Militant anti-Israel ideology seems to be a central part of some of the leftwing activism that has engulfed college campuses over the past year, and Jewish students at a growing number of universities are reporting that they are being disparaged for their identities. The latest example comes out of Oberlin, a small liberal arts college that, in the last few months, seems to have taken on an outsized role in the campus identity wars. The Washington Post reports:
Alumni and students from a prominent college in Ohio are concerned that pro-Palestinian student activists have taken their political views too far — creating an anti-Semitic culture on campus with comments that Israel is a “violent apartheid state” and “Ohio is infested with Zionism.”
As a result, they say, pro-Israel advocates on campus are being harassed for their allegiance to Israel.
More than 200 alumni and students of Oberlin College have written an open letter to the school’s president and board of trustees, asserting that the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement on campus has become a platform for anti-Semitism. The letter urged Oberlin officials to open a forum where students and alumni who have felt victimized can share their experiences, and to create a task force to address the issue.
Oberlin’s Palestinian activists told the Post that they “see these accusations as a way to limit the free speech of students, silence political activism and intimidate pro-Palestinian activists.” Campus BDS activists frequently make this argument when confronted with charges that their anti-Israel invective has strongly anti-Jewish undertones, and it’s at least somewhat ironic to see the same sort of campus leftists who pioneered speech codes, trigger warnings, and “safe spaces” suddenly become free speech crusaders when it comes to Israel-bashing.
At the same time, it is important that defenders of the campus Jewish community don’t make the same mistake as the campus left and try to silence their opposition through methods like speech codes. Resurgent anti-Semitism is too important a problem to be ignored and suppressed; it must be confronted, exposed, and repudiated—but with argument, not with formal speech prohibitions.