Academic Tradition Demands More Evenhanded Treatment of Israel
The recent uneasy court settlement of a lawsuit alleging a hostile environment toward Jewish students at the University of California at Berkeley is not likely to put an end to charges of an imbalanced discussion on Israel and the Middle East on that campus or on the many others where anti-Israel activities exist.
Let’s be clear: American Jews are far from a monolithic community. They observe their religion in a variety of ways or in no way at all, they live all over the country, and, while they trend left politically, they include many whose politics are firmly on the right. It is not surprising, then, that Jews view Israel’s treatment by American colleges and universities in many ways.
But those who work, study, teach, and live at colleges should make no mistake: There is, among American Jews on campuses, broad-based and legitimate concern about the discussion of the Jewish state, and many of these Jews will remain involved in seeking to improve that discussion for many years to come.
Much of the concern stems from a steady stream of stories circulating in the Jewish community about anti-Israelism at American colleges. As a result, many Jews are becoming more inclined to support pro-Israel groups that call on colleges to stop the most egregious types of anti-Israel campus protests, such as the staging of mock checkpoints; to disinvite anti-Israel speakers; and to fire tenured professors who teach one-sided courses.
This sometimes leads to tension, since such demands can fly in the face of the milieu of the academy, which promotes intellectual inquiry and freedom of speech. Some demands can provoke a backlash in the college-and-university community that makes it harder for pro-Israel perspectives to get a fair hearing.