Rabbis/profs and AIPAC say campus anti-Semitism hysteria overblown

On August 22, LA’s Jewish Journal front page featured Brad Greenberg’s re-hashing of old charges of anti-Semitism on the campus of UC Irvine. (We’ve covered some of the ongoing controversy here.)

It begins by showcasing how pro-Israel students recently countered Palestinian Awareness week. Their answer, iFest, included a chance to win an ipod for students willing to memorize a list of Israeli accomplishments. That one undoubtedly well-intentioned organizer repeats the same old racist trope about how Israelis made the desert bloom (because the “primitive Arabs” just couldn’t figure out how to do anything beyond rubbing stones together) beautifully illustrates the complex layers of deeply embedded racism that get lost in the hysteria-mongering:

“I see a desert turned into an oasis, not only culturally or economically or politically but literally,” said Zack Sher, a self-described “Larry David, curly hair, matzah ball soup on the weekend kind of Jew,” who was promoting his spiritual homeland from inside a pink gorilla suit. “This is our chance to give Israel some positive visibility.”

So this week, 5 Jewish  UCLA professors and rabbis wrote to the Jewish Journal to say, “Enough already!”

It is unfortunate that The Jewish Journal would choose to run as its cover story two weeks ago an article by Brad Greenberg that preys on the deep and recurrent fears of some in our community of a rampant anti-Semitism on our college campuses (“Quiet War on Campus,” Aug. 22).

There was nothing newsworthy about the article, no recent event or episode to prompt it. The episodes and anecdotes recounted in the story were months and, in most cases, years old — and have been amply rehashed in the Jewish press.

Indeed, the chief novelty that we discerned in Mr. Greenberg’s article was his willingness to report that “the amount of anti-Israel activity on campus is so negligible that it is almost impossible for students to find unless they are looking on all but maybe three campuses a year” —and this from the director of student programs at AIPAC [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee], an organization that is usually not deemed to be slack in defending Israel.

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