Anti-Semitism is rampaging over our college campuses, right? Well, maybe not.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) – a group who no one could accuse of being in denial about anti-Semitism – ran a survey which found just the opposite. According to the ADL, “campus faculty and students are the least anti-Semitic” group in America. Not only is anti-Semitism on college campuses “virtually non-existent,” the ADL clearly finds that criticizing Israel doesn’t correspond with anti-Semitism: “Importantly, while criticism of Israel is high relative to the national population — especially among college faculty — there is no corresponding evidence of significant anti-Semitic sentiment.”
(Who is most likely to be anti-Semitic, according to the survey? Blacks, hispanics, the less educated, older folks, and people who are racists or homophobes.)
The ADL’s results pretty much matches my experience as a Jew at several of the most liberal campuses in the US (Oberlin, UMass Amherst, and Portland State University). To hear conservatives talk about it, liberal students on American campuses routinely sit around perusing Protocols of the Elders of Zion and planning David Duke rallies; but is that even remotely plausible? Especially considering that many campus liberals are themselves Jewish? Most campus liberals are almost as as terrified of being labeled “anti-semitic” as they are of being “sexist” or “racist.”1
Who is anti-Semitic on college campuses? In my (admittedly anecdotal) experience, it’s the religious fundimentalists. I’ve occasionally heard Muslim or Islamic fundimentalists talk about how “the Jews” are responsible for [insert moronic conspiracy theory du jour here], for example. According to conservatives, these folks are “the left” – even though those sexist, homophobic religious fanatics have more in common with Ralph Reed than Ralph Nader.
It may also be that many Blacks and Hispanics are anti-Semitic – that’s what the ADL survey found – but I haven’t experienced it personally, except from some Nation of Islam types. Perhaps I’ve been lucky in the folks I’ve known.
I’ve also heard Campus Crusade for Christ folks cheerfully predicting the day when their oh-so-just God will send all Jews to burn in hell for eternity – which is also anti-Semitic, but since it’s not anti-Israel no one minds. (Certainly no one on the political right.)
Even among religious fundimentalists, in my experience, the large majority on campus are not anti-Semites. This is unsurprising, considering that evidence shows anti-Semitism is “virtually nonexistant” on campus. So why have conservatives focused so unerringly on campus anti-Semitism, while ignoring more prevalent anti-Semitism virtually everywhere else in America?
It seems to me the real issue here isn’t anti-Semitism, but opposition to Israel. Fair enough – but I wish conservatives wouldn’t reflexively call everyone who dissents from their views on Israel an anti-Semite. It distorts reality and trivializes real anti-Semitism.
- This sentence originally read Most campus liberals are as terrified of being “anti-semitic” as they are of being “sexist” or “racist.” That isn’t a statement I can believe or stand behind, so I’ve edited the sentence to reflect my actual beliefs. [↩]