Anti-Semitism on European campuses: In serene settings, ugly hate festers

From the outside, Western faculties appear as genteel oases of wisdom and knowledge. In truth, institutions of higher education are becoming brutal offspring of anti-Jew hatred. Famous faculties that have been a historical cradle of European civilization are sacrificing freedom and Israel to barbarism and obscurantism.

Even in the United States, the gloves are coming off. The Institute for Jewish & Community Research in San Francisco recently published a report titled “Alone on the Quad: Understanding Jewish Student Isolation on Campus,” one of the most comprehensive surveys of its kind. More than 40 percent of students confirm anti-Semitism on their campus; some 41 percent have encountered anti-Israel remarks made in class by professors.

Numbers also are telling in Europe. While boasting large numbers of Muslim students and students from Arab countries, European universities count very few Jewish or pro-Israeli students among their population. Whereas 15 to 20 percent of young people matriculating in top American universities are Jewish, in Europe only a few faculties claim even a tenth of this figure.

Today, we are witnessing the worst wave of anti-Israel hatred since April 6, 2002 when 123 academicians signed an open letter, published in Britain’s daily Guardian, calling for a moratorium on all cultural links with Israel.

Recently, the University of Paris 8 closed its doors for two days to avoid taking a harder stance about a planned conference against the Jewish state.

The case of Pieter van der Horst, professor of early Christian history and Judaism at Utrecht University, is emblematic of the fear and hatred dominating Dutch academia. The pioneering researcher wanted to argue in his valedictory lecture that “the Islamization of European anti-Semitism is one of the most frightening developments of the past decades.” However, his university’s chancellor prevented him from doing so by censoring the lecture in advance.

“It should have been my last lecture,” van der Horst told me. “The university’s committee claimed it was too dangerous to give the complete lecture because it might trigger violent reactions from ‘well-organized Muslim student groups.’ I decided to submit an expurgated text because I did not want to expose myself and others to potential danger.

“I capitulated to self-censorship,” he added. “In the country of Anne Frank we accept that today the Jews don’t walk in the streets with their religious symbols. We accept that in Holland synagogues are protected by the police. What will be the end of all this?”

Dozens of academicians just signed a petition condemning Liverpool University’s invitation to Israel’s deputy ambassador to the U.K., Alon Roth-Snir. Meanwhile, students at Edinburgh University voted in favor of the boycott of Israeli goods. At Queen’s University in Belfast, Palestinian militants violently attacked Israeli attaché Solon Solomon.

Benny Morris, professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, was assaulted last year on a street by a group of Muslims before a conference at the London School of Economics. When Morris finished his lesson on Israel’s war of 1948, he was unceremoniously bundled away through the back exit of the faculty, past the garbage cans, out of fear for his safety if he left the building in the normal manner.

“I felt like a Jew in Berlin in the ’20s,” a shaken Morris told me. “Israel is an absolute taboo in Europe. At Cambridge, my class was canceled after intimidation by Islamist groups. And I think that it will only get worse.”

Matthias Küntzel, a German political scientist, was invited by Leeds University for three days of seminars. His lecture on “Hitler’s Legacy: Islamic Anti-Semitism in the Middle East” was expected to draw a large audience. But when Küntzel arrived at the British faculty, he was informed that his lecture had been canceled “on security grounds.”

Last autumn, Israeli professor Ronen Cohen, whose “sin” is that of teaching at Ariel University, was expelled from a German academic conference in Berlin (he was later reinstated after a storm of protest). Elsewhere, Spain’s Housing Ministry disqualified Ariel University from participating in the international competition on solar power because of its address in the West Bank.

According to a poll commissioned by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 62 percent of university students say they do not want Jewish classmates. These numbers are as surprising as they are worrying: The most anti-Semitic people in Spain are supposedly the most educated.

A prominent figure in Belgium’s Jewish community, Jacques Brotchi, just resigned from the board of University of Brussels after denouncing grave anti-Semitic incidents within the campus. A study published by professor Marc Elchardus of the Flemish University showed that 50 percent of Muslim students harbor anti-Semitic sentiments.

In Italy, popular anti-Semitic websites called for the “blacklisting” of Jewish professors. An Israeli student at the University of Turin, Amit Peer, confessed to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that “the Jews here are hiding their own identity because they risk becoming a target.” Israeli attaché Shai Cohen has been prevented from speaking at Pisa University after a violent attack by students, who called him “butcher.” The Israeli ambassador, Ehud Gol, fled Florence University after a similar “protest.”

A shoe was hurled at Israeli Ambassador Benny Dagan while he was giving a lecture at Stockholm University, and a Jewish student, Anja Savosnic, was forced to give up Hebrew studies at the University of Oslo due to anti-Semitic attacks from fellow students.

Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz was banned from Norwegian universities because of his views on Israel. Stockholm University professor of philosophy Torbjörn Tännsjö argued in an article that Jews should distance themselves from the State of Israel or otherwise they might be subjected to anti-Semitism.

In 1936, at the beginning of a new wave of terrorism against the Jews, Zionist leader Berl Katznelson wrote: “We are called upon to defend ourselves not only from the physical marauders but also from the spiritual marauders.” Today the new spiritual marauders are based in Western faculties. They want to bring the war to the home of every Jew. It’s an academic final solution epitomized by a sign on the walls of London University: “Peace with Israel is a crime.”

Giulio Meotti is a journalist with the Italian newspaper Il Foglio and author of “A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel’s Victims of Terrorism.”