America’s universities have long been hotbeds of anti-war activism. Among student bodies and faculties at colleges across the country, demonstrations and boycotts have been conducted to call national attention to violence throughout the world. Unfortunately, the outrage over wartime atrocities tends to be extremely selective, especially when it comes to the state of Israel.
More than 1,000 university professors have endorsed the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. According to the campaign’s website, they are doing so in an attempt to “take a public, principled stance in support of equality, self-determination, human rights (including the right to education), and true democracy.”
It’s impossible to deny the essential nature of those principles in creating good government. But it’s also impossible to overlook the glaring double standard in when judging Israel by these ideals.
Israel is the only functional representative democracy in the Middle East, and its commitment to equality, education and basic human rights vastly exceeds that of any of its neighbors. Consider the 2013 report from Freedom House, an independent think tank that grades nations on their human rights records. With 1 as its highest score and 7 its lowest, Freedom House rated Israel a 1.5 in overall freedom, a 2 in civil liberties, and a 1 in political liberties. That’s in stark contrast to Hamas, which received in 6 in each of those categories.
As for self-determination, those currently attacking Israel deny its right to exist. In contrast, Israel would welcome the creation of a Palestinian state, yet Hamas has no interest in seeking a peace that would allow Israel to remain standing.
In the current conflict, on campuses across the country, though, it is Israel, — and Israel alone, — that is being called to account.
Five student governments in the UC system in California have passed formal Israel divestment resolutions, as has Loyola University in Chicago. At UC Berkeley, one of the sponsors of the divestment bills insisted that he didn’t want any more student money to go to the “destruction of homes” at Israel’s hands. That sentiment might have carried more credibility had it also included some criticism of Hamas’ unrelenting campaign of violence against Israeli civilians.
Granted, this is a complex situation, and we understand and appreciate the concern over Israeli responses to Palestinian attacks, especially when it comes to civilian casualties. At the same time, it has to be noted that aggressors in this latest conflict are the Palestinians, who as of this writing have rejected the ceasefire to which Israel has agreed.
To ignore any Palestinian culpability for this conflict, as so many of these universities have done, is to willfully defy reality. Universities are supposed to be where students learn diverse points of view. But when it comes to Israel, the lessons are remarkably one-sided.