The cataract of anti-Israel sentiment on college campuses has been shocking, but it shouldn’t be surprising.
It is the poisoned fruit of teaching a generation of college students to despise their own civilization.
Jesse Jackson famously led a chant at Stanford University in 1987: “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western Civ has got to go.”
He was talking about the college course, but he might as well have been talking about the thing itself.
Jackson and his allies had extraordinary success in extinguishing the teaching of Western Civ.
Not only have we largely stopped transmitting the story of our own civilization, we have substituted an alternative narrative that the West is reducible to racism, imperialism and colonialism.
It is in this context that the current outburst of anti-Zionism has to be understood.
Yes, it has been fed by anti-Israel agitation on campus over the decades and yes, students are susceptible to witless radicalism in the best of circumstances.
Yet the loathing of Israel is particularly intense because it is viewed as an outpost of Western civilization and all its alleged ills.
The hatred of Israel is tainted by and, in some cases, driven by antisemitism.
Another way to look at it, though, is that it’s not so much about hatred of the “the other,” as progressives put it, as hatred of ourselves and all our works.
It is, on one level, incorrect to consider Israel exclusively an artifact of the West.
The Jews are indigenous to the region going back to Abraham, with their story caught up in the story of the land.
A large proportion of the current population traces its origins from the Middle East and North Africa, rather than Europe.
But there is no doubt that Israel is a Western society — in its political system, in its respects for rights, in its innovative economy, in its mores.
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Someone sitting in a coffee shop in Tel Aviv could easily think they were in any thriving coastal society in the West.
From any rational perspective, this would be something to celebrate.
Many legitimate criticisms can be made of Israel, and indeed are a feature of the Israeli domestic debate itself, but there’s no doubt that it is a flourishing society.
If Gaza were equally Westernized, it would be worrying about whether it’s over-building sea-side real estate rather than having to get water and electricity from the neighboring country its governing authority — a savage terror group — is trying to destroy.
Yet this is the society that anti-Western opinion holds up and wants to sweep all before it.
This point of view loves Gaza for its failure and hates Israel for its success; loves Gaza for its terror and hates Israel for its self-defense; loves Gaza for its vicious anti-Western sponsors and hates Israel for its Western allies, especially the United States.
If this seems perverse, it’s what you’d expect of students and young people who have absorbed the premises of Michel Foucault, Howard Zinn, Edward Said and their imitators.
Even if students haven’t heard of them, these men and their thought suffuse higher education.
But what about the violence? How can these kids look past it, or implicitly endorse it?
Violence is part of the radical anti-Western vision.
The anti-colonial bible, The Wretched of the Earth, written by Frantz Fanon in 1961, is widely taught on campus.
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Fanon sketched out a woke worldview before anyone used that term, arguing that, as a New Yorker essay put it, “the Western bourgeoisie was ‘fundamentally racist’ and its ‘bourgeois ideology’ of equality and dignity was merely a cover for capitalist-imperialist rapacity.”
Fanon wrote that “decolonization is always a violent phenomenon,” and in a preface to the book, the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre declared that the wretched of the earth “become men” through “mad fury.”
By this standard, Hamas is a good and worthy anti-colonial organization, and there’s no wonder it has found supporters and useful idiots among the West’s self-loathing radicals.