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We Need to Invest in Academic Research on Antisemitism Now

Anti-Israel protesters outside Columbia University in Manhattan, New York City, April 22, 2024. Photo: USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Connect

We live in a world of escalating antisemitism — and understanding this hatred is a necessity, not a luxury.

From Hamas’ brutal actions to the resurgence of anti-Jewish hostility on college campuses, we face a complex web of hatred fueled by ignorance, prejudice, and dangerous worldviews. To effectively combat the threats before us, we must build and strengthen an indispensable tool for the long run — powerful academic research.

Almost a decade ago, I came to the United States to study European antisemitism from a serene place in the Midwest — at Indiana University’s Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism. I’m proud to still be working there, albeit increasingly on the issue of antisemitism in the US and on social media. The explosion of antisemitism that I saw in Europe 20 years ago, is what I see in the United States today. To combat it, we must fight on many fronts, and we cannot afford to neglect the intellectual battle.


Knowledge is Power

Without a deep understanding of the ideological underpinnings of groups like Hamas, which are rooted in genocidal and redemptive antisemitism, we cannot fully grasp the motivations behind their actions, let alone predict their next steps and those of their enablers.

The misconception of antisemitic terror groups is one of the reasons why some people still believe that Hamas is a “resistance” movement.

Without understanding the dynamics that are at play when Jews are violently attacked, we cannot properly see why antisemites are now doubling down instead of showing empathy for Jews, especially after October 7.

Antisemites are emboldened by antisemitic violence unless they face strong opposition, which is not the case at present. Without a well-developed knowledge of antisemitism, it’s hard to understand why seemingly progressive, albeit simplistic, ideologies feed into antisemitism and then become self-destructive.

Without knowledge of the history of antisemitism, we might think that the anti-Zionist slogans we hear today are the spontaneous expression of grassroots organizations and misguided reactions to the suffering of the Palestinians — when in fact almost all of them were cooked up in the Soviet propaganda machine decades ago and deliberately disseminated after the 1967 Six-Day War to hurt not only Israel, but the West in general.

Now this old antisemitism and anti-Israel ideologies are being reintroduced by well-funded organizations and spreading rapidly. Without such knowledge about these efforts in the past, we’re fighting shadows in the present and the future.


Academia Must Become Our Long-Term Ally Again

Jewish advocacy groups do important work, but they’re largely focused on immediate responses. For long-term solutions, we need the in-depth research that academic centers can offer, if they do it right and if they get the funding they need.

We need answers to these questions:

What best practices have proven to yield measurable results in the fight against antisemitism?
What are the main sources of antisemitism today, and what are the specific threats posed by each of these sources?
What are the mechanisms that can stop or reverse the normalization of antisemitism?
How can we identify potential allies who have a vested interest in combating the destructive mindset of antisemitism?

Academic centers researching antisemitism are still few and far between, and the ones that exist are severely understaffed and underfunded. A prime example is our Institute. It has a robust academic program, including an extensive and high-quality webinar series, an outstanding book series, a research lab on online antisemitism that attracts many students, and it offers a wide variety of courses on the Holocaust, antisemitism, and related topics.

However, the Institute, one of the largest of its kind in the US, currently has only two academic positions. Important research projects are put on hold, including the expansion of its research lab on antisemitism on social media, sources of anti-Jewish violence in the New York area, the evaluation of best practices for combating antisemitism in universities and high schools, the weaponization of the Holocaust against Jews across the political spectrum, the role of Islamist antisemitism in America, and many others.

While many junior and senior scholars would be eager to do some of the much-needed research, as of now, there are very few postdoctoral positions, visiting fellowships, and professorships available in the country. This needs to change quickly if meaningful research is to get off the ground.

Academic centers can bridge the partisan divide in which the fight against antisemitism is used to attack political opponents instead of addressing the issues at hand. And if these centers are robust and don’t depend on the good will of administrators for funding, they are better able to use academic freedom to produce knowledge and take positions that disrupt some of the Holocaust distortions and attacks on Jews. This is important within academia, where some of these attacks are made in the name of progressive academics — but it’s also important outside academia and in the fight against antisemitism across the political spectrum.


A Call to Action

More support for research and programs that fully understand and challenge antisemitic ideologies is vitally needed. Many alumni and donors are rightly shocked by what they have been seeing on campus after October 7. The lack of condemnation of the Hamas atrocities, calls for genocide against the Jewish people in the name of freedom and resistance, and the proliferation of antisemitic activities across the country are outrageous.

But giving up on universities is not the right strategy. Universities are too important to the future of our societies. Donors should use their leverage to remind universities that boycotts of Israel are fundamentally opposed to academic freedom, that antisemitic theories are the antithesis of the seeking of truth, and that calls for the genocide of Jews and the destruction of an entire country are morally so reprehensible that they should have no place on campus.

Donors, both large and small, should support research and programs that oppose antisemitic thinking and behavior.

By investing in serious and effective academic research, we equip ourselves with the knowledge and tools needed to effectively combat antisemitism, not only today but for generations to come. We need a vision for a future in which all individuals are respected and taken seriously, including open and frank discussions. If this cannot be done in academia, where can it be done?

Günther Jikeli holds the Erna B. Rosenfeld Professorship at the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism in the Borns Jewish Studies Program at Indiana University. He heads the research lab “Social Media & Hate.”

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Why No One Mourns Iran’s Dead President

Former Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during a meeting with the cabinet in Tehran, Iran, January 19, 2023. Photo: Presidential Website/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS

The strange tale of our times is that Ebrahim Raisi — coincidentally — could not escape justice. He was responsible for a signature machine that executed at least 5,000 prisoners and opponents — reported to be 10,000 or more — in the 1980s, along with a host of other crimes during his four decades within the Iranian Shiite establishment.

Amidst the chaos of the news that Raisi’s helicopter had crashed, the Iranian media gradually mentioned that it was an accident. Of course, no signs of emotion or prejudice were seen on Supreme Leader Khamenei’s face. It is now believed that the helicopter may have exploded, and that its GPS malfunctioned. Regardless, Raisi’s death was announced and, according to religious propaganda, the government’s propaganda machine declared him a martyr — which is absurd.

The news of his death brought joy to the survivors of the 1980s murders, and to the families who have been killed and executed in these last three years under his presidency, or reign of terror.

What will happen next is anyone’s guess — though there’s likely to be no visible change at the moment. The clerical regime in Iran fears nation-wide protests by the dissatisfied and oppressed population, who might openly express their joy or distribute candy. There is a huge rift between the Iranian people and the crisis-stricken government, and the balance could be disrupted at any moment.

Interestingly, the pro-regime reformists outdid the conservatives in mourning Raisi’s death. Former president Khatami, who had previously written a eulogy for Asadollah Lajevardi — a notorious criminal of the infamous Evin prison — wrote a heartfelt condolence for Raisi.

Although the mullahs’ regime in Tehran still commits murders, their regime of death and terror is losing its base of power more and more each day. Gradually, both internally and internationally, society has invalidated the Islamic Republic.

Since the rise of the mullahs to power in 1979, Iran has been emptied of identity and authenticity, and has become closer to the Arabian Age of Ignorance in Islam’s emergence. The hostility and vendetta of the clerics against the history and culture of Iran is undeniable. But the culture of hatred, prejudice, mourning, ignorance, and stupidity of the clerics does not — and has not — stood against the high value of Iranian culture.

The Shiite Islamic caliphate is an unpleasant phenomenon in Iranian history that, in 45 years, has reintroduced the sword of barbarism — opening a new chapter of death, bloodshed, and destruction in the historical records.

After 1979, which was a collective suicide of a nation and a deceptive revolution, a destructive and bloodthirsty mullah came to power. And without any conservatism or discretion, it must be said that the 1979 uproar was actually a terrorist riot by Khomeini, a masterpiece of stupidity that has rarely occurred in the history of revolts and revolutions. The Iranian nation became a lab for fanatic leaders that have led a nation to the brink of destruction. The deceptive title of the republic was initially a trick, but it has actually become the Islamic caliphate of the rule of the jurist.

Still, the rebellious and defiant Iranian people — who don’t accept this theocratic and tyrannical rule — are seeking a regime change that would send the mullahs into the mire of history. They have suffered 45 years of frustration, hopelessness, confusion, clean loss, broken helm — and after 45 years of disastrous existence, they prefer an honorable government to lead them forward.

After the death and removal of Raisi, the mafia regime may turn to moderate conservatives who might quickly hold a sham election — or perhaps the government will give up on participation. Still, Khamenei needs an obedient and compliant person.

Eventually Khamenei — one of the bloodthirsty villains of this century — will go. But Raisi’s name was recorded as a criminal executioner in contemporary Iranian history. No human being who believes in humanity is praying for his forgiveness.

In the pages of history, the mullahs in Tehran will leave memories of blood, death, executions, injustice, theft, violence, and warmongering. But the terrible fall of the disaster-stricken country of Iran is also not far from the imagination. Iran might lose much more in the mullahs’ gamble.

Erfan Fard is a counterterrorism analyst and Middle East Studies researcher based in Washington, DC. Twitter@EQFARD.

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University of Michigan Clears Pro-Hamas Encampment

In the early morning hours on May 21, 2024, police cleared a tent encampment set up by an anti-Zionist group at the University of Michigan. Photo: Dave Boucher via Reuters Connect

The University of Michigan on Tuesday morning cleared a “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” with the help of law enforcement, the school’s president, Santa Ono, has confirmed.

The action followed a nearly month-long occupation of The Diag section of campus by Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) — an anti-Zionist group — during which both students and non-students destroyed school property, disrupted university business, and amassed outside the homes of school officials.

An inspection of the encampment by the local fire marshal prompted the university to quell the demonstration as soon as possible, Ono said on Tuesday. The marshal determined that SAFE’s “overloading power sources” and “using open flames” after repeatedly being told not to do so could have started a fire that resulted in “catastrophic loss of life.”

Police struggled to gain compliance with their order to vacate the area, according to footage of their engagement with the protesters which emerged on social media. After police approached the encampment clad in riot gear, the protesters began chanting and, locking arms with one another, tensing up for a fight. In response, the officers deployed pepper spray and began dismantling their tents. At least one non-student was arrested for assaulting an officer.

“Moving forward, individuals will be welcome to protest as they always have at the University of Michigan, so long as those protests don’t violate the rights of others and are consistent with university policies meant to ensure the safety of our community,” Ono said in Tuesday’s statement. “To be clear, there is no place for violence or intimidation at the University of Michigan. Such behavior will not be tolerated, and individuals will be held accountable.”

He added, “We must find productive ways to engage with one another. We must leverage facts and reason in a spirit of open debate and find ways to work toward solutions. If we can manage to do that here — a place that is home to some of the most brilliant minds in the country — then our state, nation, and world will continue to benefit from the diverse perspectives that our university brings together on the most important issues of our day.”

Following the clearing of the encampment, SAFE alleged that law enforcement had “brutalized” the protesters and announced a new demonstration outside the Washtenaw County Jail, where the arrested protesters are being processed.

“Please meet us there,” the group said.

The University of Michigan is one of over 100 schools where anti-Zionists took over sections of campus and refused to leave unless school administrators agreed to condemn and boycott Israel. Footage of the demonstrations has shown the protesters chanting in support of Hamas, calling for the destruction of Israel, and even threatening to harm members of the Jewish community on campus. In many cases, they lambasted the US and Western civilization more broadly.

In the past three weeks, law enforcement has cleared encampments at Harvard University, Yale University, Columbia University, and George Washington University, among other schools.

In some instances, faculty — dozens of whom attached themselves to the demonstrations — attempted to prevent police from restoring order, resulting in their arrest. That happened, for example, at Emory University in Atlanta, where economics professor Caroline Fohlin intervened to stop the arrest of a student. In response, officers tackled her to the ground while she said repeatedly, “I’m a professor!” Meanwhile, at Northeastern University in Boston, professors formed a human barrier around a student encampment to stop it from being dismantled by officers, and at the University of Texas at Austin, members of the group Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine called for the resignation of their president, Jay Hartzell, because he requested police assistance.

Mass participation of faculty in pro-Hamas demonstrations marks an inflection point in American history, according to Asaf Romirowsky, an expert on the Middle East and executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.

Since the 1960s, he told The Algemeiner earlier this month, far-left “scholar activists” have gradually seized control of the higher education system, tailoring admissions processes and the curricula to foster ideological radicalism and conformity, which students then carry with them into careers in government, law, corporate America, and education. This system, he concluded, must be challenged.

“The cost of trading scholarship for political propagandizing has been a zeal and pride among faculty who esteem and cheer terrorism, a historical development which is quite telling and indicative of the evolution of the Marxist ideology which has been seeping into the academy since the 1960s,” Romirowsky said. “The message is very clear to all of us who are looking on from the outside at this, and institutions have to begin drawing a red line. The protests are not about free speech. They are about supporting terrorism, about calling for a genocide of Jews.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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Top Advisor to Mahmoud Abbas: ‘Oct. 7 Can Repeat Itself 100 Times … Perhaps Even More Seriously’

PA President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during a meeting in Ramallah, in the West Bank August 18, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman/Pool

In an interview three days ago, a top Palestinian Authority (PA) official and advisor to PA leader Mahmoud Abbas — Mahmoud Al-Habbash — threatened Israel that “Oct. 7 can repeat itself 100 times, and perhaps even more seriously.”

Al-Habbash envisions the murder of 1,000 innocent Israeli civilians — babies, children, youth, women, men, and the elderly — more than 100 times. He vows that hundreds/thousands more Israeli women will be brutally raped, and Israeli men will be sadistically killed. He said that 100 more times, 240 innocent Israeli civilians will be taken captive and held hostage for months.

This will happen “if the Palestinian cause will not be justly, comprehensively, and permanently resolved … on the basis of the UN resolutions”:

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ Advisor on Religious Affairs and Islamic Relations Mahmoud Al-Habbash: “If the Palestinian cause will not be justly, comprehensively, and permanently resolved, at least on the basis of international legitimacy, at least on the basis of the UN resolutions, then Oct. 7 can repeat itself 100 times, and perhaps even more seriously.”

[Mahmoud Al-Habbash, Facebook page, May 18, 2024]

PA leaders have repeated that they “only” want a two-state solution on the 1967 borders, with eastern Jerusalem as its capital — but Palestinian Media Watch has documented numerous times that they tell their own people that they really want all of the State of Israel — from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

In addition, the “UN resolutions” that the PA demands fulfilled include UN Resolution 194.

UN Resolution 194 includes the words “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so.”

While this was not totally impossible in December 1948 — when the resolution passed — today, it would mean the destruction of Israel. With 5.9 million people that UNRWA recognizes as “refugees,” UN 194 is the PA’s recipe for the end of Israel.

In fact, the PA’s insistence that all 5.9 million UNRWA “refugees” immigrate to Israel is their way of seeking Israel’s destruction under the umbrella of a UN resolution.

 The author is a senior analyst at Palestinian Media Watch, where a version of this article was originally published.

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