The YouTube video “The Jewish Voices on Campus,” posted in early October, has had nearly 148,000 viewings, and has achieved notoriety in the post-Protective Edge and post-Salaita hasbara echo chamber. I was therefore perversely curious enough to explore the claims made in the video. Certainly most Mondoweiss readers will not be surprised by either the video or my findings; nevertheless, a dissection of the video merits exposure, both for the threadbare credibility of its charges and the blatancy of its deceptions, as well as implications for efforts at truth-telling.
The 5+ minute video was produced by Aaron Goldenberg based on what is apparently a national conference of the Jewish fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi, early this past Fall. A longer 9+ minute and less-viewed video simply called “The Jewish Voices” includes, for good measure, an introductory section featuring David Horowitz that is unrelated to the conference. I will delineate the segments of the latter, longer video below.
I was led to these videos while exploring the claims made in a guest commentary in my local newspaper, the News-Gazette (Urbana-Champaign), which has been instrumental in demonizing Steven Salaita. The author, Miriam Fendius Elman of Syracuse University writes:
“Over 40 percent of Jewish-American college students report that they’ve experienced harassment or intimidation, or are aware of anti-Semitism at their schools. And Cary Nelson, the former president of the AAUP from 2006-2012 who defended his university’s decision not to hire Salaita, observes that it’s becoming harder to find an academic space grounded in empathy for both Palestinians and Israelis.”
The 40% figure apparently comes from a 2011 report called “Alone on the Quad” by the Institute for Jewish and Community Research. While the title of the report’s initial section states “More than 2 in 5 Jewish students confirm anti-semitism on their campuses,” the accompanying chart reports “Percent of students who perceive anti-semitism on campus.” For Jews, the figure reported is 43%; for non-Jews, 11%. The report claims to have surveyed 1,400 students nationally; however, no further methodology or results are provided, and even the questions asked are omitted from the report.
In any event, it’s clear that this campaign to assert the existence of pervasive anti-semitism on campus includes efforts by IJCR, AMCHA, and other usual suspects such as the Legal Insurrection and Truth Revolt websites that are encountered as one explores the links accompanying AMCHA’s “Student Voices” listing, and as one explores the allegations made in “The Jewish Voices,” see below.
The longer video is story-boarded into 30 segments, averaging 19 seconds each. Needless to say but still necessary to say, little or no effort is made to explore, question, elaborate, or verify any of the claims made, their relation to pro-Palestinian students or BDS (the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement), or how these allegations might add up to the introductory assertion that “more and more Jewish students are targeted on college campuses with higher intensity and greater malice.”
The definition of innuendo is: “An allusive or oblique remark or hint, typically a suggestive or disparaging one.” That would serve to summarize the tactics utilized by Aaron Goldenberg and his enablers.
- 0:00 – Prelude: David Horowitz is speaking at the University of California San Diego in 2010. It is implied that this Muslim student wants to see Jews in-gathered in Israel so they can be destroyed. A more complicated story regarding this young woman and what transpired is presented by San Diego Channel 7.
- 0:20 Introduction: Beyond the assertion noted above, it is claimed that Jewish students are in the “cross-hairs” of BDS, SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine), and “other radical organizations.” There is brief video footage from Montreal, followed by the first of five repetitions in the video of a tussle over a flag that features a bald man in a black T-shirt, the location and real-life context of which is never specified. During this introduction and throughout the video, supporters of Palestine are presented as angry, shouting, screaming, intimidating, and incipiently violent. The narrator of the video is female; all of the Jewish voices are male.
- 0:50 In the conference meeting room, self-introduction of 10 members.
- 1:08 Brief assertions by students from UC Berkeley and Harvard regarding anti-semitism and the fashionable nature of “being against Israel” on campus, followed by footage of demonstrators with keffiyehs used as masks, implying threat and danger.
- 1:22 A Kent State student refers to a controversial professor. The article the student reads from is from 2011, with no mention of “little jihadists” or “terrorist watch list” as the student asserts.
- 1:43 A Florida State student refers to students “screaming ‘intifada,’” followed by stomping on an Israeli flag, which was “gruesome.” For the second time we see footage of a tussle over an Israeli flag and the black T-shirt; it’s implied but not confirmed that this footage is from FSU.
- 1:55 A Loyola University Chicago student describes the protest of a Birthright table that was “brutal.” Footage is shown of people in Palestinian/Arabic garb, including a child; it’s not believable that this footage corresponds to the campus event described. An alternative perspective on events at Loyola was posted on Mondoweiss.
- 2:07 In a relatively long segment, a student from UC Santa Cruz alleges feelings of fear and threat during the debates over the divestment resolution last May. Incipient violence is implied, but no evidence is offered. In a web search, no evidence can be found. The footage shown is clearly not on the UCSC campus. A Google search located “Marina’s Bar and Grill” (seen in the background, 2:25) in Miami, although I have no confirmation that this is where this footage was shot. As Mondoweiss coverage noted, Professor Tammi Ross-Benjamin runs the AMCHA initiative at UCSC (she also contributed to Cary Nelson’s edited volume in opposition to an academic boycott).
- 2:40 Interlude: The narrator asserts that “Jewish students have become targets of radical organizations with agendas filled with hate.” Jewish students are compared to “Palestinians (strangely depicted as imprisoned in a shopping cart) suffering at the hands of Hamas.” This introduces the notion, stated clearly in the conclusion of the video, that its narrative perspective is “pro-Palestine, pro-Israel, pro-peace” (thus adopting the rhetorical tactic of “The Third Narrative” by Cary Nelson, et al.).
An image of the map of Israel as a bloody knife marked “Made in Israel” and captioned by “Boycott Divest Sanction” is shown. However intended, it’s a rather confusing image. In addition, the narrator accuses the BDS movement of supporting “violence, bigotry, and anti-semitism on college campuses.” The concluding photo of a mock checkpoint can be found with this article by Tammi Ross-Benjamin, and was taken at UCLA. Apparently, in spite of the intimidating environment at UCSC, she couldn’t find a photo better than this, which of course illustrates a very different perspective.
- 3:00 A University of Oregon student refers to swastikas drawn on the fraternity’s mail boxes, and an accompanying photo is shown; no evidence is offered regarding either the perpetrators or the involvement of pro-Palestinian individuals. Several such incidents have indeed occurred around the country, but there has yet to be confirmed a connection to the pro-Palestine or BDS movement. The Oregon student also refers to the “anti-semitic Student Body President.” No elaboration is offered.
- 3:10 A University of Cincinnati student refers to the anti-semitic political campaign of Robert Ransdell of Kentucky; this campaign clearly had nothing to do with BDS. This comment competes for the most blatant and obvious deception in the video.
- 3:25 Interlude: Footage of a demonstrator with a red cap raising his middle finger, innocent Jewish fraternity brothers at the conference, a screaming woman of Arabic background, and chanting and marching demonstrators.
- 3:35 A UC Berkeley student refers to the long hours of apparently non-violent if contentious (but ultimately praiseworthy in terms of political participation) student government debate over a BDS resolution. However, he chooses to emphasize that the following day a friend of his who voted “no” to BDS was allegedly chastised by two students from another campus.
- 4:00 A University of Vermont student reports a second-hand allegation that an “anti-Israel” rally over the summer was “more anti-semitism than anti-Israel.”
- 4:07 In the longest segment of the video, which also competes for the most transparently deceptive, a University of Arizona fraternity brother describes an assault on his house by another fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, that clearly has nothing whatsoever to do with Palestine or BDS, although it may have something to do with an old-fashioned variety of anti-semitism.
- 5:04 A University of Calgary student gives a selective description of recent events in that city. Coverage in chronological order can be found here, here, here, and here, including reference to a pro-Israel as well as pro-Palestinian rally. While the student claims that the pro-Palestine rally was organized by a group on campus, it’s clear from the accompanying footage and news coverage that it occurred off campus. Nevertheless, the student states that he “fears for (his) life” while on campus. Please note the apology of the local, esteemed woman of Arabic background.
- 5:50 The Loyola University of Chicago student, referred to above in relation to the Birthright table, points out that SJP “became very active in the last year.” His words are accompanied, for the third time in this video, by footage of the tussle over an Israeli flag and the appearance of the man in the black T-shirt. The student alleges that an Orthodox friend is afraid to wear a kippah on campus.
- 6:14 The UC Berkeley student referred to above relates a story about an Israeli student who claimed at a meeting that she is both “pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli” being “booed out of (Arabic) class” the next day.
- 6:25 A University of Maryland-Baltimore County student refers to “hate rhetoric about ‘free free Palestine, go back to Israel you f’ing Jews.’” His words are accompanied by footage depicting one nondescript woman pushing another woman at a rally, and of the same man with the red cap who displayed his middle finger in a previous segment, but he is restraining himself in this excerpt.
- 6:37 The UC Berkeley student claims that one of his fraternity brothers gets called a “kike” for wearing his kippah, and that it “happens from even within the Greek system.” Again, good old-fashioned anti-semitism?
- 6:50 Interlude: The narrator refers to the “aggression of one group” influencing “how we can learn on campus;” “these crimes target Jewish students in an environment meant for open discussion.” A photo of a mock apartheid wall at UC Irvine with a tattered Israeli flag is shown. Once again, for the fourth time, the footage of the melee over the Israeli flag and the man in the black T-shirt is included.
- 7:08 A Ryerson University (Toronto) student claims that his fraternity is not recognized on campus because it is Jewish.
- 7:13 A James Madison University student says that the President of the university will not respond to requests by Jewish students for a menorah on campus and for an “official” Holocaust remembrance occasion through the school. He also refers to swastika graffiti on mail boxes and a stolen flag. James Madison University has a Hillel; it’s not clear what campus policy is regarding religious displays.
- 7:42 Interlude: Narrator: “To block open thinking and limit the knowledge we have access to is to take away the fundamental purpose of a higher education.” The man with the red cap who was previously depicted shouting while displaying his middle finger is now displayed pointing his index finger.
- 7:50 A student from the Claremont Colleges (Southern California) asserts that many professors there have called for an academic boycott of Israel.
- 8:00 The UC Berkeley student claims that anti-semitism is “institutionalized” and “every day.” Footage is shown of an apparently pro-Palestinian die-in.
- 8:15 A University of Southern California student (introduced earlier in the video) asserts that his campus is “poisoned by anti-semitism but also … a dark level of hatred.”
- 8:20 The UC Berkeley student states that the environment on campus makes students “very uncomfortable,” but “thank goodness there are people willing to speak out about it.”
- 8:30 A UC Santa Barbara student claims that during the BDS debates, a woman “was spit on (walking across campus) by another student simply because he saw that she was wearing a Jewish star around her neck.”
- 8:40 Conclusion: For the fifth and final time, footage of the man in the black T-shirt with an Israeli flag is included, along with footage of a burning Israeli flag at a demonstration. Narrator: “These times target Jewish students in an environment meant for open discussion and education.” Words are graphically displayed: Jewish in blue, hatred in red. Male voice: “Anti-semitism, hatred of the Jewish people, of Israel, is real, and I can only hope that in the future we’ll be able to get through it together.”
Narrator: “The message of hate, bred on the tongues of terrorists (in red), now poison our college campuses today; and it’s up to us, the Jews (blue), the Christians (yellow), the Muslims (green), to stand up for peace (blue, like Israel); it’s up to us, the students in pursuit of the freedom of education, to push back and stop these radical (yellow), hate-driven (red) organizations. Stop violence (red), stop bigotry (green, like Muslims), stop anti-semitism (red-blue). Pro-Palestine, pro-Israel, pro-peace (all white).”
It’s one thing to see the baseless and absurd nature of this propaganda; but it’s quite another thing to consider the possibly frightening level of the pervasiveness of the cultural/political mentality that would take such nonsense seriously, among either Jews or non-Jews. It’s the latter consideration that should concern activists both on and off campus in relation to their efforts to introduce relatively open minds to realities both here and there.