceptable and legitimate criticism of Israeli policies and takes the form of unbridled hate attacks on Jews and the Jewish State. One of the more blatant activities against Israel, which started at Berkeley University in California, is the petition calling for divestment from Israel, i.e. cancellation of investments in commercial companies which cooperate with Israel, thus urging these companies to several all ties with it. Moreover, there has been a call for an academic boycott of Israel and Israeli scientists.
In both written and oral propaganda as well as in antisemitic graffiti, the pro-Palestinian activists use Nazi images and stereotypes which compare Zionism to Nazism and Israeli policies to apartheid. The Jews are accused of controlling the United States. There are calls for America to stop supporting the Jewish State and even for the annihilation of Israel.
The majority of the events took place at academic institutions, with the greatest number taking place in the San Francisco Bay area.
It may be said that the "organized" activities of the pro-Palestinians activities began at Berkeley University on 16th February 2002, at a demonstration by the "Students for Justice in Palestine" with the participation of representatives from all over the United States. The aim of that demonstration was the unification of the ranks of the nationalist movement with Palestinians in the United States. In the course of this demonstration, the United States was called upon to stop its support for Israel, support for the Intifadah was expressed and a date was set, 9th April (the anniversary of the incident at Deir Yasin) for "action day". Demands were made for increasing the Arab Boycott of commercial companies cooperating with Israel, for divestment from Israel and for an end to American assistance to Israel.
Jewish students, mainly members of the Hillel Foundation, and faculty members have begun taking action against these phenomena, although this has taken on a more organized form only recently. Rallies are held in support of Israel on campuses and a petition against divestment is being circulated, but these activities do not as yet have the force enjoyed by the opposing side. In early October a website was set up by the "Middle East Forum" in Philadelphia. The site - www.campus-watch.org, was set up with the aim of protecting American interests on campuses, including support for Israel and calls on students and faculty members to report on lecturers, especially those in Middle Eastern Studies, who criticize Israel in a crass and unfair manner.
The debate on the subject of divestment heated up following statements by two senior members of Harvard University academic staff, President Lawrence Summers and the jurist Professor Alan Dershowitz, who sharply criticized the lecturers who had signed the divestment from Israel petition. They are of the opinion that these drastic moves are deeply rooted in antisemitism and yield antisemitic results.
The year 2002 is characterized on campuses in North America by broad, well organized and highly vocal activities of pro-Palestinians elements, mainly Muslims and Arabs. Very often, criticism of Israel has boiled over into violence and harassment of Jewish students and faculty members. On several of the campuses, for example in California, Jewish students are fearful for being attacked. The obvious lack of desire on the part of university authorities to confront this pro-Palestinian violence in effect encourages it.
Two phenomena comprise the dangerous nature of the incidents of this year: It has become bon ton for students to support the Palestinians (which they view as support for human rights and the weak), and among the faculty members intellectual antisemitism has been expressed in the trend towards academic and economic boycott of Israel.