One reader called Rob Eshman a “token Jew.” Susan Shulman called Eshman’s naivety “disturbing.” A professor at Michigan University, the campus invoked in Eshman’s column, wrote that “the reality is far more challenging, complicated, and informing than anything suggested by the ‘snowflake’ rhetoric Eshman utilizes.”
Other readers praised Eshman’s column, “When did Zionists become snowflakes?” which urged Jewish organizations and others to allow pro-Israel students to mount their own defense against anti-Israel activity on campus. Eshman wrote that the understandable impulse to make universities “safe spaces” can lead to the suppression of free speech and create a generation unused to standing up for its political positions.
“As I made clear, there is a lot of vicious anti-Israel activity on campus,” Eshman said in response to readers’ reactions. “I just don’t see that threatening anti-Israel groups with Title VI claims is helping. The best we on the outside can do is empower students to make the fight their own.”
Here is a selection of your responses, edited for clarity and length.
‘A single hateful voice must be condemned’
Hatred and death threats, like beauty, may be in the eye of the beholder. I, myself, don’t think that Jewish students are being overly sensitive when law students take pledges to use support of Zionism as a litmus test for excluding speakers on any topic. I would hope that, in your concern that Jewish students will not shrink from defending Israel, but would proudly come to her defense, that you would urge the Forward to publish the Israeli narrative so that Jewish students will have the ammunition needed to refute the many false claims made about the Jewish state.
—Toby F. Block Atlanta, GA
Rob Eshman suggests that “Jewish institutions” are freaking out over small groups of pro-Palestinian students shouting belligerent things about Jews when all they are are fringe groups testing the boundaries laid out for them by their parents and schools. Sounds reasonable right? The same observations were made by German Jews in the 1920s about tiny street demonstrations by bedraggled Hitlerites pushing their boundaries. By the time the Jews woke up, it was the 1930s and too late. Jews need to work for zero tolerance for the hatred of their people, and for all people. A single hateful voice must be condemned. Any student crying out for the murder of Jews must be expelled. There is no reason why they should be tolerated.
—Larry Shapiro Calgary, AB
‘Justice, not safety!’
Exactly how I feel. Go, Rob!
—Rabbi Ellen Jaffe-Gill
Your opinion piece is encouraging. Halting speech from the right or left, Israeli or Palestinian viewpoint (unless either side incites violence), destroys opportunities to engage with those whom we disagree.
I guess you believe that hate speech against Israel is okay, but hate speech against Palestinians is not. I am all in on free speech and for Jews on campuses to learn how to defend themselves, even if it has the potential for altercation.
Excellent essay! Justice, not safety!
Forcing Jewish students to constantly defend Israel’s right to exist (which is happening on every major campus) is antisemitism. Anti-Zionism, in all of its forms, is the single largest element spurring the growth of antisemitism.
—R. Gold Encino, CA.
‘Your naivety is very disturbing’
You state that you don’t think that Jewish students should be made to feel “welcomed” or “comfortable” on college campuses. It’s not coddling anyone by making sure that mezuzahs are not ripped from campus dorm rooms, students don’t accuse Jews of being “baby-killers” and racists, and professors are held accountable for downgrading pro-Israel students. Universities are supposed to be places where diverse opinions are respected and encouraged. This is not what is occurring now. I’m sure you are aware that German university students predated Hitler in calling for expelling Jewish students. While the U.S. is far from the excesses of Nazi Germany, Europe is getting closer. With the normalization of antisemitism, I am thankful for those organizations, Jewish and non-Jewish, who support the Jewish people. Your naivety is very disturbing.
—Susan B Shulman Lake Worth, FL
‘College campuses are not welcoming to supporters of Israel’
“Intifada” and “revolution” are words associated with violence. In no way are shouts about intifada or revolution going to “inform and persuade” others.
The fact is that college campuses are not welcoming to supporters of Israel. Pro-Israel speakers, Michael Oren and Nir Barkat among them, have been shouted down, had their presentations cut short and have needed police escorts to safely exit the campus. Does this sound like administrators considering the merits of various points of view?
How about the adjunct professor who showed a painting of Muhammad from a historical text from the 14th century in an art history class, after advising her students beforehand that they could absent themselves if they wished. She was dismissed from her position by flaccid, snowflake administrators.
Clearly campuses are not “safe” for pro-Israel Jewish students, speakers or carefully thoughtful art history professors. There is an intent to intimidate on campus, and university administrators, afraid of a tsunami of hostility, bad publicity, and even violence, are afraid to act.
When there are no consequences for efforts to intimidate, you create a power shift on campuses that does not bode well.
Rob Eshman reminds me of a hostage who identifies with his kidnappers. He believes that Jewish students pushing back against threats of another intifada are “snowflakes.” Using rhyming words for the destruction of Israel and its inhabitants doesn’t make the chants less threatening.
The Holocaust began with words and ended with the gas chambers. Those who forget or willfully ignore history are doomed to repeat it.
—Elinor Weiss Williamsville, NY
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