Opinion: Anti-Semitism at Rutgers isn’t all academic

Robbing Jew-hatred of its particularity is the aim of Students for Justice in Palestine. But university administrators can be colluders through cowardice.

By Ruthie Blum, JNS

It’s a little hard to combat a phenomenon by kowtowing to its promoters, but leave it to academia to make a feeble attempt at doing so. Having spent the past few decades favoring sophistry over the imparting of knowledge, American institutions of higher learning are well-versed in double-speak.

Imagine their surprise, then, when even their best efforts at intellectual manipulation are met with derision by the very “woke” bullies whom they aim to please. Take the latest brouhaha at New Jersey-based Rutgers University as a case in point.

It all began on May 26, when the school’s chancellor, Christopher Molloy, and its provost, Francine Conway, issued a joint statement “against acts of anti-Semitism.”

In an e-mail addressed to the “Rutgers-New Brunswick Community,” Molloy and Conway wrote: “We are saddened by and greatly concerned about the sharp rise in hostile sentiments and anti-Semitic violence in the United States. Recent incidents of hate directed toward Jewish members of our community again remind us of what history has to teach us. Tragically, in the last century alone, acts of prejudice and hatred left unaddressed have served as the foundation for many atrocities against targeted groups around the world.”

Taking care to eliminate the particularity of anti-Semitism—a no-no in intersectional circles that consider the Jews to be born of “white privilege”—the two Rutgers honchos hastily turned their attention to George Floyd. His “murder” last year, they asserted, “brought into sharp focus the racial injustices that continue to plague our country, and over the past year there has [sic] been attacks on our Asian American Pacific Islander citizens, the spaces of Indigenous peoples defiled, and targeted oppression and other assaults against Hindus and Muslims.”

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Patting themselves on the back for having paid required homage to any and all victims of “racial injustices,” they didn’t bother with something as banal as proofreading, but at least felt safe enough to return to their original subject.

“Although it has been nearly two decades since the U.S. Congress approved the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act, the upward trend of anti-Semitism continues,” they stated. This was right before going on to equate the Jewish state with the terrorists bent on its annihilation.

“We have also been witnesses to the increasing violence between Israeli forces and Hamas in the Middle East leading to the deaths of children and adults and mass displacement of citizens in the Gaza region and the loss of lives in Israel,” they wrote.

They continued by mentioning the general, rather than specific, “death, destruction and ethnic strife” caused by the “ravages of the pandemic and proliferation of global conflict,” boasting that “the university stands as a beacon of hope for our community … a model for institutions that respect and value the dignity of every human being.”

You get the gist, which is that the Rutgers administration wanted to stress its denunciation of “acts of hate and prejudice against members of the Jewish community and any other targeted and oppressed groups on our campus and in our community.”

It also “call[ed] out all forms of bigotry, prejudice, discrimination, xenophobia and oppression, in whatever ways they may be expressed,” while “embracing and affirm[ing] the value and dignity of each member of [the] Rutgers community regardless of religion, race, ethnic background, sexual orientation, gender and ability.”

In other words, anti-Semitism is but one among many forms of bias that Rutgers opposes. You know, being committed to diversity and all.

The declaration didn’t go down well with Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), however. Apparently, bemoaning Jew-hatred among various other forms of discrimination is an egregious slip.

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A day after the Molloy-Conway statement was released, the Rutgers chapter of SJP expressed “deep concern” that the chancellor and provost were highlighting anti-Semitism “exclusively … during a time when Israel’s occupation of Palestine is finally receiving widespread criticism, and despite mentioning the ‘deaths of children and adults and mass displacement of citizens in the Gaza region,’ conveniently ignores the extent to which Palestinians have been brutalized by Israel’s occupation and bombing of Gaza.”

Throwing Sheikh Jarrah in the mix, SJP went on to berate Molloy and Conway for their decision to make such an “unprecedented” statement, which cannot be separated from widespread attempts to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism and derail Palestinian voices and activism … [and] thus cannot be interpreted as anything other than a deflection from Rutgers University’s role in financially supporting the Israeli state, and thus its human rights abuses and occupation of Palestine, by direct or indirect means.”

In a sardonic twist, SJP assailed Molloy and Conway for “lumping” together the murder of George Floyd with attacks against Asians, Indigenous persons, Hindus and Muslims “for the purpose of making a blanket statement decreeing that ‘racism is bad.’”

Of course, SJP doesn’t consider virulent anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism to be “racist,” but rather deserved.

The group concluded its tirade by demanding that the Rutgers administration not only apologize, but “call out and expose any and all ties to Israeli apartheid and commit to action that reflects a global call to uplift the humanity of Palestinians, to recognize their violent displacement by the state of Israel, and acknowledge the gross mass murders occurring at the hands of the Israeli Defense Forces.”

Without skipping a beat, Molloy and Conway obeyed.

“In hindsight,” they groveled in a statement on May 27, “it is clear to us that the message failed to communicate support for our Palestinian community members. We sincerely apologize for the hurt that this message has caused.”

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Rutgers, they wrote, “is a community that is enriched by our vibrant diversity. However, our diversity must be supported by equity, inclusion, anti-racism and the condemnation of all forms of bigotry and hatred, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. As we grow in our personal and institutional understanding, we will take the lesson learned here to heart, and pledge our commitment to doing better. We will work to regain your trust, and make sure that our communications going forward are much more sensitive and balanced.”

The ridicule and outrage on the part of pro-Israel organizations and victims of anti-Semitism this nauseating piece of breast-beating elicited caused Rutgers president Jonathan Holloway to take charge of the controversy. In a statement on May 29—titled “On Hatred and Bigotry”—he announced, “We have not, nor would we ever, apologize for standing against anti-Semitism.”

Perhaps not. But Holloway—whose attempt at a tough response replaced the previous two statements on the school’s website—was no more specific about anti-Semitism than Molloy and Conway had been.

“Neither hatred nor bigotry has a place at Rutgers, nor should they have a place anywhere in the world,” he said. “At Rutgers we believe that anti-Semitism, anti-Hinduism, Islamophobia and all forms of racism, intolerance and xenophobia are unacceptable wherever and whenever they occur.”

Erasing the particularity of anti-Semitism is one goal of SJP and like-minded radical organizations. Another is denying its existence on the grounds that Jews are privileged and Israel is evil. Such aims themselves stem from and perpetuate anti-Semitism.

It’s bad enough that Rutgers administrators and their counterparts at colleges around America act as though they’re oblivious to this fact. Far worse is their active collusion, based on cowardice.

Ruthie Blum is an Israel-based journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’”