Natan Sharansky's article that appeared in last week's Forward has resulted in a rebuke by Hillel's Interim President, Avraham Infeld. Mr. Infeld, though, doesn't offer much of a counter-argument, in fact his comments identify a gaping hole.
Infeld, however, said the situation was not as dire as Sharansky had portrayed it.
"If I were to look at the 400 campuses where Hillel has a presence, I don't think there are serious battle issues on more than 25 or 30 of those campuses," Infeld said. "And on those campuses the Arab students are organized, the Arab students have mobilized the faculty and we're having a more difficult time. But that's not representative of the entire country."
In his article, Sharansky cited the example of a Harvard University student who told him she was afraid to participate in pro-Israel activities for fear that her professors would retaliate against her.
The president of Harvard Students for Israel, Josh Suskewicz, told the Forward that outspoken pro-Israel faculty members, such as law professor Alan Dershowitz, have helped to create a campus climate free of intimidation. But at the graduate level, students have said they felt intimidated by professors who are hostile to Israel, said a Harvard Hillel rabbi who asked not to be identified by name.
Infeld agreed that hostile faculty can be a problem, but said the problem is limited in its scope.
"There is no question that faculty on campuses speaking out against Israel can be very intimidating to the Jewish student," Infeld said. But, he added, faculty intimidation is a problem on only a few campuses.
From his comments, it seems to me, that Mr. Infeld ought to be writing in Forward about the 25 or 30 campuses where there is a problem. Maybe he ought to be publicizing the problem of faculty intimidation and where it exists.
There has been an identifiable global trend of increasing anti-Semitism over the past few years. We should not ignore it and hope that it will simply go away. As I said last week, I thought Mr. Sharansky's column offered hope while describing a gloomy situation. One of the best ways to eliminate the gloom is to shine light on the facts. The brighter the light the faster the gloom disappears. Mr. Infeld is in a position to bring the light to bear on the problems where they exist. To be sure he should and cannot ignore the good things happening, but we'd all be better served by knowing where problems do exist. Mr. Sharansky may have opened some eyes... Mr. Infeld ought not to try to put blinders on us by minimizing the problems.