When I went to Berkeley, while I was not an activist, I was enthusiastic about my fellow students’ determination to divest from South Africa and to foster a spirit of equality and fairness.
But deep in my gut, I often wondered how many of the chants and the messages scrawled on placards were based in fact and how many were based on a desire to be politically-correct or simply a need for the internal thrill of being active in one’s community and to feel some connection to a global issue.
See, with South Africa, it was so easy. Anyone with half a brain (and a hint of morality) was against Apartheid. But South Africa is not a cookie cutter issue. It cannot, for example, be perfectly mapped over the Israeli-Palestinian unpeace process.
But at many at campuses like Berkeley and San Francisco State, all of these issues are part of the same mold. And therefore the contempt for an Apartheid era slavemaster is heaped onto Israelis (specifically) and Jews (generally).
Places of tolerance are welcoming the sprouting seeds of hate. Places of education are being overwhelmed by simplistic falsehoods. An increasing number of young people at my school and in my town hate Jews.
Michael Totten has written an interesting piece called The Berkeley Intifada? that tracks the rise in politically correct anti-semitism.
The danger here, of course, is broader than a simple rise in anti-semitism (a historical trend you can set your watch by). This movement, away from common sense and towards misdirected contempt, also presents a threat to progressivism and liberalism.