October 30, 2003


Tour of U.S. Schools Reveals Why Zionism Is Flunking on Campus (NATAN SHARANSKY, October 24, 2003, The Forward)

When I got to Rutgers University in New Jersey last month, I almost forgot I was on a college campus. The atmosphere was far from the cool, button-down academic reserve typical of such institutions. It was more reminiscent of a battlefield.

My arrival was greeted by a noisy demonstration of Palestinian and Jewish students holding signs reading "Racist Israel" and "War Criminals," together with black-coated Neturei Karta members calling for the destruction of the blasphemous Zionist entity. Faculty members, predictably led by a former Israeli professor, had sent out e-mails protesting the granting of a platform to a representative of the "Nazi, war-criminal" state. Of course, there was the famous pie incident in which a member of a campus Jewish anti-occupation group made his way past my security guards and plastered me in the face with a cream pie while shouting "End the Occupation."

Opposed to them were hundreds of no less rowdy Jewish students, full of motivation to defend Israel and give the protesters back as good as they got. After the pie incident, when I returned to the hall and mounted the stage, the atmosphere was so electric, so full of adrenalin, that the Palestinians and their supporters who had come to disrupt the event had no choice but to abandon their plans for provocation.

Things were not much calmer at Boston University: An anonymous bomb threat brought swarms of police to the lecture hall and almost forced a cancellation of my appearance. But here, too, some good resulted when the bomb threat caused the lecture to be moved to a larger hall, which was quickly filled with some 600 listeners who were unwilling to accept the violent silencing of pro-Israel views.

These moments — the pie throwing, the bomb threat, the demonstration — as raucous, threatening and contentious as they were, are among the more pleasant memories from my 13-campus tour of the United States. Perhaps it is because at these moments I felt that there was some point to my trip, perhaps because the violent hostility had stirred the students and motivated them to want to fight and win — which I, of course, was delighted to see. [...]

For six days I traveled across the United States. I did not meet with administration officials or do any politicking. Just campuses. Meeting students, instructors, Jewish and non-Jewish activists. A marathon of 13 campuses in six days. I discovered an enormous thirst for knowledge, for straight answers about these supposed "human rights violations" and "war crimes." I learned that combining human rights, a popular, burning issue among students, and Israel, a very unpopular issue, works to Israel's advantage, because even the most pro-Palestinian students, including Arab students, had to back down when the discussion centered squarely and honestly on human rights and democracy.

But I also learned that every such victory was a limited one, like capturing a single hill in enemy territory. The overall picture is deeply worrying. On every campus I visited, Jewish students make up between 10% and 20% of the population, but no more than a tenth of them, by my estimate, take part in Jewish or pro-Israel activity. Another tiny but outspoken fraction serves as the spearhead of anti-Israel activity, for there is no better cover for hiding the racist nature of causes like an anti-Israel boycott than a Jewish professor or student eager to prove that he is holier than the pope. And the rest? The rest are simply silent. They are not identified, not active, not risk-takers. Nearly 90% of our students are Jews of silence.

In a perverse way, the uniquely pro-Israel and Jewish-friendly United States may prove the death of Judaism, just via assimilation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 30, 2003 7:07 PM
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