Just as a new conflict breaks out between Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East, the professoriate’s bias against Israel is resurfacing in novel, ugly ways. The Washington Free Beacon has exposed an anti-Israel listserv at Brandeis University, where faculty members expressed concerns about Israelis harvesting organs, referred to the President of Brandeis and his wife as “Mein Leader und Frau,” and described “humanly decent” Israelis as “self-hating, Arab-loving Jews.” Though Brandeis’ communications director insisted that the viewpoints expressed on the listserv do not reflect the University’s views, she affirmed that “members of the community may hold many different opinions on a variety of topics and express them in ways that do not reflect the university’s official position on a given issue.”
But the listserv isn’t Brandeis’ only source of anti-Israel rhetoric. Brandeis’ Ethics Center has recently had a string of incidents revealing a systemic bias against Israel. The Center’s International Advisory Board chairman accused Israel in 2009 of crimes against humanity. A member of the Center’s board was removed because of ties to demonstrations praising suicide bombers. The Center also hosted Nelson Mandela’s grandsons at the school’s annual celebration of social justice, an event that featured one of them insisting, “When the American government supports the Israeli army in disputes over the land against Palestine. That is discrimination.” (sic)
This anti-Israel rhetoric is curious, given Brandeis’ historical identity as a haven for American Jews. Of course, Brandeis has the prerogative to allow the circulation of unpopular opinions, however loathsome, in the name of academic freedom. But the very real consequence of the anti-Israel bias in higher education is students’ adoption and expression of those same attitudes. This past Saturday, Boston police had to rescue pro-Israel counter-demonstrators from Palestinian sympathizers who shoved them while shouting “Jews back to Birkenau” and “Drop dead, you Zionazi whores.” A Boston Globe photo of the event featured many young people – many of them no doubt students – holding a “die-in” in solidarity with the Palestinian cause. I wonder how many of them attend one of the many liberal arts schools in the Boston area, and how many are taught by professors who aren’t too different from those frequenting the listserv at Brandeis.