March 2, 2010
Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, was invited to speak at the University of California at Irvine. Oren's talk was interrupted at least 12 times by students who shouted insults. "How many Palestinians did you kill?" one of them yelled. "Propagating murder is not an expression of free speech!" shouted another.
The disruptive students—including officers of the Muslim Student Association—were arrested. The university's outraged chancellor, Michael Drake, told the students they were an embarrassment to the school. "Shame on you!" he said.
But the same thing happened that very day at Oxford. Another Israeli leader, Danny Ayalon, Israel's deputy foreign minister, was lecturing when a student reportedly shouted "Slaughter the Jews" in Arabic. The student later claimed his words were misinterpreted.
Just a few days later, the BBC broadcast a program in which a participant was allowed to say, without contradiction, that half a million Jews around the world are ready and willing to help Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency, to assassinate Israel's enemies.
Jewish groups were outraged. But a former correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph said he was not surprised. The BBC, he says, "Often handpicks interviewees who are likely to say such things as part of a wider pattern to demonize the State of Israel."
While anti-Semitism dates back to Old Testament times, it always finds new ways to express itself. While it's true that there has long been enmity between Jews and Muslims, it's also true that some of this new hostility toward the Jews is coming from the far left. And that radical extremists are exploiting it for all it's worth. Like at UC Irvine and the Oxford Union.
We ought not find this surprising. One Jewish blogger makes the compelling case that "the agenda of the left was an end to ethnicity and religion, a one world government in which everyone would be brothers. Rebuilding Israel flew in the face of that agenda." After all, Israel, as the homeland of the Jews, could never be a part of a worldwide socialist utopia.
Traditionally, radical leftists like Karl Marx have vilified Jews as purveyors and perpetrators of capitalism. Oddly enough, Hitler's fascist propaganda machine did the same thing with what they called the "plutocratic" Jewish business leaders and bankers whom they claimed were pulling all the strings in the world economy.
The Jews have always been convenient targets for demagogues, which is why in Europe today, there is a whole new and dangerous wave of anti-Semitism.
But back to what happened at Oxford and UC Irvine. Danny Ayalon is considering pressing charges against the student who yelled "Slaughter the Jews" because, as he said, that is a call for genocide. And at UC Irvine, students who insulted Israel's ambassador are facing disciplinary action. Good. I'm glad UC Irvine didn't simply ignore what happened. Neither should we.
A free society depends on civil public discourse. If we or our institutions of higher learning permit these attacks to take place, it is we, not the attackers, who ought to be embarrassed and ashamed.