By Laura Porter
WORCESTER – The Worcester premiere of the documentary, “Hate Spaces: The Politics of Intolerance on Campus,” took place at Central Mass Chabad on March 22. Produced under the aegis of Americans for Peace and Tolerance, the film describes rising anti-Semitism on American college and university campuses. It argues that, in the increasing concern for disenfranchised ethnic, racial and religious groups, Jews are not only left out but targeted. This phenomenon is closely linked to opposition to Israel.
The film had its premiere in New York City at the end of November and has appeared in approximately 30 other venues across the country since then, including in Boston and Chestnut Hill.
Charles Jacobs, the founder of the David Project and current president of APT, introduced the film in Worcester; in 2007, Jacobs was named as one of the “Forward50.”
In his initial remarks, Jacobs noted that the film provides an analysis of “our adversaries,” describing the ideology, funding, and techniques of those involved in anti-Semitic and anti-Israel attacks on campuses.
“These are not isolated events,” he said. “The American professoriate is 80 percent left and many of them espouse an anti-Israel view in class. There is pressure on students not to challenge them.”
“Hate Spaces” analyzes several incidents at specific universities as well as what it maintains is a pervasive general focus on “victimology” that excludes and thereby fails to protect Jewish students.
Many university administrations, it says, fail to react effectively to anti-Semitic attacks on campus for fear of appearing politically incorrect. In addition, the film cites the financial contributions of Middle Eastern individuals and groups as a further reason for administrative silence.
The film’s purpose, notes its website, is to highlight the “on-going academic de-legitimization of Israel, the normalization of hatred in the name of social justice, and massive donations of Arab oil money to universities.”
In so doing, it presents on-screen commentary from Professor Alan Dershowitz (Harvard University), William Jacobson (Cornell University), Richard Landes (Boston University), Bret Stephens (Wall Street Journal), and Caroline Glick (The Jerusalem Post).
In the film, an incident at the University of California at Los Angeles provides a representative example.
In 2015, when undergraduate Rachel Beyda was under consideration by the UCLA student council for a position on its Judiciary Council, she was barraged with questions about her “objectivity” given her Jewish faith and her involvement in Hillel as well as her Jewish sorority. She was at first rejected, then approved unanimously after a professor in the room pointed out that her club associations were irrelevant.
The debate, however, was deeply troubling.
According to the New York Times, which wrote about the UCLA situation on March 5, 2015, Beyda had first been asked: “’Given that you are a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community … how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view?’”
The newspaper noted that the ensuing conversation “seemed to echo the kind of questions, prejudices and tropes — particularly about divided loyalties — that have plagued Jews across the globe for centuries.”
Apologies quickly came from the students involved as well as the university’s Chancellor, but UCLA, where the student council had also passed a resolution approving BDS, is hardly a sole example of anti-Semitic acts against Jewish students.
“Hate Spaces,” in highlighting these and other incidents, singles out the group, Students for Justice in Palestine, and its association with progressivism. Leftist opposition to Israel and concomitant solidarity with the Palestinian cause in effect mean that left groups “immunize SJP from bigotry,” says the film. It is support for Israel that has been labelled “racist” and so Jewish students have become a justifiable target.
That context has created on the university campus “a moral and intellectual climate in which Jew-hatred, or at least suspicion of Jewish interests, becomes normal again, in places that Jews have traditionally looked to for protection,” wrote John-Paul Pagano, who is referenced in the film (Tablet, June 21, 2016).
The AMCHA Initiative, founded in 2011, tracks anti-Semitism at colleges and universities. Its website distinguishes between faculty members who promote anti-Israel beliefs in the classroom and the activities of “Muslim and Pro-Palestinian Student Groups,” according to its website.
Those activities include sponsoring “speakers, films, exhibits and guerrilla theater that engage in discourse or use imagery and language considered anti-Semitic by the U.S. State Department” as well as “aggressively confronting Jewish students at pro-Israel events and for disrupting pro-Israel speakers.” There have also been incidents where “Jewish students have been threatened, physically harassed, and assaulted, as well as incidents in which Jewish communal property has been vandalized or destroyed.”
“Hate Spaces” notes that Jewish students are starting to stand up and protest with the support of organizations like the AMCHA Initiative as well as CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.
CAMERA has a campus website, Camera on Campus, and a blog, In Focus, that provides students with the facts they need to counter inaccurate and misleading information. In addition, it helps gives students one-on-one assistance.
StandWithUs, an international organization working to educate students at all levels about Israel, is also actively supporting college students in the United States.
Such support is essential.
“Are you angry?” asked Charles Jacobs as the film credits rolled in Worcester.
In the discussion that followed, he called the campus situation “the Jewish civil rights crisis of our time.”
It must be challenged both politically and in the legal arena, filing lawsuits and denying federal funds to “schools where they don’t extend the same protection to Jewish students that they do to others,” he said.
He noted that the film’s producers are having trouble getting the film shown on college and university campuses. It is primarily being shown through Chabad.
CAP: Source: Hatespaces.com