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Reviewed by:
  • Antisemitism on the Campus: Past & Present
  • Aryeh Tuchman (bio)
Antisemitism on the Campus: Past & Present. Edited by Eunice G. Pollack. Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2011. xxiv + 448 pp.

Given the book's focus on college campuses, it is not surprising that two-thirds of the essays in Antisemitism on Campus deal primarily with what is sometimes described as the "new anti-Semitism," in which Jews around the world are harassed, demonized and attacked by opponents of Israel for the alleged crimes of the "Jewish State." There is no shortage of anecdotal evidence that this type of antisemitism is particularly prevalent on campuses, and Antisemitism on the Campus is full of such accounts, with good discussions of antisemitic manifestations at institutions like Wellesley College, the University of California at Berkeley and Irvine, and Columbia University. Of course, this type of antisemitism had its genesis decades ago. Eunice G. Pollack, who also edits the volume, recounts its history, together with the history of other antisemitic themes, in African American groups dating back to the 1960s. Dave Rich's description of efforts by left-leaning student unions to ban Jewish and/or Zionist groups in Britain in the late 1970s is particularly good.

One would have hoped that in addition to these descriptive accounts, the book would have included some analysis of the full extent of the problem outside these known hotbeds of anti-Zionist activism. Anti-Zionist student activism may elide into antisemitism, and one may argue that the construction of mock "apartheid walls" or "checkpoints" by student groups effectively promotes antisemitism. But what percentage of campuses across the nation are home to a significant number of [End Page 309] anti-Zionist student activists? On what percentage of campuses have such apartheid walls been constructed, and how many students did they affect? Alvin H. Rosenfeld posits that the problem of campus antisemitism appears to be largely "coastal"—that it appears most acutely on campuses in California and, to a lesser extent, in the Northeast. One would like to see any comparative data, one way or the other. Kenneth Lasson notes that the Anti-Defamation League tries to compile annual statistics on antisemitic incidents on college campuses, but these statistics are not comprehensive. In the end he, too, is forced to rely on narrative descriptions of known outbreaks rather than attempt to fashion a comprehensive assessment of the extent of the problem.

The lack of quality data on antisemitic attitudes and incidents is a problem for the field of antisemitism studies as a whole. Many watchdog groups and research organizations try to generate statistics based on newspaper accounts and voluntary reporting, sometimes using definitions that change from year to year and are always subject to the judgment of individual staffers. Polling can be expensive and is sometimes conducted by research firms without enough experience in the social sciences to craft high-quality surveys of societal attitudes and interpret the results. (By contrast, see the "Patterns in American Prejudice" series of studies sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League and conducted by the University of California in the 1960s and 1970s.)

The assumption that antisemitism on campuses is primarily of the anti-Zionist persuasion may explain the inclusion in this book of some essays that deal primarily with anti-Zionism outside the academy. Stephen H. Norwood provides a good overview of the development of anti-Zionism on the American far left, including within the Socialist Workers Party, the Black Panthers, and the American Communist Party. Some student organizations are also included, but they are not the primary focus of the article. Robert S. Wistrich writes about the spread of anti-Zionism in British society, again with only minor references to colleges and universities.

The dominance of anti-Zionism as the book's theme leaves several blind spots. Certainly "old-fashioned" antisemitism, in which Jews are demonized and attacked for theological reasons or because of racism or conspiratorial beliefs, exists on college campuses and other institutions of learning. No mention is made of the Pacifica Forum, a right-wing antisemitic group headed by a retired professor, which holds weekly events on the campus of the University of Oregon and which has hosted a variety...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3141
Print ISSN
0164-0178
Pages
pp. 309-311
Launched on MUSE
2012-08-07
Open Access
No
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