At UCLA, a Culture of Equating 'Israel' With 'Guilty'

When Israel is constantly on trial, it is no surprise that Jewish students can only be socially accepted when they join the 'indict-Israel' circus.

In what may seem to be a major victory for pro-Israel forces at the University of California, Los Angeles, the undergraduate student government unanimously passed Tuesday "A Resolution Condemning Anti-Semitism."

Unfortunately, the impact of this resolution is destined to be short lived, and will fail to seize upon an opportunity to deal head on with the real problem that plagues our campus: "Zionophobia."

Tuesday's resolution was galvanized as a reaction to a February 10 event that triggered nationwide media attention and a tsunami of condemnations regarding the anti-Jewish climate at UCLA and other college campuses. In that incident, pre-law student Rachel Beyda was drilled by several council members on how she would maintain an "unbiased view," given her affiliation with the Jewish community on campus. While they didn't name Israel, this was the insinuation.

Fabienne Roth, who started this line of questioning, was apparently unaware of its combustible potential when she used the word "Jewish community," instead of "Zionist community," which has been designated by Israel's maligners as a more acceptable object of contempt. Roth's mistake has evidently touched an open nerve, resulting in a barrage of coast-to-coast calls for apologies and suspensions.

In the widely watched MSNBC's program Morning Joe, for example, anchors asked each other with increasing outrage, "How did these students ever get into UCLA?" "What if these students did it to a black student?" "What culture is going on, not only at UCLA, but in a lot of major colleges across America?" "What are these students being taught in class?"

The good crew on Morning Joe would not have asked these questions had they been aware of the anti-Israel culture that has been fermented at UCLA, largely unabated, for the past decade or so.

It is a culture that depicts Israel as a village villain, or "a controversy," constantly facing public trial. Israel is rarely seen for what it is: a respect-deserving symbol of identity for thousands of students on campus.

UCLA is a campus that has allowed Middle East history to be taught by instructors who demonize Israel, and has permitted its Center for Near Eastern Studies to be directed and co-directed by BDS supporters. It is a culture where a student can come to class wearing an "Israel Kills" T-shirt, yet any mention of Muslim symbols is sure to trigger the heaviest gun of political correctness, "Islamophobia!"

It is a culture where pro-coexistence students, especially in the social sciences, prefer to keep silent rather than risk mockery and social estrangement. Most importantly, it is a campus overrun by soft-spoken BDS propagandists who managed to hijack the student government's agenda with repeated proposals for anti-Israel resolutions, the purpose of which is one: to associate the word "Israel" with the word "guilty."

Coming from this culture, it is quite natural for a council member to assume that Rachel Beyda, as a Jew, is likely to have a built-in reluctance to joining the never-ending orgy of Israel indictments. Especially indictments authored by a movement like BDS, which openly denies one of Jews' most deeply held convictions – Israel's right to exist.

I am purposely using the generic term "as a Jew" here, in its most inclusive, people-based sense. I do so because a great many Jews do consider Israel the culmination of their millennia-long history. Likewise, I follow the observations of Hillel's leadership, who repeatedly assures concerned parents and outraged donors of its commitment to the Zionist dream, and to pro-Israel education.

So why all the outrage about the misuse of the inclusive term "Jewish?" Roth's mistake was not that she probed into Beyda's faith as a Jew, but that she implied that Jews can only gain social acceptance and student government credentials by joining the "indict-Israel" circus, as some of their professors have chosen to do.

Part of our outrage should also be directed at ourselves, and at our leadership, for failing to educate the campus that Jews are a people, not merely a religion, that this people has a dream called Zionism and that religion does not have a monopoly on human sensitivity. In other words, that when it comes to campus norms of civility, Zionophobia is at least as evil as Islamophobia.

By reacting to anti-Semitism with greater sensitivity than to anti-Israelism we reinforce the idea that religions are entitled to a greater protection from discrimination than other identity-forming narratives, and we thus give anti-coexistence forces the legitimacy they seek to harass Israel-supporters with ideological impunity.

Judea Pearl is Chancellor's professor of computer science and statistics at UCLA and President of the Daniel Pearl Foundations.