Anti-Zionism on Campus: The University, Free Speech, and BDS

Anti-Zionism on Campus: The University, Free Speech, and BDS

Anti-Zionism on Campus: The University, Free Speech, and BDS

Anti-Zionism on Campus: The University, Free Speech, and BDS


Many scholars have endured the struggle against rising anti-Israel sentiments on college and university campuses worldwide. This volume of personal essays documents and analyzes the deleterious impact of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement on the most cherished Western institutions. These essays illustrate how anti-Israelism corrodes the academy and its treasured ideals of free speech, civility, respectful discourse, and open research. Nearly every chapter attests to the blurred distinction between anti-Israelism and antisemitism, as well as to hostile learning climates where many Jewish students, staff, and faculty feel increasingly unwelcome and unsafe. Anti-Zionism on Campus provides a testament to the specific ways anti-Israelism manifests on campuses and considers how this chilling and disturbing trend can be combatted.


Andrew Pessin and Doron S. Ben-Atar

If someone dared to publish among us books that openly favored Judaism, we
would punish the author, the publisher, the book dealer. That arrangement is
a convenient and sure way to always be right. It is easy to refute people who
do not dare speak … [when] conversing with Jews…. the unfortunates feel
themselves at our mercy. the tyranny practiced against them makes them
fearful…. I will never believe that I have rightly heard the Jews’ reasoning as
long as they do not have a free state, schools, universities where they might
speak and argue without risk.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile, Book iv (1762)

The Campus Situation

Change the word Judaism to Israel and Jews to Zionists and Rousseau’s eighteenth-century observation is disturbingly applicable to today’s campuses, two and a half centuries later. Those in the academy who support Israel, or who merely don’t despise Israel, are finding it increasingly difficult to speak up without risking verbal attack, social and professional ostracization, setbacks to their careers, and sometimes even physical threats. As a result, the Israel-friendly (or merely non-anti-Israel) voice on campuses around the world and in the global “republic of letters” is rapidly being silenced. the implications of this phenomenon, not only for Jews but also, we believe, for free speech, for the academy, and for Western values in general, are chilling.

Where some might see in Israel a prosperous (if flawed) liberal democracy, or the only modern example of an indigenous people reclaiming lost sovereignty over its homeland, the new campus orthodoxy sees only an apartheid regime founded on racism, genocide, ethnic cleansing, and colonialist imperialism. Zionism, it believes, can be neither defended nor corrected, because the very idea of a Jewish state in that region depends on the dispossession of others and because the concept of Jewish democracy is an offensive oxymoron that can only perpetuate the unjust and discriminatory status quo. Israel and Zionism are thus cast as illegitimate, incorrigible abominations.

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