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Jewish World Review May 19, 2002 / 8 Sivan, 5762

Diana West

Diana West
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Consumer Reports

Hate U. | From San Francisco State University comes a report that should shock America. It is an open letter from Laurie Zoloth, director of the university's Jewish Studies Program, describing a place that has become, in Zoloth's words, "a venue for hate speech and anti-Semitism" -- namely, her own campus. Such harsh phraseology must not be taken lightly. "Hate speech" may be a term sometimes slung around like a careless cudgel to squelch debate, but it accurately labels the acid invective she describes at SFSU. So, too, does the more loaded term "anti-Semitism."

Zoloth conveys what it's like for her to walk the grounds of an American campus she says is papered with "maps of the Middle East that do not include Israel, past posters of cans of soup with labels on them (depicting) drops of blood, labeled 'canned Palestinian children meat, slaughtered according to Jewish rites under American license.'" She recounts "poster after poster calling out 'Zionism=racism, and Jews=Nazis.'"

"This is not civic discourse, this is not free speech," she writes. "This is the Weimar Republic with brown shirts it cannot control. This is the casual introduction of the medieval blood libel and virulent hatred smeared around our campus in a manner so ordinary that it hardly excites concern -- except if you are a Jew, and you understand hateful words have always led to hateful deeds."

She writes in the wake of such a deed. Last week, she continues, "the hatred coalesced in a hate mob." It happened after a May 7 rally -- a peaceable pro-Israel gathering organized by Hillel students that drew hundreds of people -- when what Zoloth describes as "a large, angry crowd of Palestinians and their supporters" descended on a group of about 50 rally participants who had stayed behind to pray, talk and clean up. The pro-Palestinian group approached the Jews, screaming slogans that SFSU President Robert A. Corrigan has since described in his own public letter about the event as being "too hate-filled to repeat." Zoloth puts some of them on the record: "Get out of here or we will kill you!" "Go back to Russia!" and "Hitler did not finish the job!"

Zoloth goes on to depict a scene familiar from historic accounts of czarist Russia or Nazi Germany, but not from life in America: She recounts the experience of being among a group of Jewish students "trapped in a corner of the plaza, grouped under the flags of Israel, while an angry, out-of-control mob, literally chanting for our deaths, surrounded us."

Where were the police? Where was the administration? "The police told me that they had been told not to arrest anyone," Zoloth writes, "and that if they did, 'it would start a riot.' I told them that it already was a riot." Frankly, the rampage she describes sounds alarmingly like the beginnings of a pogrom. Indeed, as SFSU President Corrigan wrote, "This group became so threatening in gesture and hostile in language that we interposed a police line between the groups."

That same "we" -- as in university officials -- however, remained at a safe distance. "Not one administrator came to stand with us," Zoloth writes, adding: "I knew that if a crowd of Palestinians or black students had been there, surrounded by white racists screaming racist threats, shielded by police, the faculty would have no trouble deciding which side to stand on." Her analysis is as troubling as it is insightful.

An armed police escort was the only way to provide safety for the Jews. If you call that safety. I call it an outrage. It is not just the existence of such Jew-hatred that poses a threat to civil society, but the unabashed, unchecked and virtually unremarked-upon exercise of it. Corrigan says disciplinary measures will be taken against violators of the university code. Good. More important, though, is for one and all to decide, resolutely, that such offenses against democracy require acting, and not waiting to take a stand.

JWR contributor Diana West is a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2001, Diana West