This article was originally published in The Jewish Journal on May 8th, 2023, written by Adam Milstein.
DEI initiatives are weaponized against Jewish students, maliciously portraying them and Israel as vicious oppressors.
Today in America, institutions, from universities to governmental agencies and to corporate workplaces, continue to embrace Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives and associated ideologies closely linked to critical race theory (CRT). In the process Jews, particularly those on college campuses, find it impossible to live securely and safely within their Jewish identities.
The asserted goals of DEI are positive: to promote the representation, participation, and fair treatment of historically marginalized groups. In practice though, DEI, which require its adherents to follow its tenets blindly without doubt or reservation, has been deployed to advance a radical agenda that undermines fundamental American values by promoting equality of outcome over equality of opportunity, collective identity (race, gender, etc.) over individual character, censorship of opposing viewpoints over freedom of speech, and a victim culture that crudely bifurcates society into oppressors and oppressed.
In particular, DEI initiatives are weaponized against Jewish students, maliciously portraying them and the Jewish State as vicious oppressors. Kamau Bobb, the head of diversity at Google, wrote that Jews have an “insatiable appetite for war” and an “insensitivity to the suffering [of] others.” Nowhere is his attitude more prevalent than in the DEI offices that now populate colleges and universities across the country.
Some compare the present cultural change in America to the 1960s, but for the Jews, that analogy is incorrect. In the 1960s, there were still strong feelings of sympathy for the Jewish people who had survived the Holocaust and other terrible acts of persecution, such as the expulsion of nearly one million Jews from Muslim countries after the independence of Israel.
These led Jews to be early and prominent leaders in the Civil Rights movement, like Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Rabbi Heschel was a close confidant of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and marched alongside him in Selma in solidarity.
Today, Kenneth Marcus, Founder and Chairman of the Brandeis Center for the Protection of Human Rights Under Law, shares “[i]n the DEI programs, we’re seeing anti-Jewish stereotypes, biases, defamations, separation of Jews from other groups, and so-called ‘erasive antisemitism,’ which is to say denial of what it means to have a Jewish identity.”
Erasive antisemitism is destructive because it denies the ability of Jews – a people from geographic Asia, some of whom were forcibly exiled to Europe by the Roman forerunners of Western Civilization, who against all odds persistently maintained our own unique Jewish Civilization through two thousand years of statelessness – to claim and celebrate our own identity. One of the integral aspects of Jewish Civilization has always been the devout desire to restore our ancient nation in the Land of Israel.
A recent study showed that the private social media accounts of DEI officers at university campuses exhibit a remarkable level of virulence against the State of Israel, compared to generally positive feelings towards the People’s Republic of China. The authors noted that “[o]f the tweets about Israel, 96 percent were critical of the Jewish state, while 62 percent of the tweets about China were favorable. There were more tweets narrowly referencing “apartheid” in Israel than tweets indicating anything favorable about Israel whatsoever.
Regarding Israel, the word genocide was associated nine times, the term ethnic cleansing appears seven times, and the accusation that children are specifically targeted appears 27 times. Meanwhile, DEI staffers generally praised China and even wrote glowingly about Chinese efforts to reduce poverty in Tibet, where China is pursuing cultural genocide of the Tibetan people. The report determined that “DEI staff have an obsessive and irrational animus toward the Jewish state.” DEI staffers on university campuses are supposed to be advocates for students, helping them navigate issues of inclusivity and belonging. When DEI staff and administration hold clear animus and bias against the world’s only Jewish state, universities are implicitly and unfairly discriminating against Jewish students.
People are imperfect, so criticism always has a role to play. However, the irrational malice DEI staffers demonstrate against Israel is of a different order. Under the widely-adopted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which is used by the U.S. State Department, examples of antisemitism include “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor”; “Applying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation”; “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis”; and “Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.” All of these have been demonstrated by college DEI staffers – establishing college campuses as unfriendly and unwelcoming spaces for young Jews.
The average university now employs roughly 45 DEI staffers. These small armies rarely celebrate Jewish identity or work towards our inclusion; far more often, they exclude and marginalize Jews on campus and label them as white privilege, whether or not this matches their self-identity. Some states, notably Texas, are considering legislation that would ban DEI programs at public universities.
In the meantime, a generation of college students is being governed by an ideology hostile to Jews that is inculcating ideas about our community that are very different from the principles that our faith embodies, and the United States purports to champion. If American institutions continue to adopt and reflect extreme DEI ideologies, Jews will stuffer. For as George Orwell presciently wrote, “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”