Antisemitism on Campus

Three student panelists

Despite snow falling thickly outside, Ithaca’s Cinemapolis theatre filled with community members on Nov. 27, gathered to explore the rising antisemitism on campuses across the country. The event began with the screening of “Crossing the Line 2: The New Face of Antisemitism on Campus.”

“Antisemitism today has many faces. The most recognizable face is that shown by the neo-Nazis and white supremacists, in Charlottesville and most tragically and recently, in Pittsburgh,” said ICUCME chair Linda Glaser in her introduction. “The film today deals with another face of antisemitism, one that confuses some people. It has to do with Israel. Criticism of Israel’s government, of course, is not antisemitic. But criticism where the country Israel stands in for the Jewish people can cross the line. That’s what this film is about.”

The film documented incidents of antisemitism related to Israel on campus, including a woman at Cornell spitting on a Jewish student while saying “F*** you, Zionist scums,” Jewish students being pushed and shoved, and posters depicting Israeli Jews as demonic murderers.

In explaining the line between antisemitism and legitimate criticism of Israel, the film used the definition of antisemitism developed by Natan Sharansky and adopted by the European Union, Canada and several branches of the U.S. government. This “3 D” definition includes demonization, delegitimization or double standard.

The first “D,” “delegitimization,” refers to the denial of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, for example, by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor. This claim discriminates against Jews by singling them out as ineligible for the basic right of self-determination.

The second “D” refers to “demonization,” the portrayal of Jews and Israelis as evil, demonic, or satanic. This includes references to the myth of world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.

The third “D” refers to a “double standard,” when Israel and Jews are held to a different standard from the rest of the world. For example, in 2017, the United Nations General Assembly issued 27 condemnations of specific countries; 21 (78%) were about Israel, with one each on Iran, Syria, North Korea, Crimea and Myanmar.

“Crossing the Line” was followed by a Q&A panel with Cornell University and Ithaca College students discussing their experiences. They spoke about the impact of the three swastikas recently found on Cornell’s campus, as well as the fear they and other Jewish students have of speaking up in classes about their views on Israel and Jewish identity.

The November 27th event was the first in ICUCME’s “Antisemitism around the World” series, organized in response to some grim statistics. The FBI recently reported that hate crimes were up 17% last year. And while anti-Islamic hate crimes declined 11%, antisemitic crimes were up 37% — despite Jews being only around 2% of the population. Campus antisemitic incidents have nearly doubled, two years in a row.

The next two films in the ICUCME film series, which will address antisemitism in Europe and elsewhere, will be screened in the spring.

The event was co-sponsored by Temple Beth El and the Ithaca Area United Jewish Community. “Crossing the Line” was produced by Jerusalem U.