As Israel mourns some 1,200 dead, prays for the release of more than 100 captives, reels from the worst day in its history, and mobilizes some 360,000 reservists, student activists and the international Left have mobilized to defend, apologize for, and appease evil.
Protests, marches, and statements of solidarity for Palestinian "resistance" have bloomed on city streets throughout the developed world and within America’s institutions of higher learning. The actions of these young people, and of the elites who run the schools, are more than appalling. They are evidence of Western confusion and decadence.
Who could have predicted that within 24 hours of a pogrom, crowds would appear in New York, Ft. Lauderdale, Toronto, London, and Sydney denouncing Jews and calling for an end to the Jewish State? Who might have anticipated that the message from academe would be, in so many words, that Israel had it coming?
Amid a backdrop of Palestinian flags and keffiyehs, a New Yorker waved a cellphone displaying the image of a swastika. Londoners chanted "From the River to the Sea," demanding the elimination of Jews from the Holy Land. A kosher restaurant was vandalized in the same city. Down under, in front of the Sydney Opera House, masked men lit flares and called out "Gas the Jews."
After the terror attacks against America on September 11, 2001, similar scenes of denunciation and celebration played out in Iraq and the Palestinian territories. Now, after Israel’s 9/11, they take place openly and unabashedly in the heart of the West.
Whatever this is, it is not progress. The grotesque tableaux represent social fracture, dissolution, ideological sorting, and weakening of confidence. They are a bad omen. Many of the protesters are young males asking for a fight. The last war with Hamas, in the spring of 2021, was accompanied by a surge of anti-Semitic violence in the United States. The Jewish community must prepare for another hateful backlash when Israel launches its ground campaign to destroy Hamas.
The toxic atmosphere of anti-Semitism has several sources. One is the corrupt university system. Fifty-one U.S. student groups have written a letter that concludes, "We support the resistance, we support the liberation movement, and we indisputably support the Uprising." The president of NYU’s student bar association said that Israel’s "apartheid regime is the only one to blame" for the chaos. Thirty-one "Palestine Solidarity Groups" at Harvard University echoed her despicable sentiment. Swarthmore Students for Justice in Palestine said it "honors the martyrs" of Hamas. Graffiti writers scrawled "Long live the intifada" and "Israel is dead" on Stanford’s sidewalks. Students at George Washington University, one of the most expensive private institutions of higher learning in the country, held a "Vigil for the Martyrs of Palestine." This is a small sample of dangerous student idiocy. A full catalogue would be endless.
Campus anti-Zionism and leftwing anti-Semitism are not new. The organizations behind the rallies and letters and social media posts have been around for a while. Democratic Socialists of America, Black Lives Matter, Students for Justice in Palestine, and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in the United Kingdom have spent years preparing for this moment. What they have set in motion is stunning, nonetheless.
The behavior of university administrations is just as shocking. They have either been mealy-mouthed or morally imbecilic. They have done everything they could to avoid the reality of Hamas’s barbarism. They are silent as their students celebrate terrorism; they are outraged if called to account for their moral corruption. They have built an environment where dissidents are heckled and harassed and even assaulted; where intellectual freedom is stifled; where racial separatism, political correctness, and gender ideology run rampant; where due process is violated; and where violence, so long as it is "revolutionary," is glorified.
Writing in the Free Press, investor Marc Rowan, who sits on the board of the Wharton School, wants donors to close their checkbooks. That is a start. The larger goal is to bust up the higher education cartel and apply lessons learned in the K-12 education reform movement to the universities.
At the same time, alumni, donors, trustees, and elected officials must push for better leadership on campus. A great school has a strong leader who is willing to say no to the jackals. Ben Sasse of the University of Florida, for example. "Our educational mission here begins with the recognition and explicit acknowledgment of human dignity—the same human dignity that Hamas’s terrorists openly scorn," Sasse wrote in a remarkable Oct. 11 statement. "Every single human life matters. We are committed to that truth. We will tell that truth."
Too many of Sasse’s colleagues are dedicated to truth’s opposite. The past two years have seen the world tumble back into the 1930s. America retreated from Afghanistan. Russia launched the largest ground war in Europe since World War II. Hamas, and its Iranian masters, invaded Israel and sparked another war in the Greater Middle East. World order is collapsing, and the consequence is death and misery.
Nor is it only geopolitics that resembles the interwar period. The intellectual climate does, too. As Allan Bloom observed in his 1987 classic The Closing of the American Mind, German universities in the 1920s and 1930s were seedbeds of fascism. The most prominent German philosopher of the age, Martin Heidegger, belonged to the Nazi Party. He never apologized for his affiliation or behavior. Heidegger’s abstruse thought laid the foundations for the postmodern "critical theory" that has dominated the academy since the early 1990s. The result: Two generations of students cannot tell right from wrong, good from evil, justice from terror.
Also, they are functionally illiterate. The Students for Justice in Palestine chapter at the University of Virginia wrote on Instagram that it "unequivocally supports Palestinian liberation and the right of colonized people everywhere to resist the occupation of their land by whatever means they deem necessary." Whatever means? Does that include rape and baby-killing? Is that what they teach to international relations majors in Charlottesville? Suffice it to say that none of these young adults have ever read a book on the laws of war. They are too busy mainlining Islamo-fascist propaganda on Tik-Tok.
Faced with a great test of moral seriousness, our educational establishment has skipped class. It has joined the delinquents. Not only is it unable to recognize virtue. It aids viciousness. The future may be unknown and forbidding, but one thing is clear. The academy will never live down this shame.