About six months after Andrew Pessin posted on his Facebook profile a defense of Israel during its 2014 war against Hamas, the once popular Connecticut College philosophy professor was subjected to an academic smear campaign. The school paper published articles defaming him. The administration hosted condemnations of Pessin from across the campus community on the school’s website, and tolerated other anti-Semitic activities that only worsened the climate for Jews and Israel supporters. Pessin received death threats and, in the spring of 2015, took a medical leave of absence….
The Pessin affair was part of a growing trend of anti-Israel hostility on U.S. campuses, but at least his story has a somewhat happy ending. Pessin resumed teaching after an extended paid sabbatical, and-together with a colleague-convinced the school to establish a Jewish Studies program. Moreover, he has edited a new book with Fordham University’s DoronBen-Atar on the general campus trend:
Anti-Zionism on Campus: The University, Free Speech, and BDS (“Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions”). Ben-Atar, who is part of Fordham’s American Studies program, protested at a faculty meeting about the 2013 passing of a resolution calling for a boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) targeting Israel, only to find himself soon being investigated for unspecified charges, resulting in a Kafkaesque campaign of intimidation and vilification. This volume of essays, by faculty and students who have confronted anti-Israelism on their campuses, documents and analyzes how this movement masks an underlying anti-Semitism…
said] “The book is not about ‘defending Israel.’ Indeed, a good number of our contributors are people who are critical of various Israel policies, of settlements, etc. What it is about is how the anti-Israel movement manifests itself on campuses around the world. And as you work through the essays it becomes clear: the anti-Israel campus movement corrodes the academy in every way, on every level, it harms scholarship, teaching, community, it violates numerous academic and moral norms, and more. Whatever you specifically think about Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian-Jewish-Arab-Muslim conflict, the campus movement largely operates not as a bona fide academic movement but as something more sinister….
“When we put out the original ‘calls for papers’ we were shocked at the response. Within weeks we had some thirty faculty members who wanted to share their stories, of being targeted for standing up for Israel, or even for just not hating Israel. The problem is that pervasive. Most of these stories happen entirely under the radar, either on smaller campuses or in such a way that the media doesn’t pick them. We tried to select the most compelling stories, the most representative stories, the ones that could teach people something. There were several we wanted to include but could not because legal procedures were in place that precluded their contributing. There was one who opted out because he didn’t want to relive what was a devastating personal experience.”
(Beck, “Anti-Israel Hate on American Campuses,” FrontPageMag Online, 4/3/18).