By Jeff Jacoby, September 26, 2002
WHEN Lawrence Summers became the president of Harvard last year, not even
his greatest admirers predicted how resolutely he would make the university’s
motto – “Veritas” – his own.
Almost from the day he was inaugurated, Summers has insisted on
speaking unpopular truths: about the disrespect shown to Americans in
uniform, about the rot of grade inflation in Harvard’s classrooms, about the
absence of “mainstream values” among “coastal elites” – even about the failure
of a celebrity professor like Cornel West to do serious academic work.
Last week, voicing another unpopular truth, Summers spoke out against the
spread of Jew-bashing – not only in Europe and at UN conferences but at
“There is disturbing evidence of an upturn in anti-Semitism globally, and also …
closer to home,” he said on Sept. 17. “Profoundly anti-Israel views are
increasingly finding support in progressive intellectual communities. Serious and
thoughtful people are advocating and taking actions that are anti-Semitic in
their effect if not their intent.”
Actually, even anti-Semitic intent can be found on American campuses these
days. At San Francisco State University, for example, pro-Palestinians
demonstrators recently confronted supporters of Israel with signs reading
“Jews = Nazis” and chants of “Hitler should have finished the job.”
Earlier this month, anti-Israel rioters at Concordia University in Montreal
smashed windows and hurled furniture to protest a scheduled speech by
Fortunately, such naked Jew-hatred is still rare in academia. What Summers
had in mind was something less blatant but no less disgraceful.
“Some here at Harvard and at universities across the country,” he said,
“have called for the university to single out Israel among all nations as the lone
country where it is inappropriate for any part of the university’s endowment to
be invested. I hasten to say the university has categorically rejected this suggestion.”
The divestment campaign Summers was referring to demands that Israel be
treated as a pariah, a country so toxic that American universities shouldn’t even
own stock in companies that do business there. It is modeled on the
anti-apartheid movement of the 1970s and 1980s, and its planted axiom is that
there is no important moral difference between Israel – a free and tolerant
democracy at war with dictatorial enemies bent on genocide – and the former
white-ruled South Africa. That is a position only a moral idiot could endorse.
Supporters of the divestment effort at Harvard and elsewhere were quick to
condemn Summers for his “McCarthyesque” attack. “This is the ugliest
statement imaginable,” fumed John Assad, a neurobiology professor at Harvard
Medical School, “to paint critics as anti-Semitic.”
In fact, Summers didn’t “paint critics” as anti-Semitic or anything else; he
characterized their actions as “anti-Semitic in their effect.”
He was not ascribing base motives to those who support the divestment
campaign. He didn’t presume to read their hearts. Rather, he was pointing out
the impact of their behavior. One who supports a campaign that singles out
Israel for demonization and obloquy is taking an anti-Semitic action, whether he
intended to or not.
Of course Israeli policies are fair game for criticism. But it is not “criticism” to
falsely smear Israel as racist – not when the Arab world seethes with a hatred
of Jews more rabid than even the Nazis’ was.
It is not “criticism” to portray Israel’s lawful presence in Gaza and the West
Bank as an illegal occupation yet never murmur a word of objection to China’s
occupation of Tibet, Syria’s of Lebanon, Turkey’s of Northern Cyprus, or
Russia’s of Chechnya.
It is not “criticism” to lay the blame for the violence of the Middle East at
Israel’s doorstep while ignoring the immense risks that Israel has taken, and the
sacrifices it has made, in pursuit of peace with the Palestinians.
It is not “criticism” to accuse Israel of apartheid when it is the Arab world that
preaches “Kill the Jews!” and dances in the street when terrorists do so.
This is not criticism – it is calumny. It butchers the truth and subjects Israel to a
cruel double standard. It abets the cause of the world’s foremost Jew-haters –
people whose explicit goal is the liquidation of the Jewish state. A professor
who signs his name to something so grotesque is committing an anti-Semitic
“In our own day,” Norman Podhoretz has written, “Israel has become the
touchstone of attitudes toward the Jewish people, and anti-Zionism has become
the main and most relevant form of anti-Semitism.”
Anti-Semitism used to express itself in demanding that good Aryans boycott
Jewish shops. Today it demands that good universities boycott the Jewish
state. It may look different on the outside, but it’s the same old poison