Hatred and stupidity on full display


Because you need to be reminded of it, I do see a lot of good news out there this week. I can understand why the news can often be depressing and dispiriting, but the theme of the past few days has been dumb and hateful people revealing themselves to be dumb and hateful, in a way that their traditional allies cannot defend. 

It appears a significant portion of the college students chanting, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” have no idea which river and which sea they’re chanting about.

This might seem like bad news, but the good news is that once they’re told that they’re talking about the existing geographical borders of Israel, and that the chant is a call for Israeli people to be driven out of that area, they rethink their positions. As this blog has noted several times this year, even in its most generous interpretation, that chant is a call for the state of Israel to be wiped off the map, and those chanters rarely want to get into specifics about what happens to the Israelis. We’ve already seen how Hamas wants to deal with Israeli men, women, and children.

Ron Hassner, a professor of political science at the University of California, Berkeley, decided to survey students to determine just what they knew and what they believed. The findings, laid out in the Wall Street Journal, are eye-opening:

When college students who sympathize with Palestinians chant “From the river to the sea,” do they know what they’re talking about? I hired a survey firm to poll 250 students from a variety of backgrounds across the U.S. Most said they supported the chant, some enthusiastically so (32.8%) and others to a lesser extent (53.2%).

But only 47% of the students who embrace the slogan were able to name the river and the sea. Some of the alternative answers were the Nile and the Euphrates, the Caribbean, the Dead Sea (which is a lake) and the Atlantic. Less than a quarter of these students knew who Yasser Arafat was (12 of them, or more than 10%, thought he was the first prime minister of Israel). Asked in what decade Israelis and Palestinians had signed the Oslo Accords, more than a quarter of the chant’s supporters claimed that no such peace agreements had ever been signed. There’s no shame in being ignorant, unless one is screaming for the extermination of millions.

Would learning basic political facts about the conflict moderate students’ opinions? A Latino engineering student from a southern university reported “definitely” supporting “from the river to the sea” because “Palestinians and Israelis should live in two separate countries, side by side.” Shown on a map of the region that a Palestinian state would stretch from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, leaving no room for Israel, he downgraded his enthusiasm for the mantra to “probably not.” Of the 80 students who saw the map, 75% similarly changed their view.

Let us pause and recognize that it is a political-science professor at U.C. Berkeley who is the one measuring students’ beliefs, challenging them where those beliefs are at odds with the facts, and instructing them on the state of the world. A person’s affiliation with a particular institution doesn’t necessarily tell you what you need to know about how they see the world!

Another bit of good news: This article, from New York Times reporter Nick Confessore, is about as close as we will ever get to the paper declaring, “Conservatives were right all along”:

For years, conservatives have struggled to persuade American voters that the left-wing tilt of higher education is not only wrong but dangerous. Universities and their students, they’ve argued, have been increasingly clenched by suffocating ideologies — political correctness in one decade, overweening “social justice” in another, “woke-ism” most recently — that shouldn’t be dismissed as academic fads or harmless zeal.

The validation they have sought seemed to finally arrive this fall, as campuses convulsed with protests against Israel’s military campaign in Gaza and hostile, sometimes violent, rhetoric toward Jews. It came to a head last week on Capitol Hill, as the presidents of three elite universities struggled to answer a question about whether “calling for the genocide of Jews” would violate school rules, and Republicans asserted that outbreaks of campus antisemitism were a symptom of the radical ideas they had long warned about. On Saturday, amid the fallout, one of those presidents, M. Elizabeth Magill of the University of Pennsylvania, resigned.

For Republicans, the rise of antisemitic speech and the timid responses of some academic leaders presented a long-sought opportunity to flip the political script and cast liberals or their institutions as hateful and intolerant. “What I’m describing is a grave danger inherent in assenting to the race-based ideology of the radical left,” said Representative Virginia Foxx, Republican of North Carolina, at the hearing, adding, “Institutional antisemitism and hate are among the poison fruits of your institution’s cultures.”

The potency of the critique was underscored by how many Democrats joined the attack.

The three college presidents were denounced by a spokesman for President Biden. He was echoed by other Democratic officials, like Pennsylvania’s governor, Josh Shapiro, who joined calls for Ms. Magill’s firing. Some prominent business leaders with liberal leanings said they had failed to understand what was really happening in higher education.

“For a long time i said that antisemitism, particularly on the American left, was not as bad as people claimed,” wrote Sam Altman, head of the artificial intelligence firm OpenAI and a major Democratic donor, on X. “I’d like to just state that I was totally wrong.”

The presidents, administrators, and faculty of some of America’s most prestigious universities just marched their institutions into a box canyon, where even their staunchest traditional allies will not rush to defend them. Most Americans were flabbergasted to hear University of Pennsylvania president Liz Magill declare that calling for the genocide of Jews might not violate the university’s rules or code of conduct, and that it might not constitute harassment, and that it’s a context-dependent decision. In what context is calling for the genocide of Jews, or anybody else, okay? What’s the context where you can call for mass murder of an entire group of people, but that statement doesn’t reach the threshold of harassing members of that group of people?

To normal human beings, calling for genocide is not okay. It is not “context dependent.” Even if a particular group is hated or distrusted, most normal, moral human beings will shudder and recoil at calls for genocide. Lots of people were upset by the calls by referees in the NFL games this weekend. If you called for the genocide of all NFL referees, people would look at you like you’re a maniac.

Magill has already resigned as president, although she’s sticking around as a professor.

Not even a Saturday Night Live sketch that portrays the university presidents as sensible and reasonable, and the Republican lawmakers as unhinged buffoons, can flip the script on this. Too many people saw or heard about reality. Too many people who aren’t preexisting foes of the Ivy League and higher education saw it and were appalled. Rich Eisen is one of my favorite sports commentators, and news and current events very rarely pop up on his daily program. But last week, he noted that he’s got a platform, and he felt the need to call out that which is unacceptable.

Finally, if you’ve followed any discussion about any topic involving American Muslims over the past 20 years or so, you’ve probably heard of the Council on American–Islamic Relations. Your mileage may vary, but for a long while I’ve believed CAIR would bend over backward to give the benefit of the doubt to any Muslim accused of wrongdoing, would eagerly characterize any law or proposal it doesn’t like as “anti-Muslim,” and would tie itself into knots in order to portray any critic of any Muslim as a bigot.

Anyway, it turns out Nihad Awad, the executive director of CAIR, said he was happy when he watched coverage of the Hamas massacre of Israelis on October 7.

“The people of Gaza only decided to break the siege, the walls of the concentration camp, on October 7. And yes, I was happy to see people breaking the siege and throwing down the shackles of their own land and walk free into their land, which they were not allowed to walk in,” Awad said to audience applause at the American Muslims for Palestine’s annual gathering. “And, yes, the people of Gaza have the right to self-defense, have the right to defend themselves. And, yes, Israel, as an occupying power, does not have that right to self-defense,” he continued without referencing Hamas.

Awad is playing that familiar card, insisting his remarks, recorded on video, “were taken out of context.” Because there’s a context that would justify declaring you were “happy” to watch what happened on October 7, right?

The New York Times notes, “The White House listed the council among several independent organizations in a document discussing commitments to fight antisemitism. The White House removed CAIR’s name from that online document on Thursday after Mr. Awad’s remarks to make clear it was distancing itself from the organization.”

Finally, pro-Palestinian individuals attacked and defaced a giant menorah at Yale University, placing the Palestinian flag on top of it. Now . . . a menorah is a symbol of the Jewish religion, not a symbol of the Israeli people or government. (Although Hanukkah is a celebration of Jews defeating their enemies, retaking Jerusalem, and rededicating the Temple, which makes “Happy Hanukkah” messages from the likes of Rashida Tlaib a little ironic. I guess it was okay for Jews to defend their ancestral lands back then, but it’s not okay now.)

The Times asks, “Is anti-Zionism by definition antisemitism?” Theoretically, no, but as mentioned before, when someone insists, “I’m not antisemitic, I’m just anti-Zionist,” I’m pretty darn sure they’re lying. (It’s a recurring theme in my work.) Anybody who is angry enough about the existence of the state of Israel to adopt the label “anti-Zionist” is often just a moment or two away from ranting about how Jews control the American media and government, and likely to be hyper-aware of which public figures are Jewish and which aren’t. Let me put it another way, based upon personal experience: When you hear a guy with the last name “Geraghty” defending the existence of Israel, and you lean in and ask with a combination of confusion and suspicion, “Are you Jewish?” because in your mind, it might explain something . . . you’re a farshtunken antisemite.

The fact that American supporters of Palestine keep attacking Jewish symbols is a sign that they don’t believe their spin, either. Their objection to the actions of the Israeli government keeps manifesting as attacks on anything and anyone Jewish.

Some might find the events of the past few days depressing. Me? I prefer that the hateful and stupid remove their metaphorical masks — you notice how often they put on non-metaphorical masks? — and let us all know that they are hateful and stupid. It makes it easier for karma to catch up with them.

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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