The Troubling Rise of Anti-Semitism on College Campuses

October 27th 2014

Matthew Segal

Just hours after Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday of atonement, graffiti swastikas were painted at Emory University on an Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity house, consisting of primarily Jewish members. 

This is not an isolated incident. As the Emory Wheel, the official student newspaper, reported a few weeks earlier: swastikas were also discovered in the school library and campus police were notified. 


Emory is hardly aberrant. 

Earlier this year, a Jewish student at Temple University in Philadelphia was assaulted when he nonviolently confronted a group, Students for Justice in Palestine, about his disagreements with their policy positions. In response to his dissenting stance, he was punched in the face and called a “baby killer,” “Zionist pig” and “kike.”

Just two weeks ago, another student at Penn State pleaded guilty to "charges of ethnic intimidation and criminal mischief for painting a swastika as part of a fraternity 'prank.'" 

The list of examples, unfortunately, go on-- as this video indicates:   

A 2011 study of more than 1,400 students by the Institute for Jewish and Community Research found that more than 40% of students report anti-Semitism exists on their college campus.

Anti-Semitism, in other words, is pervasive. 

While it's hard to pinpoint the specific catalysts for the ebbs and flows of each incendiary act against Jewish students, the rise a movement called BDS is a particularly troubling indicator.

BDS, which stands for Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions on Israel, started in 2005 and according to the human rights organization, The Simon Wiesenthal Center, is a "thinly-disguised effort to coordinate and complement the violent strategy of Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim 'rejectionists' who have refused to make peace with Israel."  

The movement claims to use "“punitive economic means” to apply pressure on Israel for its wrongdoings to the Palestinian territories. But as The Simon Wiesenthal Center also states, "unlike the Montgomery Bus Boycott—which invoked Christian love against white racism— BDS habitually crosses the line from legitimate criticism of Israeli government policies to historically toxic language demonizing the Jewish State and its supporters everywhere."

According to the report from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, members of the BDS movement regularly compare Jewish people to Nazis, unfairly single out Israel as an enemy of human rights (while flagrantly ignoring the abysmal human rights records of many of its neighboring countries) and deny Israel's right to exist, despite its longstanding recognition from the UN since 1949. 

At DePaul University in Chicago last spring, students organized and voted to "divest from corporations that profit off of human rights violations perpetrated against Palestinians via the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine."

As one student said, "Jewish students definitely [felt] singled out by this DePaul divest referendum. Rather than talking about socially responsible investing as a whole (ie: divesting from oil companies, etc), we just singl[ed] out one community [by] talking about Israel." 

The student goes onto mention Human Rights Watch data, which cites the oppressive tactics of Iran and Saudi Arabia toward women and homosexuals, wondering why they are not included in the BDS campaign.

Above all, if anti-Israel students were truly civil, thoughtful and moderate, they wouldn't have to hinder free speech. In 2010, student protesters at UC Irvine typified their extremism, by preventing then-Israeli ambassador Michael Oren from speaking at the university. The video is here: 

Without question, people have a right to their beliefs. But the notion of censoring the speech of (as well as trying to intimidate) those who disagree with you is both deeply illiberal and antithetical toward an educational environment.