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Penn Students’ Lawsuit Shows Campus Antisemitism Uproar Is A Manufactured Crisis

by | Dec 13, 2023

Penn Students’ Lawsuit Shows Campus Antisemitism Uproar Is A Manufactured Crisis

by | Dec 13, 2023

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Saturday’s resignation of University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill came after months of controversy—and a viral-video grilling of Magill in a congressional hearing—over allegations the school has become a hotbed of antisemitism.

While those allegations have been given widespread credence, a Stark Realities analysis of dozens of claimed antisemitic incidents at Penn finds that, apart from a small handful of cases, the great majority are merely instances in which Penn students, professors and guest speakers engage in political expression that proponents of the State of Israel strongly disagree with.

Conveniently, a catalogue of supposed examples of anti-Jew bigotry at Penn is laid out in a federal lawsuit filed last week against the school by two Jewish students who allege it “has transformed itself into an incubation lab for virulent anti-Jewish hatred, harassment, and discrimination.” In the suit, dual American-Israeli citizen Eyal Yakoby and American Jordan Davis seek “substantial damages in an amount to be determined at trial.”

For those wanting to look beyond what’s been said about Penn by grandstanding politicians, click-seeking news outlets and sensationalist social media posters, the 84-page complaint is a valuable resource. Unlike the sloppy court of public opinion, real courts demand a detailed presentation of specific allegations.

However, scrutiny of the Penn complaint—prepared by Philadelphia lawyer and Penn law grad Eric Shore and New York City law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres—confirms the campaign against the Philadelphia school is just the latest component a broader, long-running drive to censor political expression that’s critical of the State of Israel and sympathetic to Palestinians.

In support of that drive, conservatives who’d previously and rightfully bashed campus viewpoint censorship and crackdowns on flexibly-defined “hate speech” are among the most vocal advocates of installing a new censorship regime to keep students “safe” from anti-Israel rhetoric.

Political Views Wrongly Labelled as Antisemitic

Objective readers of the complaint will quickly note a number of red flags, starting with strident, vitriolic language referring to “rabidly antisemitic professors” and “Jew-hating” speakers who “spew antisemitic venom” by “bellowing into bullhorns to express their hatred for Israel.”

However, the complaint’s foremost flaw is its repeated assumption that various political concepts, views and slogans promoted by critics of Israel are inherently antisemitic or genocidal. This kind of attack isn’t unique to the Penn complaint; it’s constantly used by Israel’s advocates to silence the opposition. Among the forbidden ideas:

  • Anti-Zionism. A philosophy embraced by many Jews, anti-Zionism opposes the idea of a Jewish nation-state. Opposing the concept of such a Jewish state doesn’t automatically make someone a bigot any more than opposing a white state or a Christian state does. The Chavurah, a progressive Jewish group at Penn, recently rejected this charge, saying that “continual conflation of anti-Zionism with anti-semitism undermines any chance for productive dialogue at Penn concerning Israel.”
  • Questioning Israel’s “right to exist.” No country has a right to exist. Countries are mere political arrangements. There’s nothing inherently bigoted about campaigning for a different political order between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The State of Israel has no more “right to exist” than did the Soviet Union or Czechoslovakia, or does North Korea or the United States.
  • “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” As I wrote last month, “while any slogan will mean different things to different people, this one has been used for decades by Palestinians seeking the same liberties as Israeli Jews throughout the entire territory ruled by the State of Israel.” For most, it’s a call for the State of Israel to be replaced by a new governing arrangement. While some may be reasonably concerned about how that would play out, the idea isn’t inherently genocidal or antisemitic.
  • The Palestinian “right of return.” This concept argues that Palestinians displaced by the 1948 creation of Israel should be allowed to return to their homes. It isn’t inherently embedded with bigotry, as the complaint suggests. Indeed, its advocates would argue the concept is a counter to Israeli ethnocentrism.
  • “Singling out” Israel for criticism. This preposterous standard, routinely advanced by Zionists, suggests that it’s antisemitic to criticize policies of the Israeli government if you don’t simultaneously criticize other governments guilty of the same sins.
  • Calling Israel an “apartheid state.” A great many Jews say Israel satisfies the definition of apartheid—for starters, Hebrew University Holocaust professor Amos Goldberg, former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo and Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.
  • Accusing Israel of genocide. While the suit is filled with accusations of genocidal intent on the part of pro-Palestinian activists, the plaintiffs would have us assume it’s antisemitic to argue that Israel’s bombardment of civilian areas in Gaza and displacement of Palestinians amounts to genocide.
  • Urging boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. In another display of double-standards, Israel’s backers cheer on economic warfare against Iran, but the BDS movement—which aims to achieve better treatment of Palestinians by using similar economic tactics—is supposedly a bigoted enterprise.

The most controversial term, “intifada,” has been chanted by pro-Palestinian protesters at Penn and around the world. Roughly translating to English as “shaking off,” intifada refers to an uprising against Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinians have engaged in two previous intifadas. While the tactics included suicide bombings targeting civilians, Palestinians also engaged in peaceful protests, rioting, and attacks on Israeli government targets ranging from mere stone-throwing to deadly rocket attacks.

“It is not a term against Jews, it is a term against the Israeli government,” said Glenn Greenwald last week on his show, System Update. “Just like you’re allowed to say ‘I think we should bomb Iran’ or go to war in Iraq or ‘flatten Gaza,’ people are allowed to say, allowed to opine…in the United States of America, that the repression by the Israeli government has become sufficiently severe that an uprising or even violence against the State of Israel is warranted.”

“Intifada” played a key role in last week’s Capitol Hill grilling of then-Penn president Magill, Harvard president Claudine Gay and MIT president Sally Kornbluth by New York Rep. Elise Stefanik. Video of the interrogation went viral, and precipitated the resignation of not only Penn’s Magill but also the school’s chairman of the board of trustees.

This interaction, which mirrors Stefanik’s questioning of all three presidents, shows how she used an assumption of genocidal intent by anyone chanting “intifada” to reinforce the mythology that calls for Jewish genocide are commonplace at Penn, Harvard and MIT:

Congresswoman Stefanik: “Dr. Kornbluth, at MIT, does calling for the genocide of Jews violate MIT’s code of conduct or rules regarding bullying and harassment? Yes or no?”

President Kornbluth: “If targeted at individuals not making public statements.”

Congresswoman Stefanik: “Yes or no, calling for the genocide of Jews does not constitute bullying and harassment?”

President Kornbluth: “I have not heard calling for the genocide for Jews on our campus.”

Congresswoman Stefanik: “But you’ve heard chants for Intifada.”

From intifada to anti-Zionism and BDS, all are political concepts that should be debated on their merits, not banned by those who are discomforted by them—and where better for such debates than college campuses?

It’s only by first wrongly defining this assortment of Israel-critical views as inherently antisemitic that one can declare antisemitism is rampant at the University of Pennsylvania or anywhere else in American academia.

Ironically, the lawsuit’s assumption that all Jews at Penn should be assumed to embrace Zionist political ideology or cherish the State of Israel and therefore be victimized by contrary views is itself a display of prejudice.

Quoting directly from the complaint, here are just several of countless supposed examples of antisemitic activity at Penn that are merely expressions of debatable political opinions:

Continue reading this article at Stark Realities

Stark Realities with Brian McGlinchey

Stark Realities with Brian McGlinchey

STARK REALITIES WITH BRIAN McGLINCHEY is a Substack newsletter that undermines official narratives, demolishes conventional wisdom and exposes fundamental myths across the political spectrum. McGlinchey has spoken at the national conference of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, and has appeared on the Scott Horton Show, Tom Woods Show and Ron Paul Liberty Report. Receive new Stark Realities posts via email

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