Hate Speech: Ancient, But Still Relevant

Hate Speech: Ancient, But Still Relevant

After this summer’s events in Israel and Gaza, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity on U.S. college campuses this academic year has the potential to be explosive. To protect students’ civil rights and their safety, administrators must be equipped with tools allowing them to draw the line between civilized debate and anti-Semitic hate speech. One such tool, the Brandeis Center’s “Fact Sheet on the Elements of Anti-Semitic Discourse” — contrary to your reporter’s editorialized assertions in “From BDS to Beastilization: The Campus Wars Are On” (Aug. 29) — provides this vital guidance by identifying 10 motifs of anti-Semitism.

True, many of the tropes to vilify the Jewish people have been used for thousands of years. But the point is that they’re still being used.

At the University of Michigan last year, Jewish students were called “kike” and “dirty Jew.”  The idea that Jews are associated with “dirt and disease” is rooted in those “antiquated” anti-Semitic charges. And the fall semester began with a Jewish student at Temple University being physically assaulted and called a “Zionist pig,” which “beastialized” him as being the descendant of swine.

Last year, the University of California, Santa Barbara Student Advocate General — whose job is to educate students about their rights as members of the campus community — said on the floor of the student senate that, “Israel is harvesting organs in the Sinai peninsula,” which comes dangerously close to an accusations of Jews performing “ritual slaughter,” one of the elements of anti-Semitic discourse that are supposedly “not relevant.”

These are unfortunately only a few examples of recent defamations Jewish students faced at U.S. universities. What’s truly frightening and dangerous is that some of these deeply anti-Semitic statements are believed by some to be factual, as was the case with the UCSB incident.

It’s vitally important for college leaders to be aware of the distinguishing characteristics of anti-Semitic hate speech. The roots of anti-Semitic discourse, detailed in the Brandeis Center’s fact sheet, are very old. But antiquated doesn’t mean out of touch. And American Jewish college students are far too often seeing, hearing, and feeling these old hatreds today. 

President and General Counsel The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law Washington, D.C.


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