Why Campus Anti-Israel Activity Flunks Bigotry 101

Why Campus Anti-Israel Activity Flunks Bigotry 101

Kenneth S. Stern

Click here for the PDF version of Bigotry 101


Introduction

My favorite grafitto was carved-not just penned-into the green wooden stall wall of a college men's room. It said, "If I didn't believe it with my own mind, I never would have seen it."

While this graffito appeared in the 1970s and may have been a comment on the drug culture, it remains a great definition of dogmatism. People may believe things so strongly that they twist what they think they see like a pretzel to conform to and confirm their a priori beliefs.

Bigotry that is ideologically inspired-which is bigotry at its most dangerous-always works by this rule. Beliefs define what is seen and what is not seen, and anything that cannot be distorted to support the set-in-stone premise is ignored or explained away. White supremacists, for example, can see only what whites have contributed to the building of America. Holocaust deniers, of course, will try to explain away gas chambers as air raid shelters or morgues, and don't consider the implications of their distortions: If they are correct, then the thousands of tenured professors who teach about the Holocaust and World War II, whether in the U.S., Britain, Germany, Israel, or elsewhere, are all incompetent, part of a grand conspiracy, or both.

This blinding bigotry is most distressing and perilous when practiced by otherwise intelligent and educated people. Many would like to believe that education is a sufficient antidote to bigotry, but the facts demonstrate otherwise. There have always been too many very well-educated bigots. Just ask the Southern blacks who were victimized, not only by the lynchings of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1950s and 1960s, but also by the powerful local white "citizens councils" that spoke about "states' rights" and whose members included many well-educated community leaders.

Today many educated bigots are active on American campuses. Some are promoting anti-Semitism in the guise of criticism of Israel. Israel, of course, should not be immune from criticism, any more than any other country is. But too many complaints about Israel are unmistakably driven by anti-Semitism. The current divestiture and "boycott" movements are a case in point.

Click here for the PDF version of Bigotry 101

Date: 11/1/2002
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