by Bruce S. Thornton
The moral and intellectual corruption of American universities has recently manifested itself in the California State University system, the largest in the country. A group of faculty and administrators has sent a letter to Chancellor Charles Reed asking that he not approve the reinstatement of the Israel Study Abroad Program, which was suspended apparently for budgetary reasons. Behind the various pretexts justifying this request, however, lies the usual leftist hatred of Israel based on false history and moral idiocy.
The pretexts are transparently specious. The argument about budget constraints is made on a regular basis about everything the university does, and usually reflects professional or ideological preferences rather than principle. If the issue were a study abroad program at Arab-American University in Jenin, which the letter writers recommend the CSU should create, money would not be a problem. Nor is the evocation of the State Department Travel Warning any more legitimate. In fact, if you read the actual warning, you’ll see that it is generated not by Israel’s malevolence, but by the threat of terrorist attacks by Palestinians: “Israeli authorities remain concerned about the continuing threat of terrorist attacks. US citizens are cautioned that a greater danger may exist around restaurants, businesses, and other places associated with US interests and/or located near US official buildings, such as the US Embassy in Tel Aviv and the US Consulate General in Jerusalem. US citizens are also urged to exercise a high degree of caution and to use common sense when patronizing restaurants, nightclubs, cafes, malls, places of worship, and theaters, especially during peak hours. Large crowds and public gatherings have been targeted by terrorists in the past and should be avoided to the extent practicable.” Moreover, if State Department travel warnings are grounds for eliminating a study-abroad program, shouldn’t the Cal State system suspend all programs in Mexico, where according to the State Department, “the security situation poses serious risks for US citizens”?
The mention of Americans killed or injured in Israel is equally dishonest. Emily Henochowicz lost an eye to an Israeli tear-gas canister, but as the letter admits, she was involved in a violent protest against Israel. Charges that callous Israeli soldiers deliberately targeted her have been refuted by a video that shows her being struck by a ricocheting tear-gas canister. Even worse is the reference to Furkan Dogan, the Turkish-American killed when members of a Turkish hardcore Islamist outfit attacked Israeli commandos during an attempt to run the Israeli blockade of terrorist-run Gaza in an act of provocation. Of course, if an American student anywhere in the world involves himself in a violent protest against the host country, he runs the risk of injury. That’s why guests in another country should stay out of local politics they usually don’t understand. To suggest, as the letter does, that this risk exists only in Israel is dishonest. The fact is, the danger to Americans in Israel does not arise from Israeli security forces, but from the indiscriminate slaughter perpetrated by Palestinian terrorist attacks like the Hebrew University massacre in July 2002, which killed four American students.
So too with the other objections, such as the greater risk of profiling for Muslim American students. Once again, the letter does not confront the reasons for such scrutiny in Israel: the existence of a critical mass of Palestinians who do not accept Israel’s existence, and have adopted terrorism as the means to force Israel into suicidal concessions. And this brings us to the real reason for the letter: not the pretexts of safety, or restrictions on travel, or extra security screening, or all the other security procedures Israel is compelled to employ because for 60 years too many Palestinians want to kill Israelis more than they want their own state. Rather, the letter represents yet another attempt to delegitimize Israel and weaken support for the only liberal democracy in the Middle East. Hence the despicable libel with which the letter ends: that Israel is an “apartheid” state, and hence “CSU participation with the government of Israel in the proposed study abroad program could be interpreted as an endorsement of the international crime of apartheid.”
No charge more reveals the moral and intellectual dishonesty of Israel Derangement Syndrome. The answer to this lie was recently written by South African Richard Goldstone, a critic of Israel. This is the same person who had to retract his UN report on Operation Cast Lead, the 2008-9 Israeli invasion of Gaza to stop the rain of missiles aimed at Israeli civilians, because evidence refuted his earlier charge that Israel had deliberately targeted non-combatants. As Goldstone points out, “In Israel, there is no apartheid. Nothing there comes close to the definition of apartheid under the 1998 Rome Statute: ‘Inhumane acts . . . committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.’ Israeli Arabs — 20 percent of Israel’s population — vote, have political parties and representatives in the Knesset and occupy positions of acclaim, including on its Supreme Court. Arab patients lie alongside Jewish patients in Israeli hospitals, receiving identical treatment.” What separation and controls that do occur in the West Bank, Goldstone points out, are made necessary by terrorist attacks that endanger Israeli citizens. In short, as Goldstone concludes, “The charge that Israel is an apartheid state is a false and malicious one that precludes, rather than promotes, peace and harmony.”
That this lie is promulgated in this letter reveals its true intent: to demonize Israel with a question-begging smear. As such, the letter reminds me of something George Orwell says in 1984 about Big Brother’s distortion of history: “If the Party could thrust its hand into the past and say of this or that event, it never happened — that, surely, was more terrifying than mere torture and death . . . And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed — if all records told the same tale — then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’” Hatred of Israel is predicated on a vast distortion of history in which the 3000-year Jewish presence in that region is turned into a manifestation of “colonialism,” “racism,” and “imperialism,” while the violent attacks by the descendants of conquerors, occupiers, colonists, and immigrants are justified as understandable “resistance” on the part of the indigenous. That such a betrayal of historical truth, critical thinking, and moral clarity — which comprise the core of the university’s mission — should be found in a university is another appalling sign of the collapse of American higher education.
©2011 Bruce S. Thornton