Will there be a “safe place” on campus for Jewish Studies? Or will it be impossible to teach and to take without fear of disruption or recrimination university courses about Israeli history and culture or courses that touch upon connections, this way and that, between Jews and Judaism to Jerusalem or to the Land of Israel?
Not just at speakers and special events, sooner than later BDS activism is going to take direct aim at core pedagogical structures on campus identified as “Zionist content of education.” That is going to include Birthright, Israel Study Abroad, Hillel, and also Israel Studies and Jewish Studies, whose faculty will be pressured to meet litmus tests in order to avoid censure.
A paranoid thought perhaps, but consider the recent attempt at co-opting another student social justice movement by anti-Zionist activists. Supporting the Million Student March at Hunter College, New York City chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine joined the call against the influence of money on the upper echelon of the CUNY system and voiced opposition to tuition hikes and unfair labor practice.
Into that larger agenda they insert this anti-Zionist agenda:
“The Zionist administration invests in Israeli companies, companies that support the Israeli occupation, hosts birthright programs and study abroad programs in occupied Palestine, and reproduces settler-colonial ideology throughout CUNY through Zionist content of education. While CUNY aims to produce the next generation of professional Zionists, SJP aims to change the university to fight for all peoples [sic] liberation.”
The statement was signed off by: NYC Students for Justice in Palestine; Students for Justice in Palestine at Hunter College; Students for Justice in Palestine at Brooklyn College; Students for Justice in Palestine- St. Joseph’s College; Students for Justice in Palestine at College of Staten Island; Students for Justice in Palestine at John Jay College; CUNY School of Law Students for Justice in Palestine; Students for Justice in Palestine at Pace University – Pleasantville; NYU Students for Justice in Palestine; and Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine.
There’s no way around this fundamental truth tagged inadvertently by the anti-Zionist activists. Jewish Studies, at the faculty and undergraduate and graduate levels, is deeply invested in and depends upon library and archival resources, professional and social contacts, and study abroad programming. For students of modern Jewish Studies this is especially so. There’s no way around the fact that Israel stands out as such a complex chapter in modern Jewish history and a place on the contemporary Jewish cultural scene.
Note the identification of university administrators with the and as a Zionist enemy. Combine this statement from the NYC area SJP chapters with Steven Salaita recent foray into Zionist conspiracy theory. For now these are faint rumblings. But one might very well anticipate that, yes, if BDS ups the ante to go after “Zionism” and “Zionist content of education” on campus, then Jewish Studies is going to get caught up in the net.