The hidden war against Israel: Radicalization on college campuses

David Meyers Former White House Staffer
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Mahmoud Abbas is not interested in peace with Israel. He made that abundantly clear last month when he declared, “We shall not recognize a Jewish state,” and when the Palestinian government released a logo on its website that literally wiped Israel off the map. Trying to impose a Palestinian state was just the latest effort to delegitimize and demonize Israel. For the moment, it appears this effort has failed.

But on college campuses across the country, a long-term and more nefarious strategy of undermining Israel is succeeding. This effort goes well beyond criticizing Israel’s interaction with the Palestinians. It is instead a campaign designed to hasten the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state.

As I’ve written here previously, many modern-day anti-Semites have cloaked their prejudices in the guise of anti-Zionism. Since it’s no longer acceptable to espouse anti-Semitic views, many anti-Semites now claim to be anti-Zionists. They don’t hate Jews, they only hate Jews in Israel (never mind that more than one-third of the world’s Jews live in Israel and that the country has become the international symbol for Judaism).

There is a genuine debate to be had about the Israeli/Palestinian dispute (how to protect the Israeli public while protecting the rights and dignity of the Palestinians, how Israelis can negotiate with a Palestinian government led in part by a terrorist organization committed to its destruction, etc.).

But most of the anti-Israel protesters on college campuses aren’t interested in discussing these questions. Instead, these “human rights” advocates are calling for the destruction of Israel and trying to delegitimize the country by making unfounded accusations, distorting facts and squelching dissent.

If you walk around a college campus today, here’s what you’ll see: murals comparing Israeli soldiers to SS guards at Nazi death camps; student leaders calling for the destruction of Israel; student groups falsely claiming Israel targets civilians while sympathizing with Palestinian suicide bombers who do actually target civilians; and activists interrupting speeches by pro-Israel speakers on campus.

And if you expect college professors to challenge these false accusations or engage in a more serious debate of the issues, you’re mistaken. Often these professors are expressing the same sentiments in their classrooms — with a captive audience of students who often haven’t been exposed to both sides of the debate and fear receiving a poor grade if they challenge a teacher’s comments.

Many of these outrageous activities are on full display in a chilling new documentary entitled Crossing the Line: the Intifada Comes to Campus. The film, directed by Wayne Kopping and produced by Raphael Shore, shows the deplorable depths that anti-Zionists have sunk to on college campuses: signs and chants urging that Israel be burnt down, teachers claiming Israel is not a legitimate state and protestors telling Jews to go burn in Hitler’s ovens.

So what, you might say. What’s the big deal about college students trying to influence their peers and shape their views of Israel? I’d argue that this effort is more threatening and harmful than anything happening at the United Nations.

Israel will be able to weather the current challenges because of its strong national defense, its resilient population and the support of governments and people in the United States and other Western countries.

Israel’s enemies know that the current crop of Western leaders and their populations won’t abandon Israel. So they’ve adopted an intelligent, far-sighted strategy of influencing the next generation of leaders and voters on college campuses across North America and Europe.

College is a time when students’ beliefs take shape and they learn how to think critically about world events. For students who haven’t had much exposure to the Israeli/Palestinian dispute, college will be the first time they’re exposed to the issue in a meaningful way. It should be a time when they’re exposed to both sides of the conflict in an atmosphere free of intolerance, hate and poisonous dialogue.

Instead, the debate is being hijacked by anti-Israel activists who only present one side of the story, purposefully misrepresent facts, use disgusting rhetoric and drown out any opposing voices. And the professors who students look up to, and whose job it is to foster a two-sided discussion, are sometimes guilty of doing the exact same thing.

But students who support Israel aren’t backing down. They’ve identified the problem and are trying to inform the public about what’s happening on college campuses. Crossing the Line is one such response, and it’s required viewing for those who care about Israel’s survival.

But identifying the problem is the easy part. Israel’s supporters need to find a way to balance the debate on campus and make sure their views are heard. The recent success of Israel at the United Nations is not a cause for complacency. Israel’s enemies have taken a long-term approach to achieving their goal. And if Israel’s supporters don’t do the same, they’re making a terrible, and possibly fatal, mistake.

David Meyers served in the White House from 2006 to 2009, and later in the United States Senate. He is currently pursuing graduate studies at Columbia University.