Higher Education, Joshua Sharf, Uncategorized

Sharf: Campus protestors aren’t anti-war, just anti-Jew

The digital news site Denverite (owned by Colorado Public Radio), as well as other leftward-tilting Colorado news outlets, recently referred to the inhabitants of a pro-Hamas tent encampment on the Auraria Campus in Denver as “anti-war.”

Editorial note: They’re not anti-war, they’re just anti-Jew.

As the campus protests grow more violent they are also exposed as being more radical than one might suppose from coverage by standard left-0f-center news outlets.  It is not uncommon for them to openly support Hamas’s October 7 indiscriminate massacre and rapes as “legitimate acts of resistance,” even as they deny that the worst of the atrocities even happened.  They cite Hamas’s unverifiable, and likely invented,  casualty figures without criticism.  It’s unlikely that if they knew those numbers originated from Hamas that it would change their opinion.

So naturally, the unwavering demands of all of these “anti-war” protesters isn’t an end to violence.  Ongoing Hezbollah rocket and missile attacks against Israel’s north, and Houthi missile fire that has virtually closed the Red Sea and the Suez canal to neutral shipping go unmentioned.  No, the calls are for an end to Israel’s attempt to defend itself and its citizens, and to re-secure its borders against renewed assault.

However, in the tradition of the Summer of Black Lives Matter and Antifa, the protesters are frequently not above using violence of their own, often directed against Jews and Jewish institutions.  At Columbia, epicenter of this movement, Jews have fled the campus in fear of their own safety.  A Yale student was actually stabbed.  At UCLA, a Jewish student was prevented from going to class, and another was assaulted for filming the protest.  A similar assault for filming happened at Northwestern.

Famed Twitter personality Iowahawk suggested that Jewish students will be better off at state schools with large football stadiums, but both the American Jewish Committee and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution – have highlighted this as a national problem, not merely one at the Ivy Leagues.  More on-target was his assertion that, “It probably doesn’t help to have an entire administration building full of cowards deathly afraid that the protesters will magically wish them into a cornfield.”

What’s more, as writer and publisher David Hazony has pointed out, the language, imagery,  and conspiracy theories used by this merely anti-Zionist movement are virtually indistinguishable from those used by traditional antisemites.  In part, that’s because antisemitism is largely an endlessly malleable conspiracy theory, requiring only the fantasy of universal Jewish power to float seamlessly from one radical political philosophy to another.

This makes it particularly suited to the current campus Left, which, as described in Arnold Kling’s book “The Three Languages of Politics”, sees everything in terms of power, with instant virtue conferred on the perceived powerless.  If Israel and its Jews are a settler-colonial project coming at the expense of the indigenous Palestinians, then calls for genocide “from the River to the Sea” are perfectly justified, student inability to name either the relevant river or sea notwithstanding.

(It is deeply ironic that, even as campus protesters claim to support indigenous rights, actual Anglospheric indigenous peoples persist in supporting Israel over Hamas, much to the consternation of the radical Left.)

The conservative view of civilizational order vs. barbaric chaos seems amply justified.  However, the center-left and left and their media allies are seeking to opportunistically co-opt the third language, the libertarian view of freedom vs. tyranny.  Surely free speech is to be defended, but one suspects such support for campus camping would evaporate if the students were there to protest abortion-on-demand, with a tent staffed by medical professionals providing advice to pregnant women.

Perhaps fearing both electoral and reputational damage, some schools have begun evicting the well-funded students and their non-student fellow-travelers.  But the schools shouldn’t be let off the hook.  The Biden administration has opened several investigations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, but has not aggressively pursued them, perhaps walking its own tightrope with the Democratic Party’s electoral coalition.

One answer would be to force the Justice Department to use the International Holocaust Remembrance Association’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, already accepted by dozens of countries, including most of Europe.  (The US is listed as having endorsed the definition, but the Biden administration merely included it among several available for use.)

The definition makes it clear that by singling out Israel for special scrutiny, or even singularly opposite the establishment of a Jewish state, while at the same time holding non-Israeli Jews responsible for the actions of Israel’s government, anti-Zionism is antisemitism.

On May 1, the House voted to do just that, passing H.R. 6090 by a vote of 320-91 with 21 Republican dissenters (including, for some reason, Rep. Lauren Boebert) and slightly more than 1/3 of the Democratic caucus, including Denver’s Rep. Diana DeGette.  The companion bill in the Senate, S.R. 4127, has 29 co-sponsors divided equally among Republicans and Democrats (plus Arizona’s independent Kyrsten Sinema), including both of Colorado’s senators, but has yet to be scheduled for a committee hearing.  Hickenlooper serves on the committee to which the bill has been assigned.

Passage may rest both on political courage (please continue when you stop laughing) and a recognition that it is the job of universities not merely to neutrally de-escalation the situation on their campuses, but to afford their Jewish students the same protections they eagerly extend to every other identity group in their midst.

Joshua Sharf is a Denver resident and regular contributor to Complete Colorado.


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