This is not a hypothetical query. An affirmative answer to this question is being advocated by influential Zionist lobbies in the United States. The question is of particular importance on the nation’s college and university campuses. In places like the University of California at Berkeley and Santa Cruz, and also at Rutgers University in New Jersey, Zionist students are now threatening to sue these institutions for failing to prevent an “atmosphere of anti-Semitic bigotry” allegedly created by the presence of pro-Palestinian student groups and faculty.
One might ask if it isn’t a stretch to assert that protesting Israeli and Zionist behavior is the same as anti-Semitism? Common sense certainly tells us this is so. Unfortunately, we are not dealing with situations that are ruled by common sense. What we are facing here is the issue of ideologues bred to a specific perceptual paradigm and their insistence that others conform to it.
Here is an example: Take an American kid from a self-conscious Jewish home. This kid does not represent all American Jewish youth, but does typify say 20% of them. He or she is taught about the religion and also taught about recent history and the near annihilation of the Jews of Europe. He or she is sent to Hebrew school, and maybe a yeshiva school as well. Most of our hypothetical student’s friends will be Jewish and of similar background. Between home, friends and school the student might well find him or herself in something of a closed universe. Throughout this educational process Judaism and its fate in the modern world is connected with Israel and its survival. The Arabs, and particularly the Palestinians, are transformed into latter day Nazis. In addition, Israel’s state ideology of Zionism becomes assimilated into the credos of the religion. Soon our hypothetical student cannot tell the difference between the two. Then, having come of age, our student goes off to college or university. Now he or she is no longer in a closed world. The result can be culture shock and an uncomfortable feeling that the student is on a campus where vocal and assertive debate about Israel and its behavior sounds like an attack on the Jewish religion. Our student complains to the ZOA, Hillel, AIPAC, or some similar organization and we are off down a road toward censorship and/or litigation. Lawsuits are lodged (particularly if the ZOA is involved), donors swear that they will no longer support the institution, legislators bang on desks at the state capital, and boards of directors want to know what is going on and what the institution’s president is going to do about it?