For college students interested in Middle Eastern politics, taking classes on the subject or debating with peers can provide an entry point into shaping their own ideas on often contentious issues. However, if a student happens to hold pro-Israel or anti-Islamist views, they are frequently in the minority on school grounds and, in fact, may be shouted down by professors and other students, according to a panel of experts.
“I don’t think so,” replied Cliff May, president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, speaking to more than 600 people at Temple Beth Hillel/Beth El in Wynnewood. “Anti-Israelism has become the new anti-Semitism. [The goal] is a Mideast free of Jews. Today, the anti-Semites have the Jews in one place; now, they need to destroy them there. Anti-Zionism means the elimination of Israel. It means another Holocaust.”
The Sept. 19 panel discussion came amidst headlines announcing the British boycott of Israeli academics, as well as the release of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, a book written by professors at Harvard University and the University of Chicago that questions the American government’s ties to Israel.
But with many Jewish students, faculty and organizations — like Hillel or a Chabad House — now playing a significant role on American campuses, Medved noted, why be afraid of Muslim students and academicians, who make up just a small percentage of the campus population?
“The religion of an individual is less important than their politics,” replied Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia-based think tank. He said that there are plenty of Jews who don’t support Israel, and that although Muslims are a small number of people on campus, they “are dominating the social and political” landscape.
Islamist influence is “flowing” into colleges more directly, said May, who explained how in 2005, a Saudi prince gave $20 million each to Harvard and Georgetown universities. Although the stated goal of the gift was to advance the study of Islam, May said that he feels it was meant as a way to gain influence in academia.
When asked if anti-Islamist talk slandered the rest of the Muslim population, Horowitz noted that he believes that there are “plenty” of Muslims who are peace-minded. He also said that, according to the news organization Al Jazeera, some 50 percent of Muslims believe that Osama bin Laden is a hero.
Pipes responded by saying that Israel and the United States are at war “not of their choosing,” and that “wars are not ended by clever schemes; they are won on the battlefield or political battlefield.”