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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

2007-2008: Another Year of Global Academic Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israelism

Filed under: Anti-Semitism, Europe and Israel, International Law, Israel, U.S. Policy, World Jewry
Publication: Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism

  No. 73

  • The academic year 2007-2008 saw ongoing anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic incidents in various countries. Among them is Israel Apartheid Week, which has become an annual ritual in a number of cities on several continents. So have the calls of the University and College Union (UCU) in the United Kingdom for discriminatory measures against Israeli universities and academics. In several universities, such as on some campuses of the University of California, anti-Israelism is endemic.
  • Much of the visible anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism occurs in the academic world of Britain, Canada, and the United States. There are problems in many other countries as well. The situation is obfuscated by limited media attention.
  • Effective counteractions are also increasing. There is now more exposure of Islamist racism and anti-Semitism on American campuses. In Canada protests against anti-Israeli actions are on the rise. There are also European and British initiatives to enhance academic collaboration with Israeli universities. External monitoring bodies are more and more exposing the hate culture and biased actions of some university lecturers.
  • The onslaught against Israel and Jews is not an isolated phenomenon. What happens to Jews has usually been a pointer to their societal environment and a sensor of events to come. This is also the case regarding academic anti-Israelism. Academic freedom has been abused so much that in its present form it has outlived part of its academic and societal usefulness for fostering knowledge.

The academic year 2007-2008 saw ongoing anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic incidents in various countries. Among them is Israel Apartheid Week, which has become an annual ritual in a number of cities on several continents. So have the calls of the University and College Union (UCU) in the United Kingdom for discriminatory measures against Israeli universities and academics.

In several universities, such as on some campuses of the University of California, anti-Israelism is endemic. In many others it has seen highs and lows over the years. The situation is obfuscated by the fact that, with a few exceptions, the incidents this academic year were not given much media publicity.

On the other hand, effective counteractions are also increasing. There is now more exposure of Islamist racism and anti-Semitism on American campuses. In Canada protests against anti-Israeli actions are on the rise. There are also European and British initiatives to enhance academic collaboration with Israeli universities. External monitoring bodies are more and more exposing the hate culture and biased actions of some university lecturers.

It is mistaken to assume that hate campaigns can be largely counteracted or balanced by positive programs on Israel. Because of their extremism, the hate campaigners’ damage to Israeli and Jewish causes runs deeper than the superficial impression left by the positive activists. This also reflects the intense motivation of Muslim and far-Left racists and anti-Semites. Their activities are often supported de facto by the passivity of university authorities. Although they may explicitly oppose anti-black or anti-Muslim racism, these authorities are often far more reluctant to take similar actions against anti-Semitism and its new mutation anti-Israelism. It is usually easy to prove that these double standards operate.

A complete overview of the many anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic actions on campuses worldwide is not possible. The following should thus be seen as a selection of important trends and events. It focuses mainly on Britain, Canada, and the United States where many of the problems are concentrated.[2] Yet academic anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism are rife in many other countries as well. As these problems are hardly monitored and little is written about them, the illusion is often created that they do not exist.

Israel Apartheid Week

Israel Apartheid Week or similar anti-Israeli activities took place in February 2008 in twenty-five locations in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and the Palestinian Authority. Since 2005 such activities have been increasing, and February 2008 marked Israel Apartheid Week’s fourth anniversary.

The programs include calls for boycotts, divestments, and sanctions against Israel. One goal is to raise “awareness and disseminate information about Zionism, the Palestinian liberation struggle and its similarities with the indigenous sovereignty struggle in North America and the South African anti-Apartheid movement.”[3] These activities should be seen in the wider framework of the anti-Israeli campaign.

The website called “Israeli Apartheid Week” gives no information on who is behind this project other than mentioning that: “Prominent Palestinians, Jewish anti-Zionists, and South Africans have been at the forefront of this struggle.”[4]

Originating at the University of Toronto

The origins of Israel Apartheid Week can be traced to the University of Toronto in 2004, where groups supporting the Palestinian cause tried to delegitimize Israel. The first annual event there was organized by the Arab Students Collective (ASC) and took place in early 2005. Over the years other organizations at this university joined, such as the Coalition against Israel Apartheid and Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights.[5]

In Canada groups at the Universities of Toronto, Montreal, Ryerson, Ottawa, and McMaster all took part in Israel Apartheid Week 2008. This year it received media attention partly because of the reactions to it. The organizers at the Canadian universities reached out to include other campus organizations such as the United Black Students and Indigenous Environmental Network, whose representatives spoke on the first day of the week and introduced the topic of apartheid.

Events at the University of Toronto this year included speeches by notorious anti-Israeli figures such as Ward Churchill, a professor who in 2007 was fired from the University of Colorado for research misconduct, as well as displays and a march starting at the Israeli consulate and called “Breaking the Silence.” Churchill claimed among other things that the mass murder of the Jews was not “a fixed policy objective of the Nazis.” This was yet another example of how anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism go together.

Churchill had also spoken at the event in 2006.[6] Past events in Canada have included figures such as former Knesset member Azmi Bishara. More recently Bishara has fled Israel and may be arrested on suspicion of treason if he ever returns.

This year for the first time, the week at the University of Toronto ended with a one-day conference for high school students.[7] There were also outdoor events such as demonstrations at mock Israeli checkpoints. Not only student organizations but also university academic departments sponsor the week.

McGill University and Carleton University organized activities on a smaller scale. Participants there also picketed Indigo Books and Music, a retail chain with locations throughout Canada. Its main shareholders are financial supporters of the Heseg Foundation for Lone [Israeli] Soldiers.[8]

Reactions from the Jewish Community

After years in which the Jewish community reacted only in minor ways, a change occurred in 2008. The University of Toronto’s Israel Apartheid Week received much more attention this year from Jewish groups on campus, B’nai Brith, and the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies. The pro-Israeli community at the University of Ottawa also staged a counterevent, including a lecture by the Israeli ambassador to Canada on “Israel, the Only Democracy in the Middle East.”[9]

McMaster University, for its part, banned the words “Israel Apartheid” because they demonstrate intolerance. Controversy then erupted on campus as to whether the administration meant all use of “Israel Apartheid” or just the use of the term on printed displays. Students at Ryerson University and the University of Toronto also staged a protest.[10]

The Jewish community, including leaders of the abovementioned organizations, made the University of Toronto administration aware of their views. In April, 125 Jewish and non-Jewish professors took out a full-page ad in the National Post calling on the administration to prevent the university from hosting future Israel Apartheid Weeks. They noted that, while the university prohibits Islamophobia and discrimination toward other minorities and specific individuals, it permits freedom of speech for Israel Apartheid Week.[11]

The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies also sent a letter to David Naylor, president of the University of Toronto, expressing their disappointment at the school’s response to Israel Apartheid Week by dismissing the issue simply as one of freedom of speech.[12]

Boycott Motions at the University and College Union

On 28 May 2008, Britain’s UCU adopted three anti-Israeli motions at its annual conference. They were passed by approximately a two-thirds majority. The UCU has 120,000 members, who include most of the British university teachers and related academic staff.

Although the UCU motions against Israel are usually referred to as proposed boycotts, their current content now stops somewhat short of directly calling for such actions. In 2007 the UCU received a legal opinion that boycotting Israel would be illegal. Its details have not been made public. One of the 2008 conference motions says that British academics should consider the moral implications of working with Israeli universities and discuss “the occupation” with Israeli colleagues with whom they work.

Before this year’s UCU conference, British Jewry’s Stop the Boycott Campaign published a legal opinion it had obtained. This stated among other things that if the UCU were to adopt and implement one of the proposed motions it might breach the British Race Relations Act.

At the UCU’s invitation a delegation from PFUUPE (the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees) visited UK universities and colleges during the past academic year. As Jonathan Halevi notes, “The discussions between UCU and PFUUPE were concentrated on promoting fields of cooperation and supporting the Palestinian academia, ignoring the fact that in all these universities there is a strong presence from the Palestinian terrorist organizations.”[13]


As in previous years, the UCU resolutions prompted some condemnations. British minister of higher education Bill Rammell stated that he found boycotting academics deeply disturbing.[14] Paul Goldschmidt, former director of the European Union, wrote to José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, that he should condemn the UCU decision.

Labor parliamentarian John Mann, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group against anti-Semitism, stressed the motion’s discriminatory character against British Jews: “Boycotts do nothing to bring about peace and reconciliation in the Middle East but leave Jewish students, academics and their associates isolated and victimized on UK university campuses.”[15]

Israel’s ambassador to the UK Ron Prosor published an article in the Daily Telegraph in which he wrote: “Israel faces an intensified campaign of delegitimisation, demonisation and double standards. Britain has become a hotbed for radical anti-Israeli views and a haven for disingenuous calls for a ‘One state solution,’ a euphemistic name for a movement advocating Israel’s destruction.”[16]

Minister Rammell responded:

I do not agree that there is widespread radical anti-Israeli sentiment on our higher education campuses. I do not believe calls for academic boycotts of Israel have anything more than small minority support amongst academics. Universities have a vital role to play in challenging those views that we may regard as uncomfortable or distasteful and, where such views do exist, it is the responsibility of staff and students to isolate the very small minority who promote extremism.[17]

Attorney Anthony Julius, representing various members of the UCU, wrote a letter to its general secretary Sally Hunt. He pointed out why one of the motions, number 25, was anti-Semitic, and argued that the UCU’s behavior was “continuous with episodes in anti-Semitism’s history.”

Julius also mentioned the possibility of “a likely claim against the UCU for harassment under s. 3A(1) of the Race Relations Act, that is, the creating of an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating and/or offensive environment for Jewish members of the union and/or violating their dignity.” He then listed various points on which such a court case could be based.[18]

Those who propose and support the anti-Israeli motions are well aware that these are unlikely to influence those British academics who collaborate with Israeli universities. Their true aims are different. Many are Trotskyites who seek to attract public attention to various issues concerning the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Another aim is to demonize Israel, while presenting themselves as moral people.

The Absentees

Two parties are surprisingly almost absent from the boycott-motions debate. One is the great majority of UCU members who want their union to focus on salaries and social conditions instead of political issues. Yet this majority is so silent that it has allowed the Trotskyite faction, the UCU Left, to take control.

The other major absentee is the Israeli universities. One would have expected those who are attacked to be the first to respond. They have, however, left the battlefield to British Jewry and its activists. Among the latter are Ronnie Fraser, founder and director of Academic Friends of Israel, and Engage, an organization that includes both Jewish and non-Jewish academics and has worked against the boycott since 2005.

Until the end of 2007 the International Advisory Board for Academic Freedom and its executive director Ofir Frenkel were at the forefront of the battle against Israel’s academic enemies worldwide. This body, founded by Bar-Ilan University, had evolved into an umbrella organization of all Israeli universities. However, a lack of funds forced it to discontinue its activities.

The Israeli government was willing to make partial funding available, but this was conditional on the universities providing the remainder. Israel’s university presidents however did not discuss the matter in their meetings.[19] The academic world would like to believe it is at its best when outsiders leave it alone. The Israeli universities’ failure to deal with attacks against them is yet further proof that this is a fallacy.

Other Events

The Oxford Union is a very old student debating society. In late 2007 its leadership proposed discussing the topic “This house believes that one state is the only solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.” The debate had to be canceled because as representative of the pro-Israeli side the union chose Norman Finkelstein, an academic who had been fired from DePaul University “for his lack of scholarship and his ad hominems against pro-Israel writers.”[20]

The Oxford Union held another event in November 2007 in which Holocaust-denier David Irving and Nick Griffin, leader of the far-Right British National Party, debated the subject of free speech. Irving had been jailed by an Austrian court in 2006 for his pro-Nazi statements. The debate was accompanied by heavy protests.[21]

New Israeli Academic-Collaboration Agreements

When British prime minister Gordon Brown visited Israel in July 2008 he, together with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, launched a new academic- exchange program between the UK and Israel called BIRAX (Britain-Israel Research and Academic Exchange Partnership). The program is to run initially for five years and will be administered by the British Council.

Julia Smith, deputy director of the British Council said the program was not related to the boycott. Prof. David Newman of Ben-Gurion University, who has been active in fighting the boycott during a sabbatical in the UK, disagreed and said the program “has a great deal to do with the boycott. Because of the ongoing discussion of boycotts, the British government decided that the most appropriate response was to strengthen ties.”[22]

In the same month European Commissioner for Education, Culture and Sport Jan Figel signed a joint declaration with Israeli education minister Yuli Tamir on the occasion of the inauguration of the first Tempus office in Israel. The Tempus program promotes the exchange of students and academic staff between the EU and neighboring countries.[23]

On the other hand, two leading British universities have received gifts from Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Abdul Aziz Alsaud. Centers for Islamic studies will be set up at Cambridge and Edinburgh universities with a $31 million endowment. The prince had earlier made gifts to Harvard and Georgetown universities.[24] Then-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani refused a $10 million gift from him after the 9/11 attack because the prince had suggested that American policies had contributed to the crime.

The financing of chairs in Western universities by Saudi Arabia and other Arab dictatorships is an issue that will require increasing scrutiny. Jay P. Greene, head of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, says Gulf Arabs have donated a total of $88 million to fourteen U.S. universities from 1995 to the present. His own university was the largest recipient.[25] Prof. Anthony Glees, director of Brunel University’s Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, says that eight British universities-among them Oxford and Cambridge-have accepted more than £233.5 million from Saudi and Muslim donors from 1995 to 2008.[26]

United States: The Ad Hoc Committee to Defend the University

Another initiative that de facto serves the anti-Israeli racists on campuses is a statement of the Ad Hoc Committee to Defend the University. This was partly an attack on the pro-Israeli forces and those fighting anti-Semitism in American academia. In November 2007 professors from the University of California-Santa Cruz, Princeton, Harvard, and Columbia jointly launched a petition on academic freedom.

By August 2008 this declaration had about 650 signatures including those of academics representing almost every Ivy League school. The Ad Hoc Committee released the statement on its website for viewing or adding one’s signature.[27]

The statement itself begins by stressing the essential role of academic freedom. Without citing any specific examples, the text discusses how it has recently become necessary to protect this freedom because of limitations on the type of material taught in classrooms and effects on the tenure of professors.

The language of the petition directs the blame for these limitations at pressure or lobby groups. It singles out pro-Israeli activities. It also states that “a greater percentage of social scientists today feels that their academic freedom has been threatened than was the case during the McCarthy era.”[28]

According to supporters of the declaration, the Israel lobby has taken control of the universities through donations, linking anti-Semitism to being anti-Israeli, and other types of influence. Thus the petition calls for lecturers to have the freedom to teach what they consider appropriate in the classroom without fear. The signatories also state that the right to scrutinize their work belongs primarily to their peers.

Organizations such as Campus Watch have criticized the professors who support the petition by saying they “are sealing themselves from the society that supports them…and are ivory tower intellectuals who regularly render harsh judgments against the practitioners of other professions-but claim immunity from criticism when it is directed towards themselves.”[29]

Campus Watch director Daniel Pipes unmasked the hypocrisy of the Ad Hoc Committee by pointing out that the anti-Israeli academic Noam Chomsky has no problem speaking at American universities and added: “When I go on universities I can barely give a talk.”[30]

Investigations at the University of California-Irvine

Anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism are rife in a number of U.S. universities. A prime example is the University of California-Irvine. Incidents there in recent years have been described in an essay by Leila Beckwith.[31]

In 2006 the Hillel Foundation of Orange County set up a task force to investigate anti-Semitism on the UC-Irvine campus. They interviewed people about incidents that had occurred there. Officials from the school, however, including the chancellor, refused to be interviewed claiming it was against school policy. The interviews began in February 2007, but by August of that year Hillel decided the task was too extensive and discontinued its association with the project.[32]

The investigation was later continued by members of the Jewish community of Orange County. They published their report in February 2008. This document is of major importance as it examines the structural problems of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli hate at one American university in their totality rather than dealing only with a number of incidents. It can serve as a model for similar investigations at other universities, Columbia and UC-Santa Cruz being among the prime candidates.

The new group’s report states that “acts of anti-Semitism are real and well documented. Jewish students have been harassed.  Hate speech is unrelenting.” Furthermore, “Some faculty members have used their classroom as a forum for their anti-Israel agenda.”[33]

The authors also assert that: “The Muslim Student Union…allies itself and identifies itself with terrorist groups that are enemies of the Unites States.” About the administration they note:

The Chancellor has failed to exercise his moral authority as an educator and leader by abrogating his leadership responsibilities. The boundaries of rational and reasonable discourse by constituencies that have differing positions on emotional issues have not been established. There is no indication that the University is at all concerned about the disconnect between campus values and the values of the greater society.[34]

The report also mentions that the Jewish community as a whole has not been proactive. It even includes a suggestion that Jewish students should not attend school at UC-Irvine.

At the request of the Zionist Organization of America, the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) also launched an investigation into anti-Semitic incidents at UC-Irvine. After some initial inquiries, the office claimed it had not been informed in time and, based on this technicality, ceased the investigation. The task force of the Jewish community, however, concluded that there was evidence that all twenty-six incidents the OCR was supposed to investigate had indeed taken place, and that there had been additional ones as well.

An Abundance of Anti-Israeli Events

The 2007-2008 academic year was marked by numerous anti-Israeli events at UC-Irvine. In February 2008 an Israel Apartheid Week was held. This included a lecture by Imam Mohammad Al-Asi titled “From Auschwitz to Gaza: The Politics of Genocide.”[35] He said Israel was an apartheid state and that “Israel is on the way down…your days are numbered. We will fight you until we are martyred or until we are victorious.”[36]

Al-Asi returned to UC-Irvine in May 2008 to take part in a weeklong event to commemorate the Nakba, that is, the Arabs’ catastrophic defeat in the 1948 war against Israel. Other speakers were Norman Finkelstein and the imam Amir Abdel Malik Ali, who praised Palestinian mothers who sent out their children as suicide bombers.[37]

When Daniel Pipes spoke in January 2008 at UC-Irvine on the threat to Israel’s existence, he was interrupted by pro-Palestinian students who were then removed from the audience. They continued their protest outside, saying things such as “it’s just a matter of time before the state of Israel will be wiped off the face of the earth…just keep on doing what we are doing, our weapon, our jihad, our way of struggling. May Allah give them strength.”[38] Pipes, later interviewed by Hannity and Colmes on Fox News, said the school did not care about this type of disturbance.

Twenty students and alumni at UC-Irvine who were dissatisfied with the handling and representation of the events on campus wrote a letter to UC chancellor Michael V. Drake. It began: “We are deeply concerned about the anti-Semitism at UCI that has been frequently couched as false and hateful attacks on Israel. We do not believe that Chancellor Drake has exercised his responsibility as an educator and university leader in response to the anti-Semitism.”[39] Drake, while condemning hate speech, never specifically condemned anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism even though they were rife on campus.

Hillel Invites Drake

Several of these students also wrote a letter to Hillel International president Wayne Firestone, saying they were upset that Chancellor Drake had been invited as a guest speaker at the National Summit of Hillel to lead a session on “Fostering a More Civil Society.” Firestone answered that it is better to work with such people than to dismiss them.

Regarding the invitation to Drake, Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America said: “By giving him a podium to give a speech, that only sends a message to him and to others that we are reasonably comfortable with the actions he’s taken to fight anti-Semitism and Israel bashing on campus when in fact he has said virtually nothing to give comfort to Jewish students on campus.”[40]

Isi Leibler, former senior vice-president of the World Jewish Congress criticized Firestone’s statement that there was no relationship between anti-Israeli activity and anti-Semitism: “It is surely disconcerting for a Hillel president to express views by now repudiated even by such bodies as the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, not to mention the US government.”[41]

Columbia University

Columbia University has had a number of anti-Israeli incidents in recent years. Once again the fact that it only concerns a limited number of the staff is no consolation.

At a conference organized in New York by the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, Prof. Stephen H. Norwood recounted how then-Columbia president Murray Butler had tried to establish friendly relations with German universities in the mid-1930s. He said, “Butler was morally indifferent to Nazi crimes during the critically important early years of Nazi rule.” Some professors who opposed his behavior were fired.

Norwood, who received his PhD in history at Columbia and teaches at the University of Oklahoma, told the Jerusalem Post: “Sixty years after the Holocaust, Columbia has never acknowledged that they did anything wrong, even when we now know what the failure of confronting Nazism led to. They don’t care enough to look back and say injustices were done.”[42]

In recent years Columbia’s Middle East and Asian Language and Cultures Department has been accused of intimidating pro-Israeli students. Dozens of cases were exposed in the David Project’s 2004 documentary Columbia Unbecoming.[43] The university then had no choice but to carry out an investigation by an academic committee that obfuscated more than it clarified.[44]

Columbia stood out negatively once again in September 2007 when it invited Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak at its World Leaders Forum. The idea of inviting him had already been raised the previous year. At the 2007 lecture, Columbia president Lee C. Bollinger challenged Ahmadinejad and others did so as well. Yet the event gave legitimacy to Ahmadinejad.

In January 2008 the Iranian news agency Mehr claimed that a number of Columbia professors intended to travel to Iran to apologize to Ahmadinejad for Bollinger’s behavior. This was denied by various Columbia sources and nothing more was heard about it.[45]

In April 2008 Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs held a faculty panel discussion on “60 Years of Nakba: The Catastrophe of Palestine 1948-2008.” A key speaker was Joseph Massad who had been the prime academic investigated for intimidation of pro-Israeli students after the showing of Columbia Unbecoming. Massad had been found at fault in the cases where this conclusion was almost unavoidable but no disciplinary measures against him were proposed.

A writer in FrontPage Magazine summed up this year’s panel: “Using the ‘renaming’ strategy to make the destruction of Israel more palatable to the West was the faculty panel’s primary theme. Portraying the only democratic state in the Middle East as a brutal, non-democratic ‘Jewish supremacist and racist state,’ as Massad once put it, was the secondary theme.”[46]

James R. Russell, a professor of Armenian studies at Harvard wrote:

Is this Columbia University? A professor of anthropology calls for a million Mogadishus, a professor of Arabic and Islamic Science tells a girl she isn’t a Semite because her eyes are green, and a professor of Persian hails the destruction of the World Trade Center as the castrating of a double phallus. The most recent tenured addition to this rogues’ gallery is to be an anthropologist, the principal thrust of whose magnum opus is the suggestion that archaeology in Israel is a sort of con game meant to persuade the unwary that Jews lived there in antiquity.[47]

The latter accusation referred to Nadia Abu El-Haj’s book Facts on the Ground. Russell said it “fits firmly into the postmodern academic genre, in which facts and evidence are subordinate to, and mediated by, a ‘discourse.'” He concluded that the battle against ideology at Columbia was probably lost.[48]

To balance the one-sided pro-Arab teaching at Columbia, a new Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies was established. However, the professor appointed as its director, Yinon Cohen, had signed a statement in May 2002 supporting Israelis who refused to serve in military operations in Gaza and the West Bank during the Second Intifada. Such a person was obviously not the right one to provide an Israeli perspective.[49] This model of hiring people to represent Israel whose views belong to the margins of Israeli society manifests itself at a number of universities. Some of these academics are even outspoken Jewish anti-Semites.[50]

Other Campuses

Although UC-Irvine and Columbia are among the main universities where the problem of anti-Israelism is structural, many incidents have taken place on other campuses. Some involved anti-Semitic graffiti, vandalism, or personal insults, such as at the University of North Dakota,[51] Rutgers,[52] and UC-Santa Cruz,[53] another university where structural anti-Israeli bias occurs.

There are also hostile acts by individual academics against which Israel’s supporters should react. One example is David Mumford. This Harvard mathematician, who received the Wolf Prize in Israel,[54] decided to give part of the prize money to students of Birzeit University near Ramallah so that they could travel abroad.

It is worth recalling, though, that in the 2003 elections for the Birzeit student government council, the campaign featured models of exploding Israeli buses. In the debate, the Hamas candidate asked the Fatah candidate: “Hamas activists in this university killed 135 Zionists. How many did Fatah activists from Birzeit kill?” The people murdered are mostly Israeli civilians.[55]

Mumford accepted money from an Israeli body and used it to fund students of a Palestinian university where major incitement to murder Israelis takes place. If he will become known more for his vicious mind than for his academic achievements it will serve as a lesson to others. It is sadly clear that in such battles Israeli universities that do not tend to their own direct interests will not be much of a partner.

Exposing the Abuses

The many ideological abuses on American campuses have led to a number of counteractions. “In October 2007 more than a hundred campuses hosted Islamo-Fascism Awareness weeks to make university communities aware of the Islamist threat and the danger it poses. In April 2008 a second Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week focused on the network created in America by the Muslim Brotherhood.” Yet another campaign is planned for October 2008 on “Stop the Jihad on Campus.”[56]

The highly politicized nature of the Middle East Studies Organization (MESA) has led a number of scholars to create an alternative organization, the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA). Its chairman is the well-known scholar Bernard Lewis and another leading academic, Fouad Ajami, is vice-president of its academic council. Its members already include five hundred scholars in forty countries. Its first meeting was held in April 2008.[57]


In Italy over several months in 2007 and the beginning of 2008 a list appeared on the internet of 162 Italian university teachers of Jewish origin. When the Rome Jewish community complained to the Interior Ministry, the internet service provider took the site off the web.

Professor Roberto della Rocca, a historian at the University of Rome III had already asked the provider in September 2007 to remove this site because he said it was a threat to him personally. Giuliano Amato, the interior minister, said that what he had seen on the blog violated both Italian culture and law. The ministry then launched an investigation.[58]

The Less Visible

There are also, however, many factors less visible than incidents that slowly pervert the teaching atmosphere on campus. These include, for instance, the selective choice of books for libraries, or the one-sided assigning of books in lecture classes. These are almost underground phenomena that are not monitored in any way.

A problem apart is self-hating Israeli academics, some of whom are outright advocates of Israel’s genocidal enemies. Others, less extreme, defame Israel in various ways while remaining silent about the context in which Israel operates or without even mentioning the murderous attitudes that permeate Palestinian society.

An example of Israeli self-hate was cited by former Israeli minister Amnon Rubinstein. A visiting professor at Columbia when Ahmadinejad spoke there, he relates: “Inside the hall sat an Israeli student who applauded Ahmadinejad. I asked another Israeli who witnessed this behavior to tell me about her. I asked: ‘How can she applaud someone that wants to exterminate her?’ His matter of fact reply: ‘She’s known to be a leftist.'”

Rubinstein concluded:

In other words “leftists” applaud a tyrant, a Nazi, a persecutor of minorities, oppressor of women, stoner of “adulterers,” and executioner of homosexuals. If he protests the oppression of the Palestinians, then he must clearly be a member of the “left” and should therefore be cheered. Later, I encountered other Israeli academics at Columbia who added more fuel to the fire of hatred against Israel-all belonged to what is known as the radical Left.[59]

Organizational Requirements

The abovementioned examples of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli actions on campuses in a number of countries are far from comprehensive. At present no one is tracking such incidents systematically and globally. There are several reasons why such a body is needed. Israel Apartheid Week has demonstrated that developments on one campus may spread to others, both in the same country and internationally. Only an international monitoring body can keep track of such developments.

Furthermore, individual students and Jewish organizations in various countries need a backup organization that has expertise in countering anti-Semitic phenomena on campus. Since academia is usually a world apart from society at large, off-campus Jewish organizations have great difficulty understanding how to cope with such developments. In addition, many incidents such as professors demonizing Israel in class go unrecorded.

Although certain aspects of these problems are competently covered in some countries by various Jewish organizations, there is a lack of an overall global picture, and of monitoring of many of the hate phenomena against Israel and the Jews. There is a need for a body to concentrate the knowledge on the various actions against Jews and Israel and how people respond to them. Only with this knowledge can effective action be undertaken-in other words, a more proactive policy is needed.


It would be mistaken to consider the onslaught on Israel and Jews as an isolated phenomenon. What happens to Jews has usually been a pointer to structural elements of the societal environment in which it takes place and is also a sensor of events to come. This is also the case as far as academia is concerned. Academic freedom has been abused so much that it has outlived part of its academic and societal usefulness for fostering knowledge in its present form.

If any further proof was needed, Columbia University’s invitation to Ahmadinejad to lecture there provided it. In view of his incitement to genocide, the natural place for him to speak should be as a defendant before an international court. Similarly the many anti-Israeli hate campaigns on campus prove that the principle of academic freedom in its present form is partly obsolete.

The defenders of what now passes for academic freedom should largely be seen as an elitist interest group that tries to protect acquired privileges. Being powerful in society and having good public relations enables universities to present the current, ostensible academic freedom as a moral value, whereas actually it is an expression of extreme corporatism. The declaration of the Ad Hoc Committee to Defend the University is a prime example of this aberration.

Outsiders such as Campus Watch and FrontPage Magazine fulfill important roles in exposing misbehavior on campuses-all the more so because academic peers and administrations have often failed in preventing it. One can only hope that external scrutiny of what goes on in academia will increase further.

One important example of how an investigation can shed light on a troubled, insufficiently known area was Britain’s All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism.[60] It paid substantial attention to anti-Semitism on campuses.

There is a similar need for more comprehensive external investigations of the academic world, particularly its openness to hate teaching and bias. This includes elements such as political correctness, the promotion of ideology, the distortion of knowledge, and the protection of the hate promoters and falsifiers of knowledge as well as other malfunctions of campus administrations.

*     *     *


[1] The author expresses his thanks to Emily Bernstein who was the research assistant at the JCPA for part of this project.

[2] For a historical overview see: Manfred Gerstenfeld (ed.), Academics against Israel and the Jews (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2007).

[3] “About IAW,” Israel Apartheid Week, 9 March 2008. .

[4]  Israel Apartheid Week, 9 March 2008. .

[5] Avi Weinryb, “The University of Toronto-The Institution where Israel Apartheid Week Was Born,” forthcoming, Jewish Political Studies Review, Fall 2008.

[6] Abe Selig, “Canadian Professors Slam ‘Israel Apartheid Week,'” Jerusalem Post, 2 April 2008.

[7] “Toronto,” Israel Apartheid Week, 9 March 2008. .

[8] “Schedules,” Israel Apartheid Week, 9 March 2008 .

[9] S. Sheri, “Jewish Groups Work to Counter Israeli Apartheid Week,” Canadian Jewish News, 9 March 2008.

[10] Alexander Nino Gheciu, “Ontario Students Protest Ban,” Excalibur, 27 February 2008, 4 March 2008. .

[11] Selig, “Canadian Professors.”

[12] Avi Benlolo, “Israel Apartheid Week at U of T,” 5 February 2008, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, Toronto.

[13] Jonathan D. Halevi, “UCU’s Dubious Moral Standards,” Middle East Strategic Information (MESI), 8 June 2008.

[14] “Minister Wants No Israeli Boycott,” The Press Association, viewed 1 June 2008.

[15] Jonny Paul, “Ex-EU Official Condemns UK Academic Boycott Call,” Jerusalem Post, 1 June 2008.

[16] Ron Prosor, “Britain Is a Hotbed of Anti-Israeli Sentiment,” The Telegraph, 10 June 2008.

[17] Anthea Lipsett, “Rammell Defends British Universities from Charges of Extremism,” Education Guardian, 11 June 2008.

[18] Anthony Julius, “Letter to UCU from Anthony Julius on UCU Boycott Motion,” published in SPME Latest Academic News, 3 June 2008.

[19] Personal communication, Ofir Frenkel.

[20] Alan M. Dershowitz, “The Oxford Union’s Destructive ‘Debate,'” FrontPage Magazine, 15 January 2008.

[21] Reuters, “Protesters Disrupt Oxford Debate with Holocaust Denier,” Haaretz, 28 November 2007.

[22] Ehud Zion Waldoks, “PM, Brown Launch New Academic Exchange Program,” Jerusalem Post, 20 July 2008.

[23] Ehud Zion Waldoks, “Israel Boycott a ‘Lose-Lose’ Situation,” Jerusalem Post, 16 July 2008.

[24] Aisha Labi, “2 British Universities to Benefit from Saudi Prince’s Gifts,” Chronicle of Higher Education, 9 May 2008.

[25] Jamie Glazov, “Why Arabian Gulf Countries Donate to US Universities,” FrontPage Magazine, 9 June 2008.

[26] Anthea Lipsett, “Concerns over Funding of Islamic Studies,” Education Guardian, 17 April 2008.

[27] Joan Scott, Edmund Burke, Jeremy Adelman, Steven Caton, Jonathan Cole, and Organizing Committee, “Our Petition,” Ad Hoc Committee to Defend the University. .

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ben Harris, “Anti-Israel Academics Say Their Speech Is Stifled,” JTA, 25 October 2007.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Leila Beckwith, “Anti-Zionism/Anti-Semitism at the University of California-Irvine,” in Gerstenfeld, Academics, 115-21.

[32] Joseph Serna, “Jewish Org. Nixes UCI Probe,” Daily Pilot, 7 October 2007.

[33] Task Force on Anti-Semitism at the University of California Irvine, Report and Addendum (Huntington Beach, CA: Orange County Independent Task Force, 2008), 26.

[34] Ibid., 27

[35] Aaron Elias, “Al-Asi on Israel: Yes, He Really Said That,” New University, 9 March 2008. .

[36] Michal Landau, “Fight UC Irvine Campus Anti-Semitism,” Jerusalem Post, 3 April 2008.

[37] The Editors, “The ‘Nakba’ at UC-Irvine,” FrontPage Magazine, 20 May 2008.

[38] Brad A. Greenberg, “Report Says UCI Is a Hostile Place for Jewish Students,” Jewish Journal, 22 February 2008.

[39] UC-Irvine Students, Letter to Chancellor Drake, Students Concerned about Anti-Semitism on Campus, UC-Irvine.

[40] Ben Harris, “Debating How to Respond on Campus,” JTA, 18 March 2008.

[41] Isi Leibler, “Candidly Speaking: Hillel Goes Post-Modern,” Jerusalem Post, 31 March 2008.

[42] Etgar Lefkowitz, “Columbia Skips NYC Event on University’s Nazi Ties in ’30s,” Jerusalem Post, 3 April 2008.

[43] For a transcript of Columbia Unbecoming, see:

[44] Noah Liben, “The Columbia University Report on Its Middle Eastern Department’s Problems: A Paradigm for Obscuring Structural Flaws,” in Gerstenfeld, Academics, 95-102.

[45] Peter Kiefer, “Report: Columbia Professors to Apologize to Ahmadinejad,” New York Sun, 9 January 2008.

[46] Mary Madigan, “Columbia’s Catastrophic ‘Nakba’ Conference,” FrontPage Magazine, 9 May 2008.

[47] James R. Russell, “Ideology over Integrity in Academe,” The Current, Fall 2007.

[48] Ibid.

[49] Jared Irmas, “New Columbia Israel Director Denounced ‘Occupation,'” New York Sun, 28 February 2008.

[50] Asaf Romirowsky, “In Academia, Hiring Token Jews,” Washington Times, 4 August 2008

[51] Ben Harris, “Ignoring Anti-Semitism in N. Dakota?” JTA, 29 April 2008.

[52] Ben-Zion Jaffe, “Big Jew on Campus: Anti-Semitism Goes to College,” Jerusalem Post blog, 16 April 2008.

[53] J. M. Brown, “UCSC Police Investigating Anti-Semitic Graffiti,” Santa Cruz Sentinel, 30 April 2008.

[54] Ofri Ilani, “U.S. Prof. Gives Israeli Prize Money to Palestinian University,”, 26 May 2008.

[55] Mohammed Daraghmeh, “Hamas, Fatah Compete over Killing Israelis in Campaign for Student Council Seats,” Associated Press,, 10 December 2003.

[56] David Horowitz and Reut Cohen, “Islamo-Fascism Week III: ‘Stop the Jihad on Campus,'” FrontPage Magazine, 5 August 2008.

[57] Richard Byrne, “First Meeting for New Group on Middle East and African Studies Places Islamic Extremism at Center of Its Agenda,” Chronicle of Higher Education, 28 April 2008. See also Cinnamon Stilwell, “Truth about Islam in Academia,” FrontPage Magazine, 7 July 2008.

[58] “Lista dei prof ebrei La Procura apre un’indagine,” La Repubblica, 9 February 2008. [Italian]

[59] Amnon Rubinstein, “Homemade Israel-Bashers,” Jerusalem Post, 28 February 2008.

[60] “Report on the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism,” Stationery Office Ltd., London, 2006.

*     *     *

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is Chairman of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He is an international business strategist who has been a consultant to governments, international agencies, and boards of some of the world’s largest corporations. Among the fourteen books he has published are Europe’s Crumbling Myths: The Post-Holocaust Origins of Today’s Anti-Semitism (JCPA, Yad Vashem, WJC, 2003), Academics against Israel and the Jews (JCPA, 2007), as well as the just published Behind the Humanitarian Mask: The Nordic Countries, Israel and the Jews (JCPA and Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, 2008).