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Israel's Defeat on Campus By: Daniel Kaganovich and Jeremy L. England
Stanford Review | Monday, February 05, 2007


The image of Arab Muslims in the Western world seems to be in decline. Whether this is because the “misinterpreters” of Islam manage to unleash an even grizzlier and more gratuitous wave of violence every time people think things couldn’t get any worse, or because the familiar stories about “root causes” and “frustration on the Arab street” ring hollow in the face of real beheadings, even some Europeans are slowly waking up to the smell of torched cars and coming to terms with the true substance of Islamic fascism.  No amount of pro-democracy PR and rhetoric has accomplished as much in the West as threats of genocide in response to newspaper cartoons.  Only a few groups remain resolutely immune to this revision, among them editorial writers at certain Israeli newspapers and the people at American universities.

It is here on campus that Islamic fascism long ago launched its most intense and most effective propaganda campaign against Western democracy. The foundation of this campaign has been to blame Israel and the Jewish people for the violence Islam plans to unleash against them, and against America.  Everywhere one turns on campuses across the country, Arab Muslim students are there with pictures of rubble and corpses, sparing no opportunity to accuse Israel.  In reality, these students could not care less about the suffering of Arabs in the Middle East, as evidenced by their blatant disregard for, and even suppression of, any topic of discussion that does not have to do with the Jews.  Refugees, suffering, and violence are only interesting to them when they can be used as part of yet another indictment of Israel.

It has long since been observed that Arab propaganda organs blame the Jews for everything but the tragic death of the Crocodile Hunter (since that was pretty clearly the sting ray’s fault).  A much newer development has been the emergence of a contingent of Jewish students that actively participate in their own denunciation. Once upon a time, Jewish student groups may have lacked the cynicism and tactical savvy of their Arab counterparts, but they could at least be relied upon to remember their objective – the defense of Israel – and instinctively know that it was a worthwhile endeavor.  Today, exhausted and aching from the relentless war of ideas waged against their people, many Jews have been seduced by the notion that they can prove their cause is meritorious by showing an exceedingly “moral” willingness to tolerate their detractors and sit down at a table with them to engage in dialogue.  Yet, by doing so, Jewish students provide just the cloak of legitimacy that anti-Zionism requires for the effect of its hate speech to be the most severe.  At many universities, this is facilitated in no small part by local branches of Hillel which, while calling themselves the foundation of Jewish life on campus, are actually providing cover for Arab belligerence.

It is an article of faith among the intellectual elite that all people really “want the same things”, and all conflicts are merely the result of mistaken notions about “the Other” that obscure everyone’s “shared humanity.” A corollary of this oft cited but infrequently justified thesis is that the most moral way to resolve conflict is through dialogue that results in compromise between differing viewpoints.  This principle can certainly be valid when both parties to a dispute subscribe to the same code of morality and are genuinely interested in a negotiated outcome.  However, when one party is motivated by the immoral desire to eliminate the other one, dialogue very quickly ceases to be an essential tool for the resolution of conflict and instead becomes a means for marketing a wholly evil agenda to an otherwise unreceptive audience. This is why Nazis haven’t been invited to speak at Harvard since the 1930s. Presumably, the Nazis also shared plenty of humanity with the men of Harvard, since they were no doubt human, and presumably there was ample basis for dialogue with them since they also wanted things and had grievances (imagined and real).  Since none of this impacted in the slightest the outcome of allowing Nazis to come to power and take control of most of Europe, people who threw their efforts behind dialogue with Nazis in the 30s now look very naïve, if not somewhat complicit.  

At Stanford, the organization that can claim the greatest commitment to dialogue between Jews and the people who want to kill them is the campus branch of Hillel. It would be bad enough if Stanford Hillel were merely passive in the face of the many illustrious anti-Israel speakers – ranging from representatives of the PLO to outright Holocaust deniers—brought to campus by Arab and Muslim student groups.  Instead, Hillel frequently goes beyond tacit endorsement of anti-Zionist politics, and brings its own Israel bashers to campus under the banner of promoting dialogue.  The two most recent examples of this phenomenon are Hillel’s sponsorship of events hosting Rami Khouri and the OneVoice organization.  Rami Khouri was advertised to the Stanford public as a “Palestinian-Jordanian journalist” who is “Editor-at-Large of the Beirut’s (sic) widely published Daily Star, and [a] former Editor-in-Chief of Jordan Times.” Those who are aware that the press in Jordan, Lebanon, and the rest of the Arab world is generally free only when it prints libels against Jews and Israel probably already smell something rotten here.  But even without such instincts, Mr. Khouri’s website is easily accessible (its address being www.ramikhouri.com), and the seemingly endless series of anti-Israel diatribes published there should have clearly put him outside the bounds of what it is acceptable for a Jewish organization to legitimize on a university campus. (Mr. Khouri’s effectiveness as a speaker on “Middle Eastern issues” was certainly not lost on the members of Stanford’s most vicious anti-Israel hate group, the Coalition for Justice in the Middle East (CJME).  Only days after his appearance at Hillel, CJME hosted him at their own event.)

Hillel also recently decided to host an organization, ironically named OneVoice, whose stated mission is to promote dialogue between Arabs and Israelis.  OneVoice asserts that “There are a majority of moderates on both sides who want peace and are prepared to compromise for it and the real battle is whether they can make their views heard over an enemy of hardliners, spoilers and extremists on either side bent on derailing the process.” Although OneVoice is ostensibly committed to peaceful dialogue, the hyperbolic language found everywhere on their website serves to whip up moral outrage and hostility towards a poorly-defined “enemy” whose identity, we can only assume, will be specified at some later date.  Taking great pains to avoid a concrete discussion of Middle East politics or history, they focus their energies on denouncing a nebulous class of “spoilers and extremists” who must be “sidelined” in order to implement the will of a “silent majority.” That movements like OneVoice make liberal use of language like this speaks volumes about the underlying nastiness of their ideological bent. Rather than being willing to engage in the difficult task of articulating a moral position and defending it against criticism, OneVoice simply designates those who disagree with their agenda as "extremists" who seek to "obstruct the will of the people." This sort of rhetoric bears a striking resemblance to that of Leninists, Maoists, and other mass-murderers of the last century who claimed special knowledge of the will of the people and saw an enemy in anyone who argued against them. By locating the source of the Middle East's problems with an abstract, amoral category of people called "extremists," OneVoice grants itself permission to dismiss, or even attack, anyone who voices a viewpoint that the organization does not approve of. 

If one may infer anything from the composition of its Board of Directors, OneVoice is unlikely to find any extremist enemies among Palestinian Arab supporters of jihad. OneVoice Board member and PA Chief Islamic Justice Taysir al-Tamimi once opined that “the Jews are destined to be persecuted, humiliated, and tortured forever, and it is a Muslim duty to see to it that they reap their due. No petty arguments must be allowed to divide us. Where Hitler failed, we must succeed.”  When those who hold such viewpoints are enlisted in the cause of moderation, it is difficult to imagine what might constitute a pro-Arab viewpoint that is too extreme for OneVoice. Since, on the other hand, the unacceptably extreme Jewish positions are treated by the organization as being universally agreed upon, one begins to suspect that the sidelining that OneVoice plans to undertake will focus overwhelmingly on Jewish targets. This is even more likely to be the case since, historically, criticizing Arabs with Kalashnikovs has proven to be much more dangerous than denouncing Jews with orange ribbons.

Moreover, the choice to identify extremists as the enemy is ultimately misleading. The extreme or moderate nature of a given opinion says nothing about the morality of that opinion. For example, it is perfectly reasonable to be extremely opposed to Nazism. On the other hand, a member of the KKK might be extremely opposed to letting black people vote, and we would rightly condemn his position as despicable bigotry. In the case of Israel, we have on one side a group of people with a millennia old tradition of doing their best to behave justly and morally and trying to have just one small country of their own, and on the other side a group of people one and a half billion strong with dozens of countries already who have invented a national identity for a small, miserable sub-population in their ranks that is defined entirely in terms of its commitment to erasing the Jewish State, and often the Jewish people as well, from the face of the earth. A Jewish “extremist” wants to live in the land of Israel and raise her children.  An Arab “moderate” supports the extermination of only those of her children that can be found at a certain latitude and longitude.  Finding the middle ground between two causes should not be the goal when one is wholly moral, and the other wholly immoral. When we make "extremists" the enemy, we wind up attacking decent people (like Jews living in Gush Katif) for their unwillingness to compromise with an evil foe, and promoting the views of "moderates" (like Mahmoud Abbas, Mustafa Barghouti, or any of the Arab propagandists that OneVoice trots around) who hate Jews but are willing to wait a few decades before trying once again to throw them into the sea.

When the leading campus Jewish organization cannot marshal the will to oppose, or at least refuse to personally host, groups that include individuals who wish to, in the words of Mr. al-Tamimi, succeed “where Hitler failed,” is it any wonder that young Jewish students on campuses retreat when confronted with Muslim student organizations who are not afraid to use intimidation and the threat of violence as part of their propaganda war?  Indeed, having failed utterly to create a vibrant Jewish community at Stanford, Hillel has instead turned to the wholesale betrayal of Israel and the Jewish people as their major contribution to campus life, and has succeeded in cultivating a Jewish student population that is as indifferent to attacks against the Jewish State as it is uninterested in anything to do with Jewish thought and tradition.  Here, however, lies the crux of the matter, since appreciating the worth of Jewish tradition is indispensable for mustering the resolve to confront Israel’s enemies.

Coming to Israel’s defense is a daunting task for even the most determined student.  It requires that he take up a cause that will always be unpopular because of the energetic campaign of demonization driven by a great number of Arab students and their supporters, who will make sure that he becomes tainted by association as he is forced to absorb some of the negative attention directed at Israel. This painful experience will seem so gratuitous and unjustified to him that, in many cases, it will dissuade the student from sticking his neck out, or worse, will cause him to blame Israel and the Jews for provoking the anger that he is forced to confront on their behalf.  In such a situation, only someone whose confidence in the justness of the Zionist dream is unconditional will be able to resist the temptation to sell Israel down the river.

Such conviction, however, is unlikely unless the student recognizes that building a Jewish state in the land of Israel is an essential expression of Judaism, and that Judaism itself is something worthwhile to preserve.  It is here that a properly run campus Jewish organization has the potential to make the greatest difference in the war of ideas waged against Israel, yet sadly, this is where Stanford Hillel has decided to completely abandon the fort. Hillel’s events are characterized by a severe aversion to anything too overtly Jewish (unless smoking huka in a sukkah can pass for a commemoration of Sukkot).  In the new Hillel building, which must have cost millions of dollars, there are pictures of some people in Darfur and some children from Honduras, there is a wall-hanging that features a pig, a cross, and four patches (according to our count) referencing the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and yet there is not a single Israeli flag in plain view, nor any other physical evidence that anything Jewish goes on there.  More importantly, judging from Hillel’s approach to the organization of Jewish events, it does not appear to see anything of autonomous value in Judaism.  What is one to conclude from a “Chalah-ween” Shabbat gathering featuring vampire slayers (cum crucifix) and witches, except that Shabbat is not something one should waste any time on unless it’s first hybridized with a pagan holiday? Why must a meal at the end of Yom Kippur be dovetailed with a Ramadan break fast other than to imply that the Day of Atonement is not interesting unless converted into an introduction to Muslim religious traditions? (A similar event entitled “Sukkat Salaam” was put on by Hillel at Harvard a year ago, at which Arab students sporting Arafatesque kefiyas were given a platform to combine Sukkot with Israel bashing). Why is there so much time for social action, and none at all for observing Shmini Atzeret and Simhat Torah (which were excluded from this year’s list of Stanford Hillel-commemorated holidays, presumably because they could not easily be combined with a dialogue session or Catholic saint’s day)? To be sure, those at Stanford Hillel who send students to help the needy in Honduras see this as an expression of Jewish values, and so it may be, but those Hillel organizers who define Judaism as a vaguely articulated affirmation of whichever liberal pieties are currently most in vogue do a tremendous disservice to all Jews when they imply that there is nothing more to their tradition than having the right politics.

So long as more Jewish things happen in Stanford’s gym than at its Hillel house, Hillel has no hope of motivating students to take a strong position in defense of Israel.  An organization that gets its moral teachings from a mixture of fashionable liberal values and Arab propaganda rather than from actual Judaism cannot take a morally inspired position on such a “divisive” issue as the Arab war against Israel. It is time that the donors who pour millions into institutions that are rotten to the core expect more in return than token acknowledgement or the reassurance that a token non-Leftist will at some point appear in the programming. Those who fund Jewish life on campus have to take responsibility for what organizations like Hillel do with their generous donations. Rather than siphoning money to people who either do not know how to use it well, or else deliberately use it for nonsense, the preponderance of donors who themselves have very warm feelings for Israel, want to see Jewish communities flourish on campuses, and are not Leftists, should work to build their own institutions with a different agenda and a sense of purpose.  

We can think of no cause more noble and inspiring than the building of a home for the Jewish people in the land of Israel, yet this project is morally compelling only when seen within the broader context of Judaism, which gave birth to it. Our generation has an opportunity unprecedented in the last two millennia of the Jewish experience to help facilitate the Zionist dream, if not by participating in the settlement of the land of our inheritance, then at least by contributing support in the world of ideas.   It is unfortunate that, without the proper institutional framework to motivate the Jewish national imperative, so many young American Jews find themselves excluded from one of the most meaningful endeavors in human history.

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