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(52,048 posts)
Sat May 11, 2024, 05:46 PM May 11

Campus protest crackdowns claim to be about antisemitism - but they're part of a rightwing plan [View all]


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Since 7 October, commentators have been ringing the alarm that a growing protest movement in solidarity with Palestine signals not just the end of a “golden age” for American Jews – as Franklin Foer recently put it in the Atlantic – but for American liberal democracy itself.

As Foer wrote, the “surge of antisemitism is a symptom of the decay of democratic habits, a leading indicator of rising authoritarianism”. Writing before the start of the encampments, he noted that Columbia was “a graphic example of the collapse of the liberalism that had insulated American Jews: it is a microcosm of a society that has lost its capacity to express disagreements without resorting to animus”. Meanwhile, on CNN, the anchor Dana Bash invoked 1930s Europe – “and I do not say that lightly … the fear among American Jews is palpable right now”.

There is no doubt that many Jewish students – especially those raised to believe that their Jewish identity is indivisible from the political ideology of Zionism – feel uncomfortable, or that many of them feel ostracized by their peers. But their discomfort has justified a powerful attack on academic freedom and first amendment rights that long predates the student encampments – part of a longstanding rightwing project to curb speech and reshape the public sphere.

Foer and Bash are right that American democracy is imperiled. But as the draconian crackdown on non-violent student protests makes clear, accusations of antisemitism are not themselves evidence of liberal decline, but rather the tip of the spear in a frightening illiberal project serving the agenda of an emboldened, autocratic right wing.


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