I am frequently told these days that, at least here in the U.S.A., anti-Semitism is a rarity. Oh sure, it’s pretty bad over in Europe. And in the U.S., one can hear increasing hostility toward the Jewish state, especially on some university campuses. But criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism, I am told.
And for the most part, I buy it. Of course the leadership of Israel does some things that drives liberals (and some paleo-conservatives) batty. And the leadership of Israel, despite claims to the contrary, does not represent all Jewish people of the world. It should go without saying that one has the right to condemn a new settlement, or an airstrike, or a failure in negotiations with the Fatah, without worrying about being labeled a bigot.
And I preface this by stating that I do not look for anti-Jewish bigotry. I am always the one disagreeing that this or that statement is anti-Semitism. For example, I defended Andrew Sullivan when he did a 180 on Israel and put out some seriously harsh words on the topic, like a lover scorned.
I say all this to emphasize my point: what I am about to describe is real anti-Semitism, make no mistake about it. It is real, and it happened, at UCLA of all places, an elite state university in Los Angeles, the second Jewish city of America. The story has made the rounds on Twitter, but it has reached the NY Times and is now a big deal. It is worth talking about so it is understood in light of all other bigotries that must be recognized and unlearned.
The incident happened last month and involved a 20-year-old student named Rachel Beyda. Ms. Beyda, from all appearances (I obviously do not know her), has all the hallmarks of a bright future: intelligent, attractive, ambitious, and involved. She had an interest in joining the campus Judicial Board because she wants to be a lawyer. She was nominated and was ready for the questions from the rest of the Board, which she expected to be a formality given her formidable credentials.
But Ms. Beyda is Jewish. This of course has nothing to do with anything in theory, but apparently it did in this case. The Council debated, while Ms. Beyda waited outside for 40 minutes, whether one could be Jewish and “unbiased.” The debate touched the theme of Judaism and dual loyalties, Judaism and dishonesty, you name it. Everything except the elephant in the room: Israel. Israel was never mentioned – just Ms. Beyda’s Judaism and her involvement with Jewish groups (Hillel and a Jewish sorority). That this is disgusting is obvious.
But there’s more, much more.
- Everyone has biases. Jewish people involved in Jewish organizations have biases. Muslim students who belong to Muslim organizations have biases. Jews and Muslims and Christians and Atheists who stay away from such organizations have biases. The question is whether Ms. Beyda could do the job. Not one person said that.
- Being Jewish does not presuppose any point of view. Again, this should not matter, but apparently it did.
- Even if it could be assumed that Ms. Beyda would try to assert a point of view in line with the Jewish groups to which she belongs (and that may indeed be the case)…so what?!?!?!? Anyone who has not been asleep in a cave knows what happened here. The Council members opposing Ms. Beyda wanted to make sure that certain votes in connection with the Israel/Palestine issue went a certain way and did not feel Ms. Beyda would go along because of the Jew. But is this a requirement now to take part in student government – that one speaks and thinks as an anti-Zionist.
The BDS folks have now proven that their form of anti-Zionism is indeed anti-semitic. The four who voted against Ms. Beyda recanted, and Ms. Beyda is now ensconced in the Council. The damage, however, is irreversible.