She Stood at Berkeley's Sproul Plaza Holding an Israeli Flag
The vicious backlash against pro-Israel professors.
Originally published by Israel National News.
“Please don’t use my name,” the professor says. “Alright, you can use my name–but I’m really not ready to be ‘outed’ and I’m not sure I’m ready to leave the academic world. And don’t use any of the names of the professors whose emails I shared with you.”
This professor specializes in diversity. She’s studied racism, sexism, and homophobia; she’s run countless training workshops on unconscious biases and how to overcome them.
I had no idea she was a Jew. I was surprised that she flew here from the southwest to consult with me on the matter of the heretofore unspoken, unspeakable, unacknowledged bias of anti-Semitism.
This is not surprising. According to Professor Neil Kressel’s excellent work, anti-Semitism, and especially Islamic anti-Semitism, has not been studied by social scientists nor has it made much of an appearance in American textbooks about Prejudice.
Division 17 of the American Psychological Association–Counseling Psychology (my professorial consultant is a member), recently posted a “Statement” supporting “the Black Lives Matter Movement,” a group whose platform describes Israel as a “genocidal” state and which therefore calls for a “boycott of Israel” in order to foster “free speech” for Palestinians. (The APA has passed no resolution; this is merely a Statement by one of its 56 divisions.)
My professor, whose name I choose not to quote, (she is not yet ready for the ugly battle which will surely come), is shocked by how few of her Jewish professor colleagues, who are equally concerned, dare to protest linking to a group which calls for BDS and which describes Israel as “genocidal” vis a vis the Palestinians. These same professors routinely make bold demands, express profound outrage, march, sign petitions galore, when other groups are demonized, marginalized, persecuted–as long as they are not Jews.
I have been hearing from such professors for thirteen years now. In 2003, as soon as I published my book, The New Anti-Semitism, I was deluged with emails from mainly Jewish professors whose “free speech” and “academic freedom” was chilled, if not not censored, when Israel was the subject. They experienced hostility from both their colleagues and students.
About twenty of these outspoken heroes were willing to go public. I approached just the right editor at the New York Times, who absolutely wanted to do this story. She specialized in Education. After three weeks, the reporter told me, sadly, that she had been “stopped, and at the highest level.”
That story, which should have appeared in early, 2004, never saw the light of day.
Since then, matters have worsened. Those professors who take a strong and principled stand both for truth and for Israel are increasingly met with lethally-intentioned hostility; internet swarms of hatred; even death threats. They often need police protection on campus. Many cannot live with what they discover about their colleagues in the academic world and, if they do not resign, are driven out by a sickening, if not dangerously hostile, working environment. A few professors sue, receive settlements which are pegged to gag orders and thus they cannot speak about any of it.
My professor-from-the-Southwest-whom-I-will-not-name is far from an isolated instance. Just yesterday, I received news about a university cancelling a screening of a celebrated pro-Israel film. And why? Because Jewish professors, Jewish administrators, and Jewish community leaders felt that, focusing on Islamic anti-Semitism, however slightly, was equivalent to (non-existent) “Islamophobia” and would impair Jewish relationships with Muslims and politically correct leftists.
Clearly, such relationships are more important to these Jews than is their relationship to the truth, to Israel, and to Israel’s good name.
Pro-Israel professors are being squeezed out of progressive organizations when, encountering similar anti-Israel and anti-Semitic views, they drift away. Pro-Israel students, faced with surging, hostile, physically menacing mobs when pro-Israel speakers come to campus, may also grow quiet, or even drop out. Witness the ugliness at University College, London, of last week. It may have been extreme but it is far from unique. Similar campus riots have taken place all over North America.
And now, it is time to praise a hero of Zion: Sylvia Siegel z’l, otherwise known as Thyme (Zipporah) Siegel. She died and was buried yesterday. Thyme was once a feminist separatist leftist “living on the land” (think of this as a misguided feminist kibbutz experiment) in Oregon when one fine day, she visited Israel. Everything changed for her.
She also flew from far-off California to meet with me. Her questions were simple.
“Phyllis, where am I? What’s happening? What must I do? All my friends have, overnight, become my enemies. All my political comrades spit on me. Literally. And they are so wrong yet they think they alone have the truth.”
“Welcome to the Resistance,” I told her and sent her on her Mission.
Thyme did not fail me or the moment. Thyme would stand at Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza, (!) holding an Israeli flag, just waiting for anyone to mess with her. And mess with her they did. She kept holding that flag. Thyme also became one of the best undercover journalists, working with bylined journalists. She would go into the BDS or Israel Apartheid Week planning meeting, blend in, take notes, reveal what took place to distinguished journalists, who would publish what was said and planned.
When I was asked to be part of a “Feminism and Anti-Semitism” panel by Jennifer Roskies–it took place at Yale at the very best conference on anti-Semitism in the 21st century, under the aegis of Dr. Charles Small–I immediately suggested that Thyme join us. And so she did, together with Nora Gold, whose novel, Field of Exile, memorialized the various “intifadas” on Canadian campuses.
One of Israel’s counter-terrorism experts came to shake all our hands.
“I had no idea the war was this hot over here, among women, among academics, among progressives.”
It sure is.
May Thyme Zipporah Siegel rest in peace and may we all be comforted. The death of heroes is always the hardest for me to bear.