Last week’s column, New course at Berkeley University: How to get rid of Israel – Cancelled, made a lot of noise. I received quite a few emails following the column, the majority of which supported the points I made in the column.
And yet, one email caught my attention in particular. It came from none other than Mr. Dan Mogulof, Assistant Vice Chancellor, from the Office of Communications and Public Affairs at UC Berkeley. In the email, Mr. Mogulof grumbled that the “piece in the Jerusalem Post about the ‘Palestine’ course at Berkeley was outdated, incomplete and inaccurate” because the course had been cancelled two days prior. Mogulof also expressed his hope that in the future, my colleagues and I would “see fit to confirm facts and details prior to publication.”
I thought this was sound advice and decided to explore the facts and details concerning antisemitism at UC Berkeley, and then share my findings with the readers. What I learned did not surprise me, but seeing all the evidence en masse still depicted a distressing picture.
As you will see below, there is good reason for concern for the future of Jews on American campuses.
Facts and Details
First, regarding the course itself: If, according to Mr. Mogulof, “the facilitator for the course … did not comply with policies and procedures that govern the normal academic review and approval of proposed courses,” why did the university reinstate it less than a week after its cancellation?
Antisemitism and anti-Zionism at Berkeley did not start with this academic sham; it dates back to the 1990s, when “Berkeley’s predominantly left-wing student body and faculty adopted Palestine as their new political cause.” During the second intifada, these became far more overt and aggressive, and student testimonials of antisemitism on campus at Berkeley began to stream into the media. Gradually, the university established a name for itself as a hotbed of antisemitic and anti-Israel activism.
As pro-Palestinian students became more aggressive in their conduct, including an incident that involved ramming a shopping cart into a Jewish student peacefully expressing her support for Israel, legal procedures were taken against the institution. Although the university did not dispute the facts, the procedures did not result in any ruling, and the anti-Israel and antisemitic atmosphere became increasingly apparent.
In 2014, Ami Horowitz, who maintains a video channel on YouTube, shot a two-part video clip at UC Berkeley. In Part 1, Horowitz waves an ISIS flag and yells pro ISIS declarations. In Part 2, he waves an Israeli flag and speaks in favor of the State of Israel. The results are damning. The only “negative” comment Horowitz received while waving the ISIS flag (while smoking a cigarette) was “You can’t smoke on campus, they’re gonna cite you.” But when Mr. Horowitz waved the Israeli flag, profanities and shouts were hurled at him the entire time.
Berkeley Is Not Alone
True, videos can be edited to “slant” the truth. Still, The Jewish Voices on Campus, a collection of video testimonials, and the documentary, Crossing the Line 2: The New Face of Anti-Semitism on Campus, validate that antisemitism on US campuses is a widespread, deep-rooted problem. Although the testimonials are often disturbing to watch, due to their obvious authenticity, the films leave no doubt in your mind: US campuses are plagued with antisemitism.
Now, thanks to Berkeley’s reinstated course, which promises to “explore the possibilities of a decolonized Palestine,” antisemitism has been officially institutionalized at “the top public university in the United States and around the world.”
Why Is This Happening?
For all our efforts, the nations still exclude us. Whenever something goes astray, they blame us for it. Even after 9/11, a large inscription on the wall at UC Berkeley (where else?) read, “It’s the Jews, stupid.” And if you look into our roots you will discover that we truly are different.
However odd this may sound, the root of antisemitism lies within the Jews themselves—in their estrangement from each other. When antisemitism strikes, we instinctively unite. But when it calms, we lash out at each other and abandon our bond.
Why Are We Pariahs?
We Jews are a nation that was conceived in order to bring connection and unity to the world. When we fail to carry out our vocation, our ancient sages tell us, the nations feel that there is no justification for our presence here on Earth. Even if not all non-Jews feel this way, the everlasting hatred toward us speaks volumes. Whenever anything goes awry, people mutter, “It’s the Jews, stupid!” Whenever people cannot find the reason for their problems, they blame it on the Jews.
Moreover, even The Book of Zohar writes that when we do not carry out our mission, “Woe unto them [Jews], for with these actions they bring about the existence of poverty, ruin, and robbery, looting, killing, and destructions in the world” (Tikkuney Zohar, 30).
In other words, our only fault is that we have abandoned our calling—to bring about unity and connection. At the foot of Mt. Sinai we were told that if we did not unite “as one man with one heart,” this would be our burial place. And once we united, we were instructed to be “a light unto nations.” We have been tasked with sharing the unique bond that we created when we achieved that unity.
Some two millennia ago, we broke our bond and sank into unfounded hatred. At that moment we became unable to convey our special unity and thereby instigated what we now define as antisemitism. With the nations’ growing egoism, and our inability to offer them the cure, it becomes increasingly unclear to them why we exist.
An Urgent Cure Required
As egoism and self-absorption spread, societies are falling apart the world over. The only solution to this problem is to unite above our egos, and the only ones who are expected to show the way to do this are the Jews. As long as we avoid the task, the world will accuse us of causing wars. It makes no difference that we are doing nothing of the kind. What matters is that we are not bringing unity, and the absence of unity is causing wars throughout the globe.
The current wave of hatred will keep growing until we stop hating one another. This puts the solution to antisemitism on US campuses and elsewhere squarely in our laps. If we unite, and cover our mutual dislike with friendship, we will reignite that special bond we lost. By doing this, we will once again be “a light unto nations.”
Antisemitism is forcing us to unite. However, if we unite of our own volition, there will be no need for antisemitism and it will fade away.
In a 2013 televised conversation I had with the late Prof. Robert S Wistrich, who was an internationally renowned researcher of antisemitism at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, he said that as one who had been researching Jew-hatred his entire life, he believed that antisemitism has to do with the age-old mission of the Jewish people to be a light unto nations and explained that this mission has to do with the inclusive commandment, “love your neighbor as yourself.”
The world is telling us that it is time to return to our roots. It is time to reunite and reignite our mutual responsibility and our love for one another. We need not love our neighbors as ourselves because we want to. We need to do it because the nations require that we show the way. Without our example, they will remain in mutual hatred and destroy each other. But before they do, they will destroy us. The world will not legitimize us until we give it what it needs, and what it needs is our example of unity.
Dear Mr. Mogulof, let me conclude with an offer: What if, without cancelling any existing courses, UC Berkeley were to offer a course that teaches people how to connect above their differences? My colleagues and I have all the experience and academic credentials required to facilitate such an initiative. If we truly want peace to prevail, it needs to start within our hearts, and the political solutions will follow naturally.
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