Letter to the Editor | Antisemitism persists on college campuses

Nathaniel Miller, Contributing Writer

In contemporary America, antisemitism is thought of as an outdated form of prejudice. Yet, despite the teaching of Holocaust curriculum in many American schools, the “oldest form of racism” persists in this country and among our generation. The internet, of course, is awash in off-putting comments, conspiracy theories and support of antisemitic tropes, but as an American Jew, I experienced antisemitism the day I stepped out of a Jewish middle school. In my first week of secular high school, I learned for the first time that it was controversial to support the very existence of the state of Israel, and I had drawn ire from my classmates as a result. 

A recent 2023 Anti-Defamation League study showed that 85% of Americans believed in at least one antisemitic trope. 20% believe that Jews are “too powerful” in the U.S., and that Jews are more willing to use “shady” practices to get ahead than other ethnic groups.

Last week, antisemitism reared its ugly head on Tulane University’s campus. Junior Sarah Ma published an article titled “Ye Did Nothing Wrongon a website called the College Dissident. My first thought when I started to read the article was that it must be satire. However, I quickly realized that the article had no satirical purpose. The article simply defended the incoherent ramblings of a bigoted man. Ma blatantly suggests that “For the most part, Jewish people run Hollywood.” She defends Ye on the ground that, by saying he loves both Hitler and Jewish people, he shows he is not antisemitic. She claims that all the people who have hurt Ye were Jewish, so it is no surprise he does not trust Jews. Before my horror and disgust kicked in, I first wondered how the author of this ignorant screed ever got into Tulane.  

While Ma may be one of few in her willingness to attach her name to a modern-day Protocols of Zion, antisemitism runs rampant on high school and college campuses. On Jan. 10, 2023, flyers were handed out to students at the Claremont colleges entitled “Every Single Aspect of Pornography and Hookup Culture is Jewish,” which were filled with denigrating and obscene language about the Jewish founders of various businesses involved in pornography. In the predominantly Jewish county of Maryland where I grew up, a local high school has been defaced multiple times with antisemitic graffiti. Multiple synagogues around the country have been vandalized in the last year. Jewish men have been violently attacked in Brooklyn.

These are just a few instances of antisemitism in the U.S. in 2022 and 2023 — what is going on? Antisemitism has always lurked in the back alleys of American culture, but why is it suddenly so overt? The answers are found in both the far right and far left movements.

On the right, white nationalism has emerged from the shadows over the last few years, and radical politicians have touted conspiracy theories. People like congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene have advanced antisemitic conspiracy theories.

On the left, groups like Justice for Palestine have mounted aggressive attacks on the State of Israel that have made many institutions of higher learning hostile environments for Jews. Because of their fervent anti-Zionist rhetoric, leftist groups on college campuses often create hostile or uncomfortable situations and spaces for Jews on college campuses. Jew-hatred is often hidden behind a thin veil of anti-Zionism.

An ADL survey in October 2021 showed that approximately one-third of Jewish students experienced antisemitism on American college campuses. These incidents were mostly hate speech and vandalism. Political and social justice organizations that claim to fight hate in every form must examine themselves and seek to determine why antisemitism is the one form of hate that seems to be acceptable at places like college campuses. 

One of the most hostile environments for Jews is a top law school in the United States, University of California Berkeley Law School, which is being investigated for “deep-seated antisemitism.” According to complaints from students and faculty, the school “failed to respond appropriately to notice(s) from Jewish law students, faculty, and staff that they experienced a hostile environment at the law school based on their shared Jewish ancestry,” after various groups at U.C. Berkeley Law had attempted to form “Jew-free zones.” 

As university students, curbing the damage done by antisemitism might seem insurmountable. The advice I would give to those who want to repair rifts in our community is to listen to people around you. Make friends outside your immediate friend group or Greek life organization. Take a class on a culture you know nothing about, sit with new people in the commons, attend a religious service of a religion you don’t know much about. Ask real questions about Zionism and Judaism and don’t just regurgitate things you’ve read online or that you have heard from celebrities. 

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