I applaud the Jewish Journal for publishing an article about UMass Amherst hosting an anti-Jewish, anti-Israel, pro-BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement) program on May 4th. This is not an isolated incident at UMass Amherst because, for example, back in April of 2017, the Office of News & Media Relations at UMass Amherst issued a news release actively publicizing the April 28, 2017 appearance of Linda Sarsour on campus and, as the aforementioned Jewish Journal article points out, “Over the years Sarsour has embraced the anti-Semitic messages of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.”
In the spirit of Passover, the holiday of freedom, here are four general questions that must be asked about such hate programs, along with some answers.
The first question: Would universities host programs that attacked the black community or the LGBTQIA community or the Muslim community? Of course not, such attacks on these communities would be labeled as hate speech. However, when it comes to anti-Semitism, often disguised as anti-Zionism, it’s a free speech issue and so most school administrators refuse to act in meaningful ways and then such Jew hatred is normalized. This is hypocrisy masquerading as virtue.
Question two: In terms of such anti-Jewish hate programs, do letters of complaint from Jewish organizations to school officials do much good? No.
Question three: Could Jewish organizations do more to protect our community? Yes, but to be truly successful they need the active and sustained support of many more American Jews.
Fourth question: When will such sustained support be forthcoming? When the American Jewish community wakes up and realizes that there has been a very dangerous increase in anti-Semitism and anti-Israel activity and comes together to work closely with its communal leaders to bring about meaningful change.
Robert M. Soffer