The growing phenomenon of Israel-hatred on American university campuses poses a threat to Israel’s very existence, claims the author of a new book on the subject.
Calling the “intellectual jihad” against Israel part and parcel of a wider “stealth campaign” aimed at western culture, values and political ideology, Richard Cravatts charged that this “unrelenting assault” on Israel places Israel at real risk.
Cravatts, a faculty member of the Simmons School of Management in Boston, makes these accusations in Genocidal Liberalism: The University’s Jihad Against Israel & Jews, published by the David Horowitz Freedom Center in Sherman Oaks, Calif., a group associated with conservative causes.
In an interview last week, Cravatts said that Israel’s detractors on campus want to delegitimize it by transforming it into a pariah state whose racism, brutality and militarism should no longer be tolerated.
If they succeed in changing Israel’s image into that of a loathsome state, the political cost of supporting Israel may be so onerous that it “may well go unprotected when it is put at existential risk by enemies who wish its elimination,” he said.
According to Cravatts, anti-Israel enmity has become “a covert and surrogate form” of antisemitism.
Typically, haters of Israel deny Israeli Jews the right of self-determination by claiming that Israel is a racist entity, apply double standards to it, use classic antisemitic symbols and images to define it, compare it to Nazi Germany and hold Jews collectively responsible for Israel’s actions.
“So when Israel’s campus enemies disingenuously claim that they are merely critiquing its policies, while actually demonizing, delegitimizing and slandering it, they often cross the line into actual antisemitic rhetoric and thought.”
Prior to the Six Day War, Israel was admired for its democracy and pluck and could count on the liberal left for support and an ideological nod of approval, he noted.
But after its post-1967 rise as a military and economic power, Israel was increasingly regarded in a far different light. “Many of Israel’s sympathizers began to lose their affection for Israel and began conflating their negative view of the United States, capitalism and imperialism with the Jewish state,” he observed.
This trend manifested itself as Israel’s Arab foes waged a successful propaganda war against it.
At universities, Israel was lambasted and targeted as two watchwords of higher education, diversity and multiculturalism, came into vogue, he said.
“Diversity has seen university administrations bending over backwards to accommodate the sensitivities of minorities and perceived victims of the majority culture, usually at the expense of fairness and rationality.
“Multiculturalism has brought with it a type of moral relativism in which every country or victim group is equal, regardless of what vagaries, weaknesses or fundamental evil may underpin its social structure.”
In his view, several other factors have played into the anti-Israel discourse.
The notion of “social justice” has been conflated with the victims of unjust western societies and with imperialist and capitalistic nations such as the United States and Israel.
Cravatts added the cult of “Palestinianism” has been fed into this narrative. He defined Palestinianism as an obsession with achieving Palestinian statehood while spewing animus at Israel.
To the academic left, Israel’s existence is not about self-determination for the Jewish people, but about greed, globalism, colonialism, exploitation and undeserved political and economic might.
Cravatts said that Israel’s image as a racist state was fostered by two events – the 1975 United Nations’ proclamation equating Zionism with racism, which was retracted, and the second Palestinian uprising, which erupted in September 2000.
Branding these critics hypocritical, he said they denounce Israel as a criminal state but regularly excuse or apologize for “genocidal Arab terrorism” as an “acceptable and inevitable result of a weak people, the Palestinians, suffering under western oppression and the legacy of imperialism.”
Further, they accept Arab violence because it is deemed to be the fault of the strong nations that have subjugated them.
Universities in California are at the centre of this form of Israel bashing, he said.
And Jewish academics play a role in this phenomenon, he noted, singling out Joel Beinin of Stanford University, Jennifer Loewenstein of the University of Wisconsin, Sara Roy of Harvard University and Marc Ellis of Baylor University, among others.
To Cravats, the “paradigmatic libeler” is Norman Finkelstein, the son of Holocaust survivors and formerly of DePaul University.
Some Middle East studies departments, funded in part by Arab states, have become havens for antipathy to Israel, he said, citing Columbia University and Georgetown University.
Cravatts is less than surprised that Israel has become an object of admiration in conservative rather than liberal circles.
“Liberals in the West, having expressed reverence for Third World victims and support for Palestinianism, have made Israel the focus of their rage against what they perceive to be its colonial, oppressive, racist and militaristic character. Conservatives feel they are in battle to protect western values, culture and the Judeo-Christian tradition now threatened by radical Islam and the jihad against western democracies in general and against Israel in particular.”
Although many conservatives do not back Israel out of any fondness, they understand that it is essentially “the canary in the mineshaft of western civilization,” said Cravatts, who supports a two-state solution.
In closing, he offered recommendations to end what he described as “the university’s jihad against Israel.”
• Expose Palestinianism as a belief incompatible with peaceful coexistence with Israel.
• Differentiate between legitimate criticism of Israel and thinly disguised antisemitism.
• Urge university officials to take a firm position against antisemitism and the abuse of academic free speech.
• Insist that Middle East study programs be free of bias in their scholarship.
• Reply to anti-Israel comments and antisemitism quickly, forcefully and repeatedly.