Campus Bullies: The Extreme Right Aren't the Only Ones With an Anti-Semitism Problem
When Max Price was elected to Tufts University's student judicial body, he likely didn't expect to have to fight off a move to impeach him and remove him from office for being Jewish. And yet Price's recent experience simply replicates the kind of crude anti-Semitic intimidation now so commonplace on college campuses that it qualifies for "dog-bites-man" status, too routine to merit much attention.
Price's ordeal wasn't exactly ho-hum as far as he was concerned. A member of Tufts' Community Union Judiciary, Price was among those tasked with monitoring student-initiated referenda for misrepresentations of fact. When the Tufts chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine introduced a referendum demanding that Tufts "apologize" because a former university police chief traveled to Israel with the Anti-Defamation League for a seminar that included Israeli and Palestinian police officers, Price identified significant inaccuracies in the text.
This did not go over well with the SJP, which first demanded that Price be barred from consideration of the matter, and then that he be disciplined, impeached and removed from his position altogether. "I was ... called a racist, a fascist, a Nazi, an enemy of progress, slandered in the student newspaper," said Price. Over the course of two days, Price found himself interrogated at length about his Jewish identity and the beliefs that flowed from that identity. It was the kind of treatment that plainly never would have been tolerated had Price been Black or Latino, grilled on whether he was fit to pass on student governance issues on the basis that he had personal feelings about racial discrimination.
It was only when the Louis D. Brandeis Center shined a spotlight on the disgrace at Tufts that the SJP withdrew its bid to remove Price from office. "It was an attempt to place Jewish identity on trial," says Ken Marcus, chairman of the Center, a civil rights organization established to combat anti-Semitism. "Max Price refused to be silent." Marcus notes that college students are highly vulnerable to social harassment, and the intensification of anti-Semitism makes Jewish students particularly vulnerable. "Most undergraduates placed under the pressure Max felt would have given up," says Marcus. "And that's the whole point."
Jewish students all over America are regularly targeted by campus campaigns to stigmatize them and drive them underground for believing in a Jewish homeland and the right to Jewish self-determination. Last year, University of Southern California senior Rose Ritch resigned as vice president of the school's student government, "harassed for months by fellow students because they didn't like one of my identities." Hounded as a "Pro-Israel White Supremacist" and victimized by a social media drive to "impeach her Zionist a**," Ritch recounted her decision to resign last summer. "Because I openly identify as a Jew who supports Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state -- i.e., a Zionist," she wrote, "I was accused by a group of students of being unsuitable as a student government leader." Resignation, she concluded, "was the only sustainable choice I could make to protect both my physical safety and my mental health."
This was no surprise for Rachel Beyda, the UCLA sophomore whose confirmation as a member of the student's council's judicial board was blocked after she was grilled on her "conflict of interest" as a Jew reviewing governance issues. "Given that you are a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community," one student demanded to know, "how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view?" The council's rejection of Beyda was rescinded only when a faculty adviser pointed out that being Jewish was not a "conflict of interest."
What Price, Ritch and Beyda have endured is, unfortunately, the new normal. Recent years have exposed a whole lot of ugly, and the metastasis of anti-Semitism posing as progressivism on American campuses is very ugly indeed. If there is any chance of shrinking this cancer, it will come from those on campus with the sense of justice to resolve to call it what it is.
Jeff Robbins, a former assistant United States attorney and United States delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, was chief counsel for the minority of the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. An attorney specializing in the First Amendment, he is a longtime columnist for the Boston Herald, writing on politics, national security, human rights and the Mideast. To find out more about Jeff Robbins and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.Copyright 2021 Creators Syndicate Inc.