Navigating a moral dilemma: The tension of anti-Israel protests on college campuses

Opinion: This is not an Israeli or even a Jewish problem, We need to be very clear here- This is an American problem that is spreading fast to other liberal democracies

Shira Ruderman|

As a professional deeply involved in the American Jewish community, and even more, as a mother contemplating the educational journey of her child, the recent wave of antisemitic and anti-Israel protests on college campuses has ignited both concern and a moral dilemma within me.
The current landscape presents us with two stark choices, each with its own implications. We can choose to stand resolute, unwavering in the face of these protests, asserting that avoiding these institutions would be conceding victory to the opposing narrative. Alternatively, we can opt out, refusing to support institutions that fail to uphold our personal values, as well as the foundational principles of American society. It is a tension that weighs heavily on our minds, forgoing either choice seems to entail a loss.
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מפגינים פרו פלסטינים באוניברסיטת קולומביה
מפגינים פרו פלסטינים באוניברסיטת קולומביה
Anti-Israel protesters at Columbia University
(Photo: Alex Kent / Getty Images )
The reality is that this is not just a theoretical debate; it is a real moral dilemma that many American Jewish parents and students face. Sometimes, the decision ultimately revolves around the child and their character and identity. However, even then, there is no guarantee of safety from the pervasive influence of the misguided theories and violent protests that are present on almost every college campus in the US. Despite our best efforts to instill strong values in our children, the risk of them being swayed by the prevailing narrative looms large.
Excusing the actions of these protesters as merely uneducated overlooks the deeper issue at hand. Those who willingly participate in movements they do not fully comprehend or align with are not merely uneducated; they are complicit. This blindness to reality poses a significant danger to our society, far beyond the confines of campus grounds.
Yet, while the protesters themselves bear responsibility, it is crucial to recognize the role of those in positions of power who perpetuate and even encourage this atmosphere. Professors who abuse their authority to impose their beliefs on impressionable students are the true agents of oppression. When students fear expressing dissenting opinions due to repercussions from their tenured professors, academic freedom becomes a farce.
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מפגינים פרו פלסטינים תומכי חמאס מול שוטרים ליד אוניברסיטת קולומביה
מפגינים פרו פלסטינים תומכי חמאס מול שוטרים ליד אוניברסיטת קולומביה
Palestinian flag flies over the anti-Israel encampment at Columbia University
(Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
As American Jews we tend to think that this is an Israel problem, or maybe at most- a Jewish Problem. We need to be very clear here- This is an American problem. One that is spreading fast to other liberal democracies. Addressing this fundamental issue within American higher education is paramount. The misuse of academic freedom not only undermines the integrity of our educational institutions but also erodes the very fabric of our society. The boundaries between education and indoctrination have become dangerously blurred, signaling a collapse in the values that once defined American higher education.
In confronting this challenge, we must recognize that the solution lies not merely in condemning the actions of protesters but also in holding accountable those who wield influence within academia. By challenging the abuse of power and advocating for genuine academic freedom, we can strive to reclaim the integrity of American higher education.
שירה רודרמןShira Ruderman Photo: Itay Tzevker
In conclusion, we might think that just because the academic year on US college campuses is nearing its end this will all subside soon, it will not- it will become bigger and continue to spread to other arenas. The moral dilemma posed by antisemitic and anti-Israel protests on college campuses demands a nuanced approach. As parents, educators, and advocates, we must navigate this complex terrain with a steadfast commitment to upholding our values and principles. By addressing the root causes of this issue, we can work towards restoring the integrity of American higher education and safeguarding the future of our society.
Shira Ruderman is the Executive director of The Ruderman Family Foundation.
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