College Fails to Address Antisemitism on Campus

Sidney Rosenfeld, Professor Emeritus of German

Editor’s Note: Professor Rosenfeld prefers using “antisemitism” instead of “anti-Semitism,” the latter of which he considers a misnomer.

To the Editors:

Twenty years ago, in March 1996, invited to campus by Third World House, Kwame Ture ([previously known as] Black Panther leader Stokely Carmichael) called for murder from the podium of Finney Chapel. To the acclaim of his supporters, he declared: “The only good Zionist is a dead Zionist!” In a letter to the campus community the next day, Oberlin’s then-president, Nancy Dye, denounced Ture’s message of hate and incitement to political violence. After Dye’s principled stand was protested by the coalition that had sponsored Ture, 70 faculty members signed a letter in her support — a weighty number in the days of hand-carried petitions. Six weeks later, SFP enlisted Dr. Kaukab Siddique, a Holocaust denier and Zionist conspiracy preacher, to hold forth in Wilder Hall on Zionism and the peace process. An itinerant Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions hawker to boot, Siddique urged his listeners to identify Jewish businesses and “not buy from them.” “Kauft nicht bei Juden!” was how it began in Germany in 1933. How it ended, we know.

Now, 20 years later, the baleful ignorance and malevolence that typified the debate back then persists. After Associate Professor of Religion and Director of Jewish Studies Abraham Socher dissected the viciously antisemitic rants that Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Composition Joy Karega had posted on her Facebook account (“Karega-Masons’ Facebook Posts Anti-Semitic,” The Oberlin Review, March 4), a coalition of free-speech advocates and BDSers have rallied to her defense in succeeding issues of the Review. A band of five “anti-Zionist Jews,” whose deluded universalism Liel Liebovitz exposed scathingly on the Tablet website (“Anti-Zionism is Anti-Semitism. Get Over It,” April 13), bemoaned that the “conflation of anti-Zionism and antiSemitism . . . leaves us, as anti-Zionist Jews, without a community to turn to when we do experience anti-Semitism” (“Jewish Students Oppose College’s Response to Karega Case,” The Oberlin Review, March 15).

Time for the Multicultural Resource Center to step in! In the name of parity, it can create a safe space for such orphaned Jewish ideologues and others of their kin seeking refuge from the House of Rothschild. For its scions, if we’re to trust Professor Karega, also have Oberlin in their bottomless pocket. How effectively the refugees can be shielded from the Mossad, who, according to Professor Karega, engineered 9/11 and runs ISIS, poses a thornier problem.

Equally symptomatic of the Oberlin scandal was the title the Review hung over the lament of a Jewish student who woke up one morning and found, to her distress, that she is white and privileged. The title urged Review readers to “distinguish between Anti-Zionism, Anti-Semitism.” (Replacing the conjunction “and” with a comma shouts for a grammar lesson; but Oberlin has courses for that.)

The root of the ever-spreading Oberlin disgrace lies precisely in the College’s failure, from the top down, to squarely name its source: out-and-out antisemitism (Robert Wistrich’s “lethal obsession”) and to educate the campus on how Jew-hatred finds expression in the anti-Zionism that Liebovitz’s “Gang of Five” wears as a badge of honor. Thus, while Professor Blecher’s timid petition — the whereabouts of which seem unknown, as are its 174 signees — cites antisemitism in its first sentence, the abomination is subsumed thereafter under the category of bigotry.

This failure doomed the much ballyhooed “dialogue” to go nowhere. In like manner (and in lockstep with the administration), a choir of four from Comparative American Studies intoned, as non-signees of the evaporated petition, that they welcome a planned “forum for all faculty to discuss anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry at Oberlin” (“Professors Urge Campus to Engage in Inclusive Discussion,” The Oberlin Review, April 15). Unless one subscribes to the Nazi doctrine of the Jews as a race, antisemitism defies such subsumption, and the notion of Jew-hatred as a form of bigotry is nothing but a dodge. If, then, the cited forum is one with the panel in May that Professor Blecher assures us will be “terrific” (whatever that means), it is certain to be but another maneuver in the College’s PR campaign, that is, worthless.

Though the process began earlier, lack of decisive steps has sullied Oberlin College morally and intellectually for two months now. The sole beam onto this forfeiture of institutional integrity was cast by Professor Socher in his Review letter on March 4. Bravely, it was reinforced by untenured Assistant Professor of Politics Jade Schiff in the Review on April 15. All else that I have heard and read before and since, much of it in a mutation of language Karl Kraus called Desperanto, has convinced me that, from within, the College is wholly unequipped and unready to flush out its Augean Stable.

Sidney Rosenfeld
Professor Emeritus of German