The Coalition for Jewish Values (CJV), an organization representing over 2000 Orthodox rabbis, is demanding that colleges and universities drop their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs because of concerns that staff for these programs are promoting antisemitism. Rabbi Yaakov Menken, managing director of CJV, told Fox News, “We believe that universities should suspend all DEI programs pending a comprehensive review of how candidates are selected for staff positions, because those harboring what should be obvious disqualifying biases were apparently identified on literally dozens of campuses with influence over thousands of students.”
Menken and the CJV based their demand on a study conducted by the Heritage Foundation that examined the Twitter feeds of 741 DEI personnel at 65 universities. The study compared tweets about Israel with those about China. The DEI staff were found to have liked almost three times as many tweets about Israel, 95% of which were critical. On the other hand, fully 62% of tweets by DEI staff were favorable of China, a country ruled by a dictatorial Communist Party that carries out confirmed human rights abuses, including concentration camps for Muslim minorities, forced labor, forced abortions, selling human organs on the black market, and religious persecution. The Heritage Foundation concluded that the DEI staff, “express anti-Israel attitudes that are so out of proportion and imbalanced as to constitute antisemitism.”
The Heritage Foundation wrote that criticism of Israel is not necessarily antisemitic, but “the inordinate amount of attention given to Israel and the excessive criticism directed at that one country is evidence of a double-standard with respect to the Jewish state.” This double standard is consistent with antisemitism and the concern of CJV is that it puts Jewish students at these colleges and universities at risk.
Rabbi Menken went on in response to the study, “Repeatedly accusing the Jewish state of Israel of ‘genocide,’ ‘apartheid,’ and other fictitious crimes while praising China, a country that is putting Muslims in internment camps, indicates an irrational hatred of Jews and not a concern for human rights. With regards to Jews, diversity heads seem to share much in common with grand wizards of the Ku Klux Klan, and it is clear that the entire field needs to be reevaluated before more Jewish students are placed at unnecessary risk.”
There are many shortcomings to the diversity, equity, and inclusion movement, not least of which is the preference for “equity” over “equality,” but that’s another post. One of the most damaging is a tendency toward antisemitism while turning a blind eye to the horrors of dictatorial states. Just earlier this month, past and current faculty members of the University of Southern California wrote a letter to university administrators demanding they “publicly and explicitly rebuke Yasmeen Mashayekh for her offensive behavior and to distance USC from her hateful statements.” Mashayekh is a DEI senator for USC’s Viterbi Graduate Student Association. Mashayekh has written antisemitic tweets, including, “Death to Israel and its b**** the U.S.,” “Israel has no history just a criminal record,” “yel3an el yahood [curse the Jews],” and “If you are not for the complete destruction of Israel and the occupation forces then you’re anti-Palestinian.” Mashayekh has refused to apologize or retract her tweets. USC offered a rather lame response, saying, “Even though the statements at issue are legally protected, we understand they are disturbing. USC rejects and condemns hatred in all its forms.” USC has not disciplined Mashayekh. Earlier this year, Google reassigned its “global diversity” lead Kamau Bobb after antisemitic tweets he posted in 2007 resurfaced. Bobb had written, “If I were a Jew I would be concerned about my insatiable appetite for war and killing in defense of myself,” and “I don’t know how I would reconcile that identity [being Jewish] with the behavior of fundamentalist Jewish extremists or of Israel as a nation.” I think it’s telling that Bobb was reassigned rather than dismissed. In 2017, a flyer was strewn about the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago that read, “Ending white privilege begins with ending Jewish privilege” and included false claims, such as 44% of American Jews are in the top 1% of income earners.
The DEI movement needs to come to terms with what is a serious lack of judgment. Certainly, there are many in the DEI movement who support the Palestinian cause. However, support for any legitimate issues related to the Palestinians is not the same as antisemitism, and it need not descend into antisemitism. Too many in the DEI movement seem drawn to extremes, however. If you are opposed to any of their positions, you are a racist. If you are pro-Israel, you are anti-Palestinian and an enemy. Needless to say, given the example of Ms. Mashayekh above, too many in the movement are drawn to violence, at least in language. But language too quickly turns to action, and that is proved by the riots, arsons, and even murders carried out by DEI actors and allies in the cities whose downtowns have been turned into battlegrounds.
Colleges and universities are supposed to be places where people can share their ideas safely in an open forum. Threats of violence and calls for destroying the reputations, careers, or even the lives of all those who oppose a certain viewpoint suppress the free exchange of ideas. Which, of course, is the point of those who engage in threats of violence. College and university administrators are the ones who are charged with the responsibility of maintaining an environment where viewpoints are not suppressed by threats of violence or other measures of retaliation. Based on at least one survey of college and university students who say they fear retaliation for sharing their views, these administrators are failing at their job.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.