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The anti-Israel Campaign at Vassar Goes Through the Looking Glass

The anti-Israel Campaign at Vassar Goes Through the Looking Glass

“When the head of the Jewish Studies program at a prestigious college can support the BDS, I feel like I’ve stepped through the Looking Glass.”

JJ Goldberg of the Forward has weighed in on the anti-Israel intimidation campaign at Vassar College that Prof. Jacobson covered quite extensively last week.

Goldberg, working off reporting by Philip Weiss of the anti-Israel blog, MondoWeiss, acknowledged that Legal Insurrection had reported new facts on the story but:

Among other things, Jacobson points to the fact that the director of Vassar’s Jewish Studies Program is himself leaning toward sympathy with the BDS movement. Jacobson exaggerates the case: he says the director, history prof Joshua Schreier, “supports the academic boycott of Israel,” but the source he provides, a feature story in the Vassar student paper focused on the administration’s rejection of BDS, actually says Schreier has found himself rethinking as he listens to the tactical arguments pro and con, and that his “opinion is evolving, but I am currently leaning in favor of it.” Yes, tenured professors get to think out loud and let the rest of us watch their opinions evolve.

In fact Schreier does support the BDS movement as he says in the article cited by Goldberg.

“Originally, I was instinctively against it. Recently, I have heard far more reasoned, substantiated and detailed arguments in favor of the boycott.”

The “evolution” of course is towards supporting an academic boycott of Israel.

At the end of February, Schreier signed onto a letter defending the ASA boycott. Goldberg quoted Schreier selectively and ignored evidence to the contrary to assert that Prof. Jacobson “exaggerated.”

Of course that Schreier would support the ASA boycott against Israel is hardly surprising. A group of Vassar alumni and parents wrote a letter to the student newspaper decrying the anti-Israel activism that is going on at Vassar.

The 39 faculty members so afraid of being bullied about their anti-Israel views are curiously undisturbed by the chilling effect their activities have on those in their community who might oppose academic boycotts or reject the ASA’s targeting and demonization of Israel. They failed to consider the impact of their manifesto on students attending the “open conversation” about the Israel/West Bank trip two days later or worse, deliberately timed it to silence pro-Israel voices. Certainly, their fear of inhibiting an open exchange of ideas has not inspired them to present a balanced view of the Israel/Palestinian history in their classes (as one of the signatories once candidly admitted in his course description, students should not expect “an ‘objective’ account of a ‘two- sided’ conflict”). Nor has it compelled them to invite speakers who might present an alternative view of the Jewish state from the racist, apartheid one portrayed by the anti- Zionist guests who are regularly invited. (In the last 12 months alone, Vassar hosted Judith Butler and a Palestinian slam poet, both of whom — like the leaders of BDS — advocate the elimination of the Jewish state.) We can only imagine the repressive effect of the pro-BDS hostility on students worried that their stridently anti-Israel professors will grade them harshly for expressing contrary views and that their apartheid-chanting peers will ostracize them unless they keep silent. Indeed, this bullying has been so effective that the only public voices so far supporting President Hill’s denunciation of the ASA boycott or protesting the anti-Israel ethos have come from alumni and one brave Vassar student in a letter to The Wall Street Journal.

That signatory is none other than Prof. Schreier whose 2008 syllabus (for a course he still teaches) states:

This class traces the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict from its roots during the late Ottoman period through the current period. Students should keep in mind that this course is NOT designed to present “an objective” account of a “two-sided” conflict.

That a professor could be so upfront about his biases is shocking.

The topsy-turvy nature of the anti-Israel campaign was captured nicely by the first commenter to Goldberg:

It is the great irony of our time that I, a very liberal person politically, can only find comfort and common sense regarding Israel from Conservatives. When the head of the Jewish Studies program at a prestigious college can support the BDS, I feel like I’ve stepped through the Looking Glass.

Ben Packer added:

Thank G-d for Professor Jacobson! Without his tireless efforts, who knows where American academia would be. When professors and administrators support anti-Semitic campaigns on their campuses, its only a matter of time before Jewish students are targeted. Its a very natural and dangerous progression. We need more Prof. Jacobson’s to defend their campuses from this bigoted thuggery, otherwise, Jews should simply boycott those campuses and see how that goes for them and their loss of top students.

[Some edits were made after publication.]

[Photo: Vassar / YouTube ]


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I’m surprised Schreier only now came out in favor of the academic boycott. Based on the appalling syllabus for his course on the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, he had decided several years ago that nothing Israel could do is right. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a one-sided, biased syllabus for a college course. I teach a course about the city of Jerusalem, and I attempt to provide several points of view on the history of Jerusalem in the 20th century, especially the events of 1948-49 – with the purpose of helping students understand the conflict. My goal is not to indoctrinate students, which seems to be Schreier’s purpose.

““Originally, I was instinctively against it. Recently, I have heard far more reasoned, substantiated and detailed arguments in favor of the boycott.””
Originally, I was instinctively against it. Recently, I have heard far more rants in favor of hatred.

The real question is how a guy who opposes Israel becomes head of “Jewish Studies” at a major university?

It’s like putting a Klan Kleagle in charge of the “African-American Studies” department.

Goldberg’s willful deceptions are hardly surprising: being a leftist today means being willing to lie constantly and defend other liars fervently.

The only leftist who seems to give a hoot for truth is Paglia, and I’m not sure it is so easy to categorize her as “leftist.”

So the bottom line is that until/unless Israel stops wanting to be a Jewish state and lets every Arab who can trace their family back to having ever lived in the area return and take over the country, privileged kids of color, attending uber left wing schools, are going to protest & picket along with professors who have little sense of anything other than the academic bubble

David R. Graham | March 30, 2014 at 11:21 pm

Why would Jews apply to these criminal institutions, either as students or as teachers? Why do they vote for a criminal organization masquerading as a political party — i.e., the “Democratic” Party? What in the name of all that is gracious is wrong with Jews that they keep jumping into Moloch’s mouth?

    David R. Graham in reply to David R. Graham. | March 30, 2014 at 11:30 pm

    Of course, Christians too are jumping into Moloch’s mouth. I don’t know. Drugs? Promiscuity? Step parents? FSB? Marketing? Evil times? I don’t know. I just do not have any sympathy for anyone who jumps into Moloch’s mouth then shrieks for extrication.

      There are a greater number of conservative Christians who oppose BDS and understand the real agenda of the Palestinians: the destruction of Israel. I just wish more of my Jewish friends felt the same way.

      For all of her concessions toward peace in the last fifty years, Israel has gained nothing. What she has gained, she has paid a price in blood, in order to defend herself from further attacks by her enemies.

Thanks for bringing my attention to the Goldberg article. What I find incredibly annoying is the faint praise plus casting of aspersions he gives to Jacobson’s analysis of Schreier’s position which Jacobson analyzed factually and correctly. JJ Goldberg’s arrogance, the disdain, the pontificating without doubt come from his sense of superiority over a “blogger”. His pseudo-evenhandedness in claiming that Weiss is thoughtful and civil are nauseating and mark him as a bonafide idiot incapable of analyzing facts. You are correct that the best aspect of this article are the comments.
When a journalist writing for a respectable publication peddles this type of crappy article its another step through the looking glass.

Juba Doobai! | March 31, 2014 at 6:11 am

Given that his position “evolved” after hearing the anti-Semitic point of view, it would be fascinating to hear Schreier’s take on the Final Solution after he spends time reading The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Mein Kampf.