Eric Alterman is a liberal columnist I respect, even though I disagree with his views on Israel and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. Today, in a New York Times op-ed piece about the BDS movement on campus titled, “Free Speech, Even if It’s Obnoxious,” he offers an encouraging insight:
Aside from Facebook and Twitter posts, where anonymity often invites abuse, I’ve never heard a single anti-Semitic syllable uttered on any CUNY campus in the dozen years I’ve been on the faculty. My classes on Jewish history and culture often discuss extremely delicate questions of Jewish identity without anyone, Jew or gentile, evincing the slightest discernible discomfort.
Great. But earlier in the same article, Alterman tosses out the observation that there’s lots of anti-Semitism on American campuses, including among anti-Zionists:
Anti-Semitism is no doubt a problem on many college campuses. And the boycott Israel movement — which has inspired these arguments — is tainted with it . . .
. . . the boycott movement on campus is thriving not because of, but in spite of, the anti-Semitism of some of its adherents . . .
This is a serious charge. Alderman is claiming that anti-Jewish bigotry is widespread on U.S. campuses and that it taints the BDS campaign. You would think that he would at least make an effort to provide some proof for such an allegation. But the only actual evidence in the piece is of his own first-hand experience at CUNY, where he “never heard a single anti-Semitic syllable uttered.” Which is it, Alterman?
(Yes, Alterman does cite a case in which four pro-Israel Jewish students were ejected from a Brooklyn College event, but CUNY ruled that the basis of that decision was not anti-Semitic. “In our view, there is no support for an inference of discrimination based on religion.”)