In the Campus Anti-Israel Campaign, Zionists Must Be Driven from All Student Activist Groups

September 3, 2019 | Daniella Greenbaum Davis
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In his recent book Israel Denial: Anti-Zionism, Anti-Semitism, & the Faculty Campaign against the Jewish State, Cary Nelson—himself a retired professor—details the reality of “Israel Denial” on campus and exposes the intellectual hollowness and sheer maliciousness behind it. Daniella Greenbaum Davis, in her review, sums up Nelson’s underlying claim thus: “when Israel acts in an entirely unremarkable fashion, Jew-hatred inspires critics to react as if the Jewish state has committed unspeakable horrors.” Among much else, Nelson traces the roots of anti-Israel activists’ especially insidious strategy of trying to drive “Zionists” out of every possible campus institution, a phenomenon Greenbaum Davis herself encountered as a student at Barnard:

No Red Tape [was a student group that] billed itself as a resource and advocate for students at Columbia and Barnard who had been sexually assaulted or raped. This advertising turned out to be false. The group was interested in aiding all victims of sexual abuse, it turned out, except Zionists.

At first, this point was made subtly. No Red Tape would ally itself with anti-Israel groups and sign on to anti-Israel statements. Eventually it was made explicit: being pro-Israel and anti-rape were, in its view, mutually exclusive. [At the time], I thought this turn of events, while gravely disappointing, was probably unique to our campus. Cary Nelson’s Israel Denial corrects my assumption. Far from being isolated events or one-off occurrences, most of the anti-Zionist activities on college campuses are part of a much broader top-down approach to activism. The grassroots façade of the anti-Israel activists is a myth, and one easily exposed by even a cursory analysis of the similarities among each campus’s pernicious incidents of anti-Semitism and Israel hatred.

Nelson details how and why things like the No Red Tape incident came to be. In 2014, the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS) partnered with the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, writes Nelson, “to distribute its Guidelines for Academic and Cultural Boycotts.” This document “included a prohibition against any relationship that would have the effect of ‘normalizing’ relationships with Israeli universities and other institutions.”

This notion was then extended to an effort to convince all campus activist groups, in the words of the disgraced anti-Israel former professor Steven Salaita, to “cast out Zionists before moving forward.”

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