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

How to Fight the Campus Battle against Old and New Anti-Semites: Motifs, Strategies, and Methods

Filed under: Antisemitism, International Law, Israel, Palestinians, World Jewry
Publication: Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism

No. 91,

  • The battle against old and new campus anti-Semitism is usually fought with classic methods. These include public debate, op-eds, letters to the editor, petitions, letters to university administrations or efforts to persuade them to take action, requests for the investigation of incidents, legal actions, and the mobilization of allies. These approaches alone are not adequate in the current circumstances.
  • The use of such classic approaches alone is often doomed to failure for several reasons. The number of haters of Jews and Israel is many times larger than the number of those willing to fight back. The academic playing field in the battle of ideas is tilted, frequently enabling the promotion of incitement to anti-Semitism. This is often facilitated by weak university administrations. Furthermore, the partly illegal methods employed by enemies of the Jews and Israel include many that those on the defensive do not wish to use.
  • Any effective strategy for the battle against anti-Semitism on campus requires that the classic methods of combat be complemented by others. Effective out-of-the-box solutions are also essential. These must meet the criteria of low investment of human and financial resources and a potential high return in terms of damage to the enemy.
  • The methods to be used in the battle against anti-Semitism on campus should include counterattack, ridicule, exposure, “name and shame,” monitoring, documentation, mobilizing lawyers for arguing, as well as legal actions. Crucial battles against anti-Semitism are often fought with one hand behind the back. This facilitates free anti-Semitic lunches for the attackers.

The guiding principle in the battle against anti-Semitic attacks is that there should be no free anti-Semitic lunches for enemies of the Jews and Israel. That is true both on campus and in society at large. Although some continue to claim that anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism are different matters, the evidence is overwhelming that the two greatly overlap.[1]

Jews usually fight campus anti-Semitism with classic methods: public debate, op-eds, letters to the editor, petitions, letters to university administrations or efforts to persuade them to take action, requests for the investigation of incidents, legal actions, and so on. As reactions to academics boycotts of Israel, sometimes counterboycotts are proposed. Another aspect of classic defense is to try and mobilize allies. All these approaches are valid, but they alone are not adequate in the current circumstances. These methods might lead to incidental successes, but rarely to more than that. This also pertains in a broader sense to the state of Israel in the overall war against demonization by its enemies.

Why More Is Required

The classic approach in itself is doomed to fail for several reasons. The number of haters of Jews and Israel in the Muslim world and Western societies is many times larger than the number of those willing to fight back. Hence one cannot confront head-on all of one’s enemies at the same time.

A second reason for failure is that the playing field in the battle of ideas is often tilted. Academic freedom time and again enables the promotion of hate as well as anti-Israeli incitement. Furthermore, conferences devoted to one-sided anti-Israeli propaganda advance prejudice. The situation is aggravated by the frequent weakness or apathy of university administrations.

A third reason is that the methods employed by enemies – a number of which are illegal – include many that those on the defensive do not wish to use. These include demonization, discrimination, efforts at exclusion including boycotts, falsification of history including Holocaust distortion and denial, other lies, intimidation in classrooms, support for terrorism, and instilling fear with threats of violence as well as physical aggression. Another common method is to recruit support from hate-mongers against Israel among Jews or Israelis.

The anti-Israeli discrimination issue has developed in many directions over the past years. There have been efforts to prevent Israeli academics from obtaining grants, to incite academic institutions to sever relations with Israeli counterparts and scholars, to convince academics not to visit Israel, to try and prevent the publication of articles by Israeli scholars, to refuse to review the work of Israeli academics, and to refuse recommendations to students who want to study in Israel or to grant them credits for their work there.

In addition, there have been unofficial or concealed boycotts such as when foreign academics have severed relations with Israelis with whom they had had contacts for years. The attacks on the Jews and Israel in the world’s universities take many forms. A workable strategy to counter them must be based on a prior assessment of threats in each specific case. There is no standard model as to what is the best defense.

Examples from Canada

The above statements on how Jew-hatred develops in the academic world can be illustrated in many regards with examples from Canada. Its current reputation in this field is as one of the countries in the forefront of campus anti-Semitism. The University of Toronto is where Israel Apartheid Week was born.[2] Many other examples of how the Jews’ enemies operate have been described in an essay by Prof. Alan Goldschläger. He notes, among other things, that Canadian “universities do not object when the very legitimacy of the existence of the Jewish state is rejected, as has been the case during Israel Apartheid Week events held in 2006 on campuses in Toronto, Kitchener, Waterloo and Montreal.”[3]

As for the promotion of lies, Goldschläger quotes an email from Michael Neuman, professor of philosophy at Trent University, who wrote that his sole concern was to “help the Palestinians.” Neuman continued:

I am not interested in the truth, or justice, or understanding, or anything else, except so far as it serves that purpose…. If an effective strategy means that some truths about the Jews don’t come to light, I don’t care. If an effective strategy means encouraging reasonable anti-Semitism, or reasonable hostility to Jews, I also don’t care. If it means encouraging vicious racist anti-Semitism, or the destruction of the State of Israel, I still don’t care.[4]

As far as threats of violence are concerned, in February 2009 Jewish students at York University – which is getting an increasingly bad name as a center of campus anti-Semitism – were forced to flee to the Hillel office after they had participated in a press conference. Anti-Israeli protesters banged on the doors chanting “Die bitch go back to Israel” and “Die Jew get the hell off campus.”[5]

A few months later, an anti-Israeli propaganda conference called “Models of Statehood in Israel/Palestine” took place at the same university. Speakers demonized Israel. Dr. Na’ama Carmi from Israel, who gave a talk, said that “anyone who challenged the Palestinian perspective was intimidated or even labeled a racist…. At times, those presenting a different view were subject to abuse and ridicule.” She added: “Never before in my whole academic career have I encountered the rudeness that I experienced at this conference.” [6] This is one example of a tilted playing field in the battle of ideas.

Support for terrorism was exhibited at the University of Toronto in 2005. A former student, Avi Weinryb writes: “A mock refugee camp constructed in the school’s Sydney Smith Hall foyer was adorned with Arabic language posters calling on camp residents to support or join the terror group Islamic Jihad. This group had been banned by the government of Canada in November of 2002.”[7]

Outright incitement to murder occurred at the same university in 2002. Ted Honderich, a Canadian-born philosophy professor at what is usually considered a respectable institution, University College, London, spoke at the University of Toronto. In his lecture he said the Palestinians had a moral right to blow up the Jews, and even encouraged them to do so.[8]

Concordia University has also become known abroad for physical violence against Jews on campus. One incident that reached the international media occurred in September 2002 when former Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu was to speak there. The lecture had to be canceled.[9]

In January 2009, Sid Ryan, president of the Ontario branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), called for a boycott of Israeli academics unless they condemned Israeli military action.[10] The call was a reaction to the bombing of the Islamic University in Gaza. The targets there included two laboratories that served as research and development centers for Hamas’s military wing, where explosives were developed under the auspices of university professors. The university was also used for storage of rockets and explosives.[11]

In addition, presentations prepared by Canadian Jewish students for the Canadian Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism contain many recent examples of campus anti-Semitism.[12]

Out-of-the-Box Approaches in the Academic World

As the defenders of Israel want to play by the rules, any effective strategy for the battle on campus requires that the classic methods of combat be complemented by others. Out-of-the-box solutions are thus necessary. These not only have to be creative but also effective. Given the small number of people willing to put themselves out, such methods must meet the criteria of low investment of human and financial resources and a potentially high return in terms of damage to the enemy.

The book Academics against Israel and the Jews, edited by this author, shows that the number of out-of-the-box solutions that have been devised in the battle against campus anti-Semites is very limited.[13] One small example of such an approach occurred in July 2006, when more than a thousand American professors signed a petition to condemn Israel’s “aggression against Lebanon and Gaza.” One of the signees of the petition – which was further circulated – described himself as “Mr. H. Nasrallah, Joseph Goebbels Chair in Communications, Duke.”[14] By signing in this way he ridiculed the entire campaign.

A more significant action occurred when The David Project, [15] a grassroots organization, interviewed a number of students at Columbia University who had been the victims of biased teachers of Middle Eastern studies.[16] The David Project later released the interviews in a movie called Columbia Unbecoming. Some Jewish observers, who did not understand the nature of the current battle against anti-Semitism, considered this a bad idea.

Columbia University undertook a superficial inquiry that managed to limit potential damage to it. Had this inquiry not produced at least some minor results, the next step would probably have been outside pressure on major donors to stop contributing to the school. This is yet another example of how aberrations in the seemingly closed academic world can be attacked effectively by outsiders.

Some say The David Project’s film was not effective. If this is true, it is partly because, rather than severely criticizing the internal inquiry, some Jewish organizations praised it. Columbia University thus continued its evil ways and hosted the Iranian president and genocide promoter Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on campus.[17] Seventy years earlier the same university had hosted the ambassador of Nazi Germany.[18]

John Coatsworth, who became dean of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs in 2008, said he would have invited Hitler to speak at Columbia in 1939, since at that point “he had not started the war and the Holocaust hadn’t begun.” Coatsworth is a former president of the American Historical Association.[19]

Out-of-the-Box Approaches Elsewhere

Out-of-the-box solutions must also be used in other areas of fighting anti-Semitism. In view of the highly biased reporting by many Dutch media on Israel, I started a blog called Bad News from the Netherlands. It presents exclusively negative news about the Netherlands, quoting mainstream Dutch media. It is based on the concept that ongoing selective information helps create a false image on a subject people know little about.

Contrary to the methods of anti-Israeli media, this blog makes full disclosure of its approach. It states upfront: “This project sets out to demonstrate that media coverage can degrade a country’s image by using selective news without context. It uses the Netherlands as an example. It is a reaction to the frequent misrepresentations of Israel in many ways in major media, including those of the Netherlands.”[20]

Such a project makes people think and encourages the defenders of Israel. The blog has received much more media attention than far more serious analyses of Dutch anti-Israelism. By October 2009 there were already more than 1,500 news items on the blog, putting the Netherlands in a negative light. This is despite the fact that readers had been informed that the items are selected for their one-sidedness.

Another interesting example of an out-of-the-box approach is a short film on YouTube about the anti-Israeli boycott. It shows Israel-haters and boycotters that they should not use computers and many other things they need in their daily lives, since these contain Israeli components. The message is clear: be consistent, deprive yourself totally of Israeli products and remain behind.[21]

Documenting Hate

With Columbia Unbecoming, The David Project has provided a model to be emulated. This can be done in various ways. One does not necessarily have to make a movie on the misbehavior of biased professors. Other methods of such documentation exist. Students can record their professors so as to obtain proof of their biased and anti-Semitic remarks. They can thus offer compelling evidence that these teachers abuse the classroom to promote hatred instead of advancing knowledge.

Such recordings can further illustrate that parts of the humanities studies on various campuses are intellectually corrupt. These can then be publicly exposed with the investment of a few dollars. Another positive outcome of the Columbia affair is that it frightened other university administrations that somebody might “do a Columbia on them.” This has been mentioned to this author by several academics in other places.

Another variant of the David Project’s method of documenting the anti-Israeli bias of lecturers is less effective, but also requires less courage. Students who have completed their studies can be debriefed on their experiences with teachers who promote hatred and racism. Another method of documenting in this battle is that of monitoring and exposure of biased academics, as is done, for instance, by Campus Watch.[22]

Documentation and exposure in their various forms are crucial elements in the battle for the nature of the campus. If organizations want to be effective, they should ask teachers and students to prepare inventories on everything that takes place on campus with respect to biased teaching, Israel-hatred, anti-Semitism, and intimidation in the classroom.

A databank should also be established with information on Israel’s enemies. Developing such a project would require a specific feasibility study. Documentation may sometimes entail more intensive research. The enemies of Israel are financed by various sources. Finding out their identity is important, but may often be difficult.

A greater involvement of lawyers in the battle against anti-Israeli inciters on campus is often very helpful. Lawyers are experts at arguing. This does not necessarily have to involve taking the enemy to court.[23]

Courage Required

Some actions require courageous people of which, by nature, there are few. One example is the Middle East scholar Martin Kramer, whose book Ivory Towers on Sand[24] analyzed the field of Middle Eastern studies in the United States. A comment on its back cover says:

for the past twenty years, Middle Eastern studies in America have been factories of error. The academics, blinded by their own prejudices and enslaved to the fashions of the disciplines, have failed to anticipate or explain any of the major developments in the Middle East. Within the field, hardly a voice dares to protest, but beyond it, each debacle chips away at academe’s credibility. Middle Eastern studies have failed – at a time when understanding the Middle East has become crucial to America.

By writing this book, Kramer damaged his academic career to a certain extent. He has stated publicly that for years he did not get invitations to speak at academic conferences in his field. If there were more courageous lecturers like him on campus, the profound intellectual corruption that has compromised the academic credibility of a variety of professors would be seriously counteracted. Kramer’s book is yet another example of documenting and exposure.

Rachel Fish is another courageous person to whom tribute should be paid. As a student, she battled Harvard University almost single-handedly and managed to cause the cancellation of a $2.5-million contribution to the Harvard Divinity School by Sheikh Zayed, the then ruler of Abu Dhabi. The sheikh had established a think tank, the now-defunct Sheikh Zayed Center, that promoted Holocaust denial, anti-Semitism, and anti-American conspiracy theories. Jimmy Carter honored the center by giving a lecture there.[25] Fish has shown what a courageous person can achieve. But how many such students are there? This type of exposure can be described as “name and shame.”[26]

A third example of a courageous person is Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a lecturer at the University of California, Santa Cruz. As she noted regarding her university: “At the departmental level, since 2001 more than a dozen events dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been sponsored by a number of UCSC departments and research centers, and all of these have been biased against Israel.”[27] She has battled valiantly, often alone, against great opposition on her campus.[28]

These and other cases again indicate that there are no set menus for the battle. The mode of fighting back must be adapted to each specific situation.

Counterattack Is the Best Defense

Counterattack is the best defense. This is a long-known strategic guideline in many areas, including the military, politics, and business. It pertains to the battle on campus as well.

It is also relevant, for instance, to the problem of the behavior of many campus administrations. The administrative heads of many universities where anti-Semitic hate promoters flourish are not necessarily bad, but simply weak, people. They want to maintain “social peace” on their campus. That is often tantamount to accommodating inciters and hate promoters.

It remains rare that the management of a university directly supports incitement against Israel. One such case is NTNU (Norwegian University of Science and Technology) in Trondheim, Norway, where Rector Torbjorn Digernes financed a series of lectures by extreme anti-Israelis in 2009.[29] When in the middle of this series the NTNU Board decided to discuss a proposal for the boycott of Israeli academia, it was condemned by leading academic and other bodies abroad. This was accompanied by articles opposing the boycott in Norwegian newspapers. Under this pressure the Norwegian government came out against the boycott and the Board unanimously voted against the proposal.[30]

The most effective way to impel administrators to battle anti-Semitic activities on campus is by campaigning for the demotion of the president of at least one university where anti-Semitism in its old and new forms is promoted. That would cause – without threatening anyone – many other administrators to think anew. Empirically speaking, most people in responsible positions, including scholars and university administrators, are cowards. Instilling fear, without using threats, is a legitimate method in the battle against campus anti-Semitism.

In the case of some people who have discriminated against Jews in the past, accounts will only be settled at a future date. This, in part, was the case when President Obama awarded the Medal of Freedom to former United Nations human rights commissioner Mary Robinson, who is now teaching at Columbia University. She played a negative role in the preparations for the 2001 Durban conference, with its heavy anti-Semitic coloring. Her joy on receiving the award was diminished by the considerable Jewish criticism of her and accusations that she had been instrumental in the distortion of human rights.[31]

Fighting Boycotts

The counterattack approach is also valid in the fight against boycotts of Israeli academia. One response to such boycott campaigns is to propose ranking all universities in the world according to how much they promote evil. Heading the list would be those that promote genocide and murder. They are the logical candidates for universal boycott. The result will be that those Arab and, in particular, Palestinian universities where teachers and students call for genocide, murder, and racism will be among the main universities to boycott.[32]

As many anti-Israeli boycotters invoke Israel’s attitude toward the Palestinians as the official reason for their campaign, an analysis of crime incitement in Palestinian universities provides a further perspective on the true motivation of the boycotters.

One example of genocidal incitement by a Palestinian academic is a statement made in 2004 by Dr. Ahmed Abu Halabiyah, rector of advanced studies at the Islamic University of Gaza. He said:

The Jews are the Jews…. They do not have any moderates or any advocates of peace. They are all liars. They must be butchered and must be killed…. The Jews are like a spring-as long as you step on it with your foot it doesn’t move. But if you lift your foot from the spring, it hurts you and punishes you…. It is forbidden to have mercy in your hearts for the Jews in any place and in any land, make war on them anywhere that you find yourself. Any place that you meet them, kill them.[33]

Halabiyah was speaking on PA TV, the official television of the Palestinian Authority. He made these remarks in a Friday sermon. Hence this call for genocide belongs to the governmental, academic, and religious spheres of the Palestinian Authority, and its civil society.

Al-Najah and Bir Zeit Universities

A second example comes from Al-Najah University in Nablus. An exhibition there in September 2001 included a reenactment of a suicide bombing in Jerusalem. The Associated Press reported:

Wearing a military uniform and a black mask, a Palestinian set off a fake explosion in a replica of the attack at the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem, where a suicide bomber killed himself and 15 other people…. The exhibit at Al-Najah University in Nablus was put on by students who support the militant Islamic movement Hamas, which carried out the Jerusalem attack. Support for Hamas traditionally runs high at the university, which is a hotbed for Palestinian militants and has produced a number of suicide bombers…. In another part of the exhibit, visitors looked through dark windows to see mannequins dressed as suicide bombers. Each one carried Islam’s holy book, the Qur’an, in one hand, and an automatic rifle in the other. Real suicide bombers often assume this pose in the videos they make before staging an attack.[34]

This university’s student union has supported suicide attacks against Israeli civilians. Terrorist organizations have also staged rallies on its campus, featuring demonstrations of how suicide bombers murder Israelis and blow up Israeli passenger buses.

A third example of major crime incitement took place at Bir Zeit University, near Ramallah. At the end of 2003, elections were held for its student government council. The campaign at Bir Zeit featured models of exploding Israeli buses. In the preelection debate, the Hamas candidate asked the Fatah candidate: “Hamas activists in this university killed 135 Zionists. How many did Fatah activists from Bir Zeit kill?” Needless to say, the “Zionists” are largely Israeli civilians.[35]

One might add another perspective. Hebrew University, where there are many Arab students, was the target of a Palestinian terror attack on 31 July 2002. Nine people were killed and eighty-five wounded. Hamas, which in 2006 became the largest political force in the Palestinian territories, claimed responsibility. Those favoring an academic boycott of Israel did not condemn the attack, but they have hardly been taken to task.[36]

Western Universities

There are also Western universities that have employed or featured inciters of crime. The example of such a lecture by Prof. Ted Honderich at the University of Toronto was mentioned above.

Israeli universities score very low where incitement to crime is concerned. They do not employ academics or have student unions that promote genocide or murder. That the anti-Israeli boycott campaigners do not mention the major crime-inciting Palestinian universities constitutes strongly discriminatory behavior.

One can also look at this matter differently. Some may consider academic freedom to be such a high value that even those institutions where the most hideous crimes are incited should not be boycotted. From this point of view, boycotting Israeli universities or academics is also highly discriminatory. The onus is thus on the boycotters to prove that they are not racists.

The Nature of the Battle

A broader analysis of the campus battle against anti-Semitism shows that in this fight the Jewish people and Israel fulfill three roles: they are targets and instruments as well as sensors of problems yet to befall others.

The target role is the easiest to understand. As mentioned earlier, Israel Apartheid Week – which has since to some extent become global – began at the University of Toronto in 2004. Needless to say, there were no conferences at any Canadian university on apartheid in Saudi Arabia or other Muslim countries. There was no discussion on why the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, or Bahrain have the right to exist. There was also no debate on why some Canadian universities where hatred is promoted have the right to exist. The absence of such debate illustrates the anti-Semitic character of the anti-Israeli conferences and seminars.

Jews and Israel are also instruments in a much larger battle against the West. As the Canadian anti-Israeli antiglobalist Naomi Klein explained in The Nation: “The best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation is for Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa.” Klein added: “Why single out Israel when the United States, Britain and other Western countries do the same things in Iraq and Afghanistan?” Her answer is: “Boycott is not a dogma; it is a tactic. The reason the Boycott Divestment Sanctions Strategy should be tried against Israel is practical: in a country so small and trade-dependent, it could actually work.” This is a core case of anti-Semitism, as it singles out Israel and explains some of the instrumentality of anti-Israeli anti-Semitism.[37]


The third role of the Jews and Israel in this battle is that of sensors of the future. The combat on campus and elsewhere has much broader underlying motives than only attacking Israel. It is about the nature of academia and of society. It is often driven by the ideological desire to undermine the values of the Western world. Jews and Israel have the misfortune to frequently be in the forefront of those attacked. History shows that Jews have often been among the first to be attacked but rarely the last.

In his novel 1984, George Orwell introduced the famous slogan: “War is peace, slavery is freedom and ignorance is strength.” Had he lived today and written about some of the university humanities departments, he might have added: “Propaganda is advancing knowledge, indoctrination is higher education, and incitement promotes scholarship.”

In many ways, the anti-Israeli manipulations in academia are one example of the country’s sensor function for society at large. In previous decades, the terrorist attacks on El Al planes and passengers, and on Ben-Gurion Airport, led to greatly increased security measures by the Israeli airline industry. Today similar security measures are deemed necessary by many other airlines and airports all over the world.


Over the past decades, West European states did not understand that many of the threats Israel was encountering were precursors of dangers they would face as well. Often those who represent a major menace to Jews and Israel in Western society will increasingly threaten Western democracy as a whole. They can be found mainly among the extreme Left, the extreme Right, and the radicalized and criminal parts of immigrant Muslim populations.[38]

Jews in Western Europe have often been targets of Muslim terrorists and their allies. Had European politicians realized that a broader assault by radical Islam was underway – ultimately directed at their countries and not at Israel and the Jews alone – they would likely not have made the major errors they committed, particularly in the area of immigration, that have gradually undermined European security. Today preventing terrorism by radical Muslims and others against non-Jewish targets is a major activity of Western intelligence services.

The weak Western attitudes toward the genocidal threats of Ahmadinejad and groups such as Hamas and Hizballah are indicators of a profound structural crisis in Western thinking. Once again Israel and the Jews are the first to be attacked. The stance toward Israel of a number of West European socialist parties is a reflection of their moral degradation. Their claim of solidarity with the weak often leads them to positions favorable to terrorist organizations.

Other Areas

As far as the media are concerned, the often one-sided anti-Israeli approach is an indication of moral corruption. Anti-Semitic hatemongering, under the cover of freedom of the press, is a sensor for structural problems of the media, and particularly so-called progressive ones. One of the countries where this has recently drawn international attention is Sweden. This concerns both the publication of a mutation of the ancient blood libel by the country’s largest daily Aftonbladet as well as the unwillingness of the Swedish government to condemn it.[39] Similarly, freedom of speech often enables extreme incitement.

The attacks on Israel also help expose how morally corrupt many human rights organizations have become. They often close their eyes to crimes committed by non-Westerners and terrorist organizations.[40] This is even worse regarding the United Nations, and even more so, its Human Rights Council. The pseudo-humanitarian posture of part of mainstream Protestantism toward the Middle East conflict is also a gauge for how its anti-Semitism has mutated in recent times.[41]

The inadequacy of international law to cope with terrorism and the resulting abuse of this legislation by many international lawyers can best be seen in how this profession deals with Israel. Critiques of the Goldstone report provide detailed examples of this.[42] Adopting its conclusions may further hamper democracies’ battle against terrorist organizations.

Many other disparate examples of Israel’s sensor role can be given. For instance, Israeli soldiers were confronted with human shields used by Palestinian terrorists decades before this method was employed against the Allied forces in Iraq, A well-known case occurred in the Jordan Valley in 1969 when Major Hanan Samson, Major Joseph Kaplan, and Sergeant Boaz Sasson were killed in a chase after terrorists. The latter had been hiding behind a Bedouin woman who was nursing a baby in a cave the Israelis entered.

Yet another example of attitudes toward Israel being relevant for Westerners are the extreme verbal attacks on Israel since the beginning of this year by Turkey’s prime minister Tayib Erdogan. These were one indication that this country is unfit to join the European Union. Later this year further proof was provided when Erdogan said he was willing to receive Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has been indicted on seven counts of war crimes by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Erdogan added that he did not believe Muslims could commit genocide.[43]

Analysis of the numerous examples that exist can help clarify potential future developments that will affect others. Understanding the role of Israel and the Jews as a sensor of many major moral fault lines in Western society is a precondition for formulating a strategy to fight anti-Semitism at large, whether or not disguised as anti-Israelism. If Israel and the Jews want to defend themselves against the  extreme demonization by their enemies, they must be pioneers in analyzing these phenomena and devising ways to counter them effectively. No other countries or institutions will carry out such an analysis; they will only become the objects of similar attacks at a later stage.

Remnants of the Middle Ages

The problems manifesting themselves in the humanities departments of many universities are much broader than those concerning Jews and Israel. Academia is one of the few areas of society where remnants of the Middle Ages survive. It has retained various characteristics of the medieval guilds. Its corporatist environment can be compared to a fortress with three walls.

The first one is that of academic freedom. This so-called absolute right, like all absolute characteristics, invites corruption. Academic freedom makes some sense in the natural sciences where there is an objective check on the validity of experiments, including the possibility for other scientists to repeat them. This method protects science departments against imposters masking as scholars. In the humanities, however, academic freedom in its unlimited form invites the promotion of ideology and propaganda to replace the teaching of knowledge. This has led to the politicization of institutions whose task it is to educate and research.

It has also led to a demeaning of academic titles. If some professors can be indoctrinators while others pursue the advancement of knowledge, the second category is demeaned by the first.

The second line of defense of the academic fortress is tenure. Why should any person in our volatile society have the right to work in one specific place until retirement? This merits a profound question mark. One extreme example of the resulting absurdity is that some tenured academic teachers at Israeli universities can call for the boycott of their own institution. Such actions by employees at other places of employment would result in their being immediately fired. Just eliminating tenure, however, may aggravate the situation and may even increase the ranks of academic imposters.

The third line of defense of the academic fortress is that, if an outsider attacks academia, he or she is often accused of McCarthyism. Senator McCarthy, however, had sanctions he could apply. What academics may label McCarthyism is called criticism in society at large.

It is partly because of these remnants of corporatism that Jews, in particular those supportive of Israel, are faced with manifestations of hatred in some universities in various countries. The structural reform of universities requires serious thought and in-depth investigations. It is, however, becoming increasingly clear that academia cannot be restructured from within. Therefore, well-focused criticism from outsiders on the functioning of universities can make an important contribution to their rehabilitation.

A first step could be that complaints about racism and anti-Semitism in particular should be investigated by external bodies rather than by the university institutions, which often will try to whitewash or obfuscate what happened.

Analyzing the Future in a Broader Framework

The future of academia has to be assessed in the framework of analyzing the developing battle over the nature of Western society: one cannot fool all the people all the time. Although it may take a few more years, ultimately many more in the West will understand that the deadly totalitarianism of tomorrow will spread further from the world of Islam. The jihadi wing of Islam already today has more adherents than Hitler had when he marched into Poland.

Anyone who looks at the extreme cases of criminality and cruelty in many Arab and Muslim lands, as well as the violent religious hate propaganda of radical Islam, will realize that the largest groupings of the most dangerous enemies of mankind are found there. The main targets of the Muslim totalitarians are moderate and dissenting Muslims. Next in line come Israel and Jews, followed by non-Muslim Asians, Europeans, and North Americans.


When it comes to the battle against anti-Semitism, inadequate reactions to incidents will only invite more and farther-reaching attacks. Their borderlines will also be extended. That is why more effective approaches are required.

As already noted, case studies are needed that analyze each issue on its own merits. Some of the questions to be asked include how anti-Israeli actions manifest themselves, who is behind them, what anti-Semitic elements they include, and whether anybody has already reacted to them. Once these facts are clear, the next step is to design a strategy and mobilize allies to fight the enemy.

In summary, the methods to be used in the battle against campus anti-Semites include counterattack, ridicule, exposure, name and shame, monitoring, documentation, mobilizing lawyers for arguing and legal actions, seeking allies, and others. Many people may not like some of these. That is why crucial battles against campus anti-Semitism are often fought with one hand behind the back. The message must be: remove that hand from behind the back so that the enemy does not have a free anti-Semitic lunch.

*     *    *


* This is an extended version of a lecture presented at the conference “Israel on Campus: Defending Our Universities,” Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, Montreal, 23 August 2009.

[1] Manfred Gerstenfeld, “Anti-Israelism and Anti-Semitism: Common Characteristics and Motifs,” Jewish Political Studies Review, 19:1-2, Spring 2007.

[2] Avi Weinryb, “The University of Toronto – The Institution Where Israel Apartheid Week Was Born,” Jerusalem Political Studies Review, 20:3-4, Fall 2008.

[3] Alain Goldschläger, “The Canadian Campus Scene,” in Manfred Gerstenfeld, ed., Academics against Israel and the Jews (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2007), 154.

[4] Ibid., 156-157 (source:  as documented in the archives of the League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada).

[5] Tori Cheifetz, “Jewish Students ‘Held Hostage’ in Toronto Hillel,” Jerusalem Post, 15 February 2009.

[6] Na’ama Carmi, “Middle East Conference Anything but Academic,” Toronto Star, 30 June 2009.

[7] Weinryb, “University of Toronto,” 113.

[8] Jonathan Kay, “Hating Israel Is Part of Campus Culture,” National Post, 25 September 2002.

[9] See Corinne Berzon, “Anti-Israeli Activity at Concordia University 2000-2003,” in Gerstenfeld, Academics, 163-173.

[10] Vanessa Kortekaas, “Ontario Union Calls for Ban on Israeli Professors,” National Post, 5 January 2009.

[11] Yaakov Katz, “IAF Hits Islamic University Targets,” Jerusalem Post, 28 December 2008.

[12] Canadian Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism, Hearing 2, 16 November 2009.

[13] Gerstenfeld, Academics. The second edition of  2008 is now online at:

[14] Jacob Laksin, “Petition for Genocide,” Frontpage Magazine, 28 July 2006.


[16] See Noah Liben, “The Columbia University Report on Its Middle Eastern Department Problems: A Paradigm for Obscuring Structural Flaws,” in Gerstenfeld, Academics, 95-107.

[17] On more recent anti-Israeli actions at Columbia University, see Manfred Gerstenfeld, “2007-2008: Another Year of Global Academic Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israelism,” Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism 73, 2 October 2009.

[18] Rafael Medoff, “Columbia, Ahmadinejad, and Nazi Germany: Round Two,” Jewish Press, 26 March 2008.

[19] Annie Karni, “Columbia Dean Defends Ahmadinejad Invitation,” The Sun, 24 September 2007.


[21] (viewed 26 October 2009).


[23] Manfred Gerstenfeld, “How to Fight Anti-Israeli Campaigns on Campus,” Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism 51, 1 December 2006.

[24] Martin Kramer, Ivory Towers on Sand (Washington: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2001).

[25] Alan Dershowitz, “The Real Jimmy Carter,” Frontpage Magazine, 27 April 2007.

[26] Jonathan Jafitt, “Fighting Sheikh Zayed’s Funding of Islamic Studies at Harvard Divinity School,” in  Gerstenfeld, Academics, 108-114.

[27] Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, “Anti-Zionism and the Abuse of Academic Freedom: A Case Study at the University of California, Santa Cruz,” Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism 77, 1 February 2009.

[28] Leila Beckwith, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, and Ilan Benjamin, “Faculty Efforts to Combat Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israeli Bias at the University of California Santa-Cruz,” in Gerstenfeld, Academics, 134-146.

[29] “Wiesenthal Centre to Norwegian Prime Minister: ‘Condemn Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and Its Rector for Campaign to Disestablish Jewish Self-Determination,'” Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, 26 October 2009,

[30] Cnaan Lipshiz, “Norway University Rebuffs Motion for Israel Boycott,” Haaretz, 13 November 2009.

[31] Peter Wallsten, “Jewish Groups Decry Obama’s Choice of Ireland’s Mary Robinson for Award,” Los Angeles Times, 7 August 2009.

[32] Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook, “Anti-Semitism among Palestinian Authority Academics,” in Gerstenfeld, Academics, 242-257.

[33] Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook, “Kill a Jew – Go to Heaven: The Perception of the Jew in Palestinian Society,” Jewish Political Studies Review, 17:3-4, Fall 2005, 127.

[34] Associated Press, “Gruesome Exhibit Marks Anniversary of Uprising,” 24 September 2001.

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


[37] Naomi Klein, “Israel: Boycott, Divest, Sanction,” The Nation, 26 January 2009.

[38] Manfred Gerstenfeld, “What the West Should Learn from the Assault on Israel and the Jews,” Jerusalem Viewpoints 555, 1 August 2007.  

[39] Mikael Tossavainen, Swedish Reactions to the Anti-Israel Blood Libel Report,” Jerusalem Issue Briefs 9:12, 15 October 2009.

[40] For many examples of this, see

[41] Dexter Van Zile, “Mainline American Christian ‘Peacemakers’ against Israel,” Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism 90, 15 November 2009.

[42] Jonathan D. Halevi, “Blocking the Truth of the Gaza War: How the Goldstone Commission Understated the Hamas Threat to Palestinian Civilians,” Jerusalem Issue Briefs 9:10, 18 September 2009.

[43] United Press International, “Erdogan Prefers Sudan Pres. to Netanyahu,”  9 November 2009.

*     *     *

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 fifteen books he has published are Academics against Israel and the Jews (JCPA 2007), Behind the Humanitarian Mask: The Nordic Countries, Israel and the Jews (JCPA and Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, 2008) and, most recently, The Abuse of Holocaust Memory: Distortions and Responses (JCPA and ADL, 2009).