anti-Zionism increasing at universities – Mondoweiss

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A new report put out by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) says that anti-Zionist organizing has nearly doubled across U.S. college campuses.

Every year the ADL publishes a tally of “anti-Israel” activism at universities and colleges in the United States. Their 2022-23 report found that Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolutions have declined on campuses, but that “anti-Israel” incidents have nearly doubled. The report states 665 incidents occurred during the last academic year, the vast majority of them either protests or events.

“The goal of this report is not to document or quantify criticism of Israel’s actions or policies, but to provide a snapshot of a more radical activist movement that seeks to make opposition to Israel and Zionism a pillar of campus life and a precondition for full acceptance in the campus community, effectively causing the marginalization of Jewish students,” it reads.

The ADL has repeatedly attempted to equate anti-Zionism with antisemitism and smear Palestine advocates as bigots. “Anti-Zionism as an ideology is rooted in rage,” declared ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt last year. “It is predicated on one concept: the negation of another people, a concept as alien to the modern discourse as white supremacy. It requires a willful denial of even a superficial history of Judaism and the vast history of the Jewish people. And, when an idea is born out of such shocking intolerance, it leads to, well, shocking acts.”

The new study does not explicitly state which incidents the ADL deemed as antisemitic, but it does insist that “many” of them were in either “intent” or “effect.” The group believes that it’s “important to be aware of possible links between hateful rhetoric, harassment and violence” because antisemitic incidents have “surged” recently.

“Denying the Jewish People the universal right of self-determination is fundamentally antisemitic,” tweeted Greenblatt after the report was released. “Anti-Zionism is not simply an abstract idea, but an ideological movement with real-world consequences.”

2022 Antisemitism Report

Earlier this year the ADL published its annual audit on antisemitic incidents. According to their data antisemitic incidents rose by 36% in 2022, resulting in 3,697 such occurrences in the United States. The group says it’s the highest number since 1979 and represents an almost 500% increase over the past decade.

However, the group counts activism targeting Israel’s policies as antisemitic. Even with a brush that broad the ADL was only able to find 241 “antisemitic” incidents related to the country or Zionism more broadly. A report in Jewish Currents by its associate editor Mari Cohen found that 46 incident of the 241 incidents weren’t attributed to leftist anti-Zionist groups, but white supremacist organizations that have adopted anti-Zionism as part of their wider antisemitic message.

These statistics didn’t stop the organization from focusing on Zionism and Israel more than any other issue in the report. “Even if you accept the ADL’s conflation of anti-Zionism and antisemitism, their own numbers demonstrate that [leftist anti-Zionism] is not the largest problem,” Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP) President Lara Friedman told Jewish Currents at the time. “The fact that they give more space to this than to white supremacy or actual assaults on Jews really does disclose the political agenda that is underlining the ADL’s approach on this issue.”

The report was touted by multiple mainstream outlets without any mention of its methodology. In media appearances Greenblatt pushed the narrative that leftists were at the center of an antisemitism uptick.  “When we see hardened anti-Zionists activists on college campuses openly, aggressively, and almost gleefully intimidating Jewish students, something is fundamentally broken in our society,” he told PBS Newshour.

Efforts to stifle Palestine advocacy

The authors of the report on “anti-Israel” incidents insist that the ADL supports the First Amendment and that it views debates on Israel are “part of a healthy campus ecosystem.” However, recent actions by the group suggest otherwise.

Greenblatt recently tweeted about the Palestine Writes festival, which takes place at the University of Pennsylvania this weekend. Pro-Israel groups and lawmakers have targeted the literary event for hosting critics Israeli policy, including the musician Roger Waters and CUNY professor Marc Lamont Hill.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) is calling for Waters and Hill to be disinvited from campus. “I am dismayed that this is now occurring at my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania,” he wrote in an open letter to the school’s president. “While policy discussions and differing views are a welcome and critical part of building cultural understanding, they cannot provide a bully pulpit for those who seek to divide others. If the University’s goal is to promote mutual understanding and bring students together, it will fail so long as antisemites and anti-Israel advocates are given a platform to spew hatred,” reads Gottheimer’s letter to President Magill.”

Greenblatt also criticized the school for hosting the event. “In a moment when antisemitism has reached an indisputably historic level, it’s mind-boggling to think that [the University of Pennsylvania] is hosting this gathering of anti-Israel and anti-Zionist activists, some of whom have a long history of antisemitic statements and comments,” he tweeted.

Earlier this year an Icelandic court dismissed an ADL injunction attempting to shut down the Mapping Project website. The group’s legal effort was aimed at the Icelandic internet company 1984, which hosts the site. The Mapping Project, which is run by a collective of Boston-based activists, caused controversy in 2022 when it published an interactive map of Boston-area institutions that they believe are connected to Zionism and imperialism The ADL claimed that the website violated Iceland’s hate speech laws by “encouraging action against those who belong to the Jewish community in Boston.”

“This litigation is just the latest example within the ADL’s over a century-long effort to support colonialism and silence opposition, as we have previously described,” the Mapping Project collective told Mondoweiss in a statement after the case was dismissed.

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