Last week I applauded the German anti-BDS legislation. This week I return to anti-Semitism at home, at Bard College right here between the Berkshires and the Catskills.
The Forward's opinion editor, Batya Ungar-Sargon, was invited to speak on a panel at an anti-Semitism conference hosted by the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard. She walked out of that conference midway and subsequently wrote an article titled I Was Protested at Bard College for Being a Jew. If you follow Sargon's writing for the Forward, you'll find her one of the most critical writers in Jewish (or any) media about Israel. It was that fact (I suspect) that made it so hard for her to deal with the protests she encountered.
Personally I am not surprised when a discussion about anti-Semitism can't be separated from Israel or Zionism - certainly not on a college campus on a panel with three Jews. I actually find it a bit naive of Sargon not to expect otherwise. Students for Justice for Palestine (promoters of BDS) don't just protest these discussions, they make it impossible for anyone to speak. Sargon also found it surprising that Bard faculty and other participating scholars joined the protests. She fully expected that her request ahead of the panel that the protests would take place at the Zionism discussion was ignored. The SJP protesters of course disrupted the conversation, faculty and others supported them and Sargon left the panel in protest.
In the aftermath Sargon's words sounded more like Deborah Lipstadt (yes, it has been a few weeks since I mentioned Lipstadt, I know): "Right-wing anti-Semites see any accusation of anti-Semitism as a Jewish conspiracy to take away the rights of whites, while left-wing anti-Semites see the same accusation as an attempt to silence Palestinians." The mere raising of the issue is unacceptable since it makes those who hate Israel feel "unsafe." Perhaps seeing what is a reality on campuses everywhere first hand finally reached and disillusioned her. One can hope. Someone always wants to attack Israel and because they do it is hard to distinguish between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. As Sargon learned, even strong critics of Israel aren't safe.
Bard's most famous graduates Donald Fagan and Walter Becker, known as Steely Dan, were once arrested at Bard together with a few dozen students for possession of marijuana . "I'm never going back to my old school," they wrote and sang feeling betrayed by the school that helped the police plant an undercover officer among them. Fifty years later Ungar-Sargon might want to better prepare before going back to school because for BDS or SJP, what you stand for, your values and your opinions are of no consequence. It only matters that you are Jewish.
I include a link to Sargon's article (so you can read it in her words and not how I read them). When you do, please pay attention to several letters to the editor at the bottom of the article, some from people who claim they were misrepresented in the article.