Left-Wing Anti-Semitism: The Greatest Campus Threat Is Ignored by the SPLC

Left-Wing Anti-Semitism: The Greatest Campus Threat Is Ignored by the SPLC

By Family Research Council


The foremost group solely focused on tracking anti-Semitism at American institutions of higher learning states that there were over 1,700 anti-Semitic incidents that have occurred in the past three years (2015-2017).1 But outside large segments of the Jewish community, this grim reality appears to be virtually unknown. Within that community, however, an authoritative observer testified before Congress late last year that “[i]n the past several years, Jewish students on certain college campuses—not all, but a large number—have been subjected to unprecedented levels of anti-Jewish sentiment, leading many to feel uncomfortable participating in Jewish campus life or other campus activities whose participants are especially hostile to Jewish students.”2

Most Americans would be mortified to learn that the colleges and universities to which they pay a king’s ransom have become safe havens for an increasingly noticeable anti-Semitism that has produced an environment of bullying, intimidation, and fear for Jewish students and academics.3 This newly minted anti-Semitism has entwined itself into the fabric of many educational institutions via a predominant multicultural ideology that pronounces Israel to be its enemy.4

To add insult to injury for American liberals, many watchdog groups of the Civil Rights era, most notably the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), have turned a blind eye to this emerging Jew-hatred that fashionably casts itself as a critique of the creation of the state of Israel as just another instance of Western imperialism. Accordingly, Israel is derided as a “white,” “colonialist,” “oppressor state” that has imposed its “apartheid regime” in Palestine to suppress the predecessor Arab population residing there.5

Over the past year, the SPLC has focused a great deal of time and energy describing an “alt-right” threat to the peace and security of American college campuses.6 It is true that there have been extremist right-wing incursions into the nation’s campuses that deserve our attention, but these events are largely sporadic and typically perpetrated by individuals and small groups who are never accepted by the academic environment they invade. Such ideological raids are not openly sanctioned by those within the targeted academic communities. In recent decades, public universities or colleges have not allowed their faculty to inculcate students with the teachings of neo-Nazis or white supremacists.7

On the other hand, the SPLC has ignored the greatest modern on-campus threat to a specific minority group’s rights and safety—the aforementioned threat to American Jews. This threat is a natural consequence of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Movement which targets the state of Israel regarding its ongoing conflict with the Palestinian Arabs. There is generally no enlightened debate over the Arab-Israeli conflict and the drawing of borders within Israel to implement a “two-state solution” on

American campuses. Instead, the “debate,” driven by the BDS Movement and its directors, has devolved into a full-bore attack on Israel’s existence, Zionism, and on Jews themselves.8

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[1] “Antisemitism Tracker – Organized by State,” AMCHA Initiative, accessed January 25, 2018, https://amchainitiative.org/antisemitism-tracker. The AMCHA Initiative is an organization founded by two former University of California professors, “dedicated to investigating, documenting, educating about, and combating antisemitism at institutions of higher education in America. While diminishing antisemitic behavior is our central focus, what drives us is the desire to protect Jewish students from both direct and indirect assault and fear while attending colleges and universities.”; The AMCHA Initiative’s data were supported by figures released recently in: “2017 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents,” Anti-Defamation League, February 2018, accessed March 7, 2018, https://www.adl.org/education/resources/reports/2017-audit-of-anti-semitic-incidents. The 2017 Audit states “that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. rose 57 percent in 2017 – the largest single-year increase on record and the second highest number reported since ADL started tracking such data in 1979. The sharp rise was in part due to a significant increase in incidents in schools and on college campuses, which nearly doubled for the second year in a row.”

[2] Statement for the Record, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean, Director Global Social Action, Simon Wiesenthal Center at 2, Hearing, U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, “Examining Anti-Semitism on College Campuses,” November 7, 2017, https://judiciary.house.gov/hearing/examining-anti-semitism-college-campuses/.

[3] Ruth Wisse, “Anti-Semitism Goes to School,” Mosaic, May 4, 2015, accessed January 26, 2018, https://mosaicmagazine.com/essay/2015/05/anti-semitism-goes-to-school/. It should be noted that not all observers agree that there are troubling levels of anti-Semitism at America’s major colleges and universities. For example, a study produced at Stanford’s School of Education (“Safe and on the Sidelines”) attempted to assess the level and effect of anti-Semitism on American colleges and universities by interviewing Jewish students on five California campuses (University of California, Berkeley; University of California, Irvine; University of California, Los Angeles; Stanford University; and San Francisco State University). The study disagreed with the claim that anti-Semitism has become rampant on American campuses: “Not a single one of our interviewees described their campus as hostile to Jewish students, nor did they identify antisemitism as a significant problem.” (“Safe and on the Sidelines,” Stanford University, September, 2017, accessed February 7, 2018, https://stanford.app.box.com/v/SafeandontheSidelinesReport.) While the 30-page Stanford study was carefully executed, criticisms of it were immediate and legitimate. For example, Rachel Hirshfeld argued that by excluding students involved in Jewish activity and clubs on campus, the researchers were excluding those who would, more than likely, be most aware of and most targeted by anti-Semitism. Hirshfeld also argued that the researchers have a narrow and outdated view of what anti-Semitism is. See Rachel Hirshfeld, “Campus Antisemitism and Pseudo-Intellectual Complicity,” ISGAP, December 11, 2017, accessed on February 23, 2018, https://isgap.org/flashpoint/unsafe-and-on-the-sidelines-the-alarming-rise-of-antisemitism-on-university-campuses/. Bennett Ruda made these same criticisms, arguing that because the researchers used a faulty definition of anti-Semitism and the researchers intentionally limited their sample pool, the results were not indicative of the true rate of anti-Semitism on campus. Additionally, Ruda argued that interviewing 66 non-random Jewish students from five Californian schools cannot be used as conclusive evidence for anti-Semitism—or the lack thereof—on all American college and university campuses. See Bennett Ruda, “Severely Flawed New Campus Study Claims Little anti-Semitism on Campus,” Jewish Press, September 28, 2017, accessed on February 19, 2018, http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/severely-flawed-new-campus-study-claims-little-anti-semitism-on-campus/2017/09/28/.

[4] The latest example of this is San Francisco State University, which now faces its second major civil rights lawsuit filed by Jewish students who claim that they routinely face on-campus discrimination in violation of their civil rights. (“Second Major Civil Rights Lawsuit Filed Against San Francisco State University,” Business Wire, January 31, 2018, accessed February 1, 2018, https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20180131006374/en/Major-Civil-Rights-Lawsuit-Filed-San-Francisco.)

[5] This kind of language is often used by the BDS Movement and other anti-Israeli groups. See “Israeli Settler Colonialism and Apartheid,” BDS, accessed March 7, 2018, https://bdsmovement.net/colonialism-and-apartheid/summary.

[6] In August 2017, the SPLC released a report, “The Alt-Right On Campus: What Students Need To Know” (Southern Poverty Law Center, August 10, 2017, https://www.splcenter.org/20170810/alt-right-campus-what-students-need-know). It raised the specter of “alt-right” invasions of institutions of higher learning, a malleable term that lumps together speakers like former Marxist David Horowitz with white nationalists and neo-Nazis. Two months later, the SPLC released a “How To” manual entitled, “SPLC on Campus: A guide to bystander intervention.” This SPLC paper instructed students on the various ways that they could interfere with the free speech rights of those on campus with whom they disagreed (SPLC, October 5, 2017, https://www.splcenter.org/20171005/splc-campus-guide-bystander-intervention).    

[7] The protests and rioting that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017 cannot be attributed to any individuals or institutions affiliated with the University of Virginia. Those events have been analyzed best by an independent report prepared by a top-tier Richmond-based Virginia law firm. (Timothy J. Heaphy, et al., “Independent Review of the 2017 Protest Events in Charlottesville, Virginia,” Hunton & Williams LLP, November 24, 2017, http://www.charlottesville.org/home/showdocument?id=59615.)

[8] Since the modern leftist, pro-Palestinian judgment is that Israel is a racist, apartheid, settler-colonial state, the question then arises: who runs Israel? Its electorate consists primarily of secular and religious Zionists. According to Haaretz: 80 percent of the electorate is Jewish, 15 percent is Arab, Christian, and Druze, and 5 percent is “other.” (Alona Ferber, “Israeli Election Math: Who Can Vote, When and Where?” Haaretz, March 17, 2015, accessed January 26, 2018, https://www.haaretz.com/.premium-israeli-election-math-1.5337703.) The argument continues, reminiscent of the 1970s U.N. resolution stating that Jewish nationalism (Zionism) is racism.