Why are there no “safe spaces” for Jews on campus?
Every other group with a claim to current or historical oppression — black people, Native Americans, women, gay and transgender people — gets protected class status on campus. Meanwhile, we Jews rarely have our struggles recognized by the social justice wing of the school, despite being one of the most oppressed minorities in history.
As the divestment debate starts up again at UCSB, you can be certain that Jewish students will face strongly worded anti-Israel rhetoric that they will find offensive, marginalizing and triggering, and yet their complaints will not evoke the usual reaction that such claims do when they come from other minority groups. Why is this?
Of course, Israel is not immune from criticism. In fact, we should criticize it more often. We Jews pride ourselves on being intelligent and asking difficult questions, but I have seen an incredible amount of narrow-minded and dogmatic groupthink in support of Israel from my fellow Jewish students. The university should be a place where all ideas, including the most sacred, are open to be questioned. The current actions of the Israeli government, and even the ideology of Zionism itself, fall well within this category … regardless of how much the UC Regents’ shameful “Statement of Principles Against Intolerance” might chill free speech on the issue.
The university should be a place where all ideas, including the most sacred, are open to be questioned.
Even so, the relentless attacks on Israel are extremely hypocritical. Whatever its crimes, Israel is not the greatest villain on the world stage today, or even the greatest villain that America does business with. Why does the Students for a Free Tibet movement receive so little attention compared to the Palestinian cause? China’s occupation of Tibet has been at least as brutal as Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. Why does the movement to divest from Turkey also receive so little attention?
For that matter, what about the decades-long leftist love affair with Cuba? As ranked by Freedom House, Israel is the only “free” country in the Middle East. By the same ranking, Cuba is the only “not free” country in the Americas. For half a century, the Communist government in Cuba has denied its citizens their basic freedoms and brutally murdered thousands of political dissidents, and yet the same leftist academics who want us to divest from Israel are cheering for us to open trade with Cuba.
In fact, as soon as President Obama loosened travel restrictions, UC Davis was quick to offer a study abroad program to Cuba entitled “Narratives of Resistance.” The program description says that “Cuba has been a major site of resistance — first against Spain, and later against the United States,” and that the program will “examine how U.S. thinkers and writers have used Cuba and its revolutions as a model of resistance against racism and oppression.”
Perhaps they should also talk to some of the Cubans who have suffered for standing up against their evil communist government, such as the graffiti artist “El Sexto” who was imprisoned for painting Fidel and Raúl Castro as pigs … but I doubt they are interested in those “narratives of resistance.” Birthright Israel (the free 10-day trip to Israel for young Jews) has come under scrutiny over the years for presenting only one side of the story, but where is all the anger about the fact that the UC system itself is sponsoring an equally biased program about Cuba?
Let me give you the key to this quagmire: To understand the singling-out of Jews in Israel, we must first look at the situation of Jews in America.
Social justice warriors (SJWs) in the universities provide no “safe spaces” to Jews because we fly in the face of every single claim they make about privilege, oppression and group identity.
Academic leftists believe in the concept of “privilege.” They see America as a fundamentally racist society and claim that different groups have varying degrees of “privilege” within our society. The level of privilege each group has, according to the SJW mindset, is more or less fixed and cannot be changed without a radical overhaul of the system.
Jews put every one of these claims to shame.
We Jews are living, breathing proof that a historically oppressed group can overcome its oppression on its own in America through its hard work and drive to succeed, without any of the “legs up” (affirmative action, welfare, reparations) that SJWs say are necessary.
One hundred years ago, Jews faced massive oppression in the United States … and yet, within the last few generations, we have largely overcome this hurdle. Although anti-Semitism still exists in America, it is not common. By and large, Jews have been integrated into American society … completely blowing to bits every single SJW claim about the inevitability of racism and the unattainability of meritocracy.
Is it any wonder that they’re a little annoyed with us right now?
In fact, Jews have not only survived within American society; we have actually thrived within it. Jews are only around two percent of America, and yet we represent five percent of Congress. Jews currently occupy three of the nine seats on the Supreme Court. If Merrick Garland is confirmed as the successor to Antonin Scalia, we will occupy four. While there has not yet been a Jewish president, Jewish candidates from Bernie Sanders to Joe Lieberman to Barry Goldwater (who was a practicing Christian, but half-Jewish by his father) have been serious contenders.
Jews are only around two percent of America, and yet we represent five percent of Congress. Jews currently occupy three of the nine seats on the Supreme Court. If Merrick Garland is confirmed as the successor to Antonin Scalia,
Jews earn higher incomes than non-Jewish whites, on average. Jews are overrepresented among the super-rich, in the business world, in academia, in Hollywood and among Nobel Laureates.
The conclusion to be drawn from these facts is inescapable: Jews are a privileged group in the United States today. If you are a SJW who believes in “white privilege” and you have any intellectual integrity, then you will also have to believe in “Jewish privilege,” because almost all of the metrics that apply to whites apply to Jews as well.
Since the SJW modus operandi is to attack any individual or group which has attained great success in the United States, we should not be surprised when SJWs attack Jews. They are merely following their privilege-checking ideology to its logical conclusion.
Anti-Semitism has taken many different forms throughout the years, but it has frequently taken the form of a nihilistic envy, an anger at the Jews for being more successful than people believed they deserved to be. When will we recognize that the nihilistic envy that drives anti-Semitism is what also drives the modern social justice movement?
Let’s consider another example. Last year, UCLA student Rachel Beyda was questioned about whether she would be “able to maintain an unbiased view” in a student government position as a Jewish student. This attracted nationwide media attention, and to many outside observers, it seemed like an appalling act of anti-Semitic bigotry.
However, this line of questioning is not surprising at all if you understand the left-wing ideology that permeates our universities.
Our Founding Fathers were geniuses beyond their own era; they created a system so great and so profound that it transcended even their own human shortcomings.
As I have mentioned previously in this column, feminist scholars openly attack the idea of objectivity. Professors in feminist studies and other left-wing fields teach students that everyone is biased because of their position in society, an idea encapsulated in the concept of “standpoint theory.” Because of this mindset, white students and male students in student government regularly have their objectivity called into question. Is it any surprise that this practice would eventually be extended to a Jewish student? The Rachel Beyda incident, among other things, is another example of how the warped logic of the social justice movement makes perfect sense within the university’s left-wing echo chamber and, yet, strikes outside observers as completely insane. SJWs say that America is an inherently racist country because it was designed by white men for the interests of white men. The first part may be true, but the second is patently false, and the Jewish story in America is proof of this. Our Founding Fathers were geniuses beyond their own era; they created a system so great and so profound that it transcended even their own human shortcomings.
Attacking the Founding Fathers for their hypocrisy — referring to them, for instance, as UCSB’s former Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs did, as “white men of privilege, some even slave owners” — does not prove them wrong. Ironically enough, it legitimizes their ideas by holding them to a lens of individual liberty which they created. By a similar token, although most of the Framers were not particularly anti-Semitic, they probably did not write the Constitution with Jews in mind, but, nonetheless, their ideas created a system where Jews could succeed, even flourish.
And that is why, above any other identity anyone might place on me — white, male, Jewish or transChican@ lesbian — I am proud to be an American, an heir to the legacy of this great system, even if I am not entirely the sort of “American” that they would have envisioned back in 1787.