The back of an SUV with "Jews are terrorist" written on it
A car that appeared at a rally in San Francisco in 2009 (Photo/file)

Anti-Semitism on college campuses — it’s academic

This week, on the “(Is It) Good for the Jews?” podcast …

Larry Rosen: There was a study, a European outfit did this. Good news, bad news. The good news is that violent anti-Semitic acts fell in 2016.

Eric Goldbrener: That’s good news.

LR: The bad news is that nonviolent ones rose.

EG: That’s good news! They stopped being so violent!

LR: Here’s the part I find interesting: On U.S. college campuses, instances of nonviolent anti-Semitism — harassment, name-calling, intimidation — were up 45 percent.

EG: Yeah!

LR: OK, so they’re not setting us on fire, that’s good, but thank God for little favors. Sticks and stones and all that, but still …

EG: There are a couple of ways to look at this. One is that the Jews are just the social barometer for the overall level of racism and dissent in society. Anti-Semitism is rising, which is an indication that everyone is at wit’s end with everyone. Everyone’s on everyone’s nerves.

LR: I agree, except for the part about 45 percent up on college campuses.

EG: The thing about the college campuses is really the thing to pay attention to and be concerned about, because the battle for the political mind is fought on the college campus. Before college, kids basically follow their parents’ lead. Then they get to college and they see all of these people sharing ideas, new ideas, and it’s very exciting. But if they get there and find those people have set out to stifle the Jewish voice, and make sure nobody can hear the Jewish or Israeli perspective, they end up getting all of their information from secondary sources, which is very dangerous. It’s all hearsay. It’s all, “These guys said you guys are bad and I’m with them so I believe them!” You’re basically taking someone’s word for it and not giving us a chance to make our case. How is that scholastic?

LR: And here’s why I think the “anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism” is a gray area: At this point, those who would demonize Israel do it so thoroughly that it’s easy to extrapolate that Israel=Jews, Israel bad, therefore Jews bad. In their rants you hear the word “Jews” an awful lot.

EG: You know, we gotta stop snapping at that red herring — that I’m not anti-Semitic, I’m anti-Zionist thing. It’s academic hair-splitting that doesn’t lead to anything productive. All it does is give people an out. I’d rather have a counter-argument to everything they say that’ll resonate with them.

LR: Explain.

EG: “I get what you’re saying and I understand why you have problems with Israel. Guess what: I’m a Zionist. I’m a lover of Israel, and I have problems with Israel.”

LR: You’re allowed.

EG: I’m a libertarian. Having armed forces occupy civilians: unacceptable. Now we agree on something yet we’re still on opposite sides, but here’s something I know: Those Palestinians in the West Bank, given a chance, will rise up and take military action against Israel.

LR: Ask yourself why Israel does these things.

EG: They (the Palestinians) didn’t find themselves under military occupation because Israel decided to invade their free country and enslave them. That’s not what happened.

LR: By denying yourself the opportunity to hear that side, you’re free to fill in the blanks however you like: “It’s apartheid; the Jews are the problem,” whatever.

EG: But they have to shout us down, because what if I stand up and say that from 1917 to 1993 (Israelis) have been reaching out to the Arabs, trying to build bridges, and (they’ve) been rejected. And here’s the entire documented history?

LR: Well, they can just call that fake news and choose not to accept it.

EG: But you’re on a college campus! Go to the library! They have almanacs from the British Mandate of Palestine! Every statistic you want to see is right there!

LR: That’s a can of worms. That’s the issue. You can do the legwork or just reject the facts you don’t like. And this is the problem. Thesis statement for me here: Violence down, anti-Semitism up? Those Richard Spencers we’re worrying about? Maybe not the whole problem.

This column is excerpted from the podcast “(Is It) Good for the Jews?” Listen to the full podcast online.

Larry Rosen
Larry Rosen

Larry Rosen is a writer, husband, father and author of “The Rabbi Has Left the Building,” a memoir about his son’s bar mitzvah. He co-hosts the podcast “(Is It) Good for the Jews?”

Eric Goldbrener
Eric Goldbrener

Eric Goldbrener is a Libertarian, Zionist, atheist and autodidact technologist. He co-hosts the podcast “(Is It) Good for the Jews?”