Blue State Blues: Muslim Immigrants and Antisemitism

Whenever my family gets together for Thanksgiving, almost everyone around the table is either an immigrant or a first-generation American. Like many other immigrant families, we have embraced the Thanksgiving holiday as our own tradition.

So it is deeply encouraging to see that other immigrant communities, like Muslims, have also adopted Thanksgiving. At the Islamic Center of Claremont, for example, two families of Syrian refugees were welcomed this week at an interfaith Thanksgiving celebration.

We, as a nation, are certainly big enough–geographically, economically, and morally–to make room for those truly in need.

The Syrian refugees, however, have been particularly controversial because of three background issues: first, our nation’s ongoing fight over immigration policy and border security in general; second, the fact that Islamic State and Al Qaeda terrorists have hidden among refugees; and third, the broader problems that large and growing Muslim communities often pose for other Americans.

One of those problems is increasing hostility towards Israel and Jews.

We feel it here in California, where our supposedly liberal campuses are supposed to be beacons of tolerance, but where Jewish students are singled out with impunity.

The latest example is at the University of California Santa Cruz, where a Jewish undergraduate on the student assembly was pressured to abstain from voting on an anti-Israel resolution solely because of his Jewish faith–because he represented the “Jewish agenda,” supposedly.

Perhaps the most chilling example was at University of California Davis, where Muslim students shouted “Allahu Akbar” at Jewish students as they left a student assembly that had been convened to vote on anti-Israel resolutions. Later, a Jewish fraternity was vandalized with swastikas.

There is certainly plenty of anti-Israel hostility from non-Muslims (including left-wing Jews). But the spate of antisemitism is driven, in part, by sentiments among the growing Muslim student populations on campus.

What is amazing, amidst all of the campus upheaval about “Black Lives Matter,” “rape culture,” and “safe spaces,” is that there is real and actual hatred being directed at Jews–and that no one seems to care.

Students recently held a solidarity march against Islamophobia at San Diego State University, but when has there ever been a solidarity march against antisemitism? And it is almost a given, in today’s campus climate, that any effort to help Jews would be ringed with anti-Israel caveats and criticisms.

Belatedly, the University of California regents have started looking into the issue of antisemitism on campus, even considering adopting the State Department’s official definition of antisemitism, which includes delegitimization of Israel.

Personally, I am against any restriction of free speech on campus, even very offensive speech. I do not want hateful people to be constitutional martyrs.

Moreover, the fact is that the antisemitism begins long before students arrive on campus, though it becomes worse there.

Take, for example, at the Islamic Center of Claremont’s Facebook page. Most of the posts are about community celebrations and religious holidays–wonderful, friendly, and warm.

But scroll down, and you eventually find anti-Israel posts, including some that celebrates the Palestinian war against Israel in 2014–a war started by terrorist groups. One post includes a depiction of a “V for victory” sign with two fingers shaped like rockets–the rockets Palestinian terrorists were aiming deliberately at Jewish civilians.

That speaks to a contempt for Jewish lives.

Such sentiments are not universal among Muslims, and they are not as bad in the U.S. as in Europe. Moreover, a new report from Israel points out that a significant minority of Muslim Arabs living in Israel support Israel’s Jewish identity. There is a basis for coexistence, and also great deal of ordinary kindness between Muslims and Jews.

But the problem of antisemitism is becoming impossible to ignore, and we need to address it before throwing the doors open.


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