Cohen Center study reports high levels of anti-semitism and anti-Israel sentiment on many campuses in California and Canada
In late July, the fellows of the Maurice and Marilyn Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis published the latest in a series of studies regarding attendees on the Birthright-Taglit trip to Israel. The center first began conducting the studies in 2000.
The trip, which is open to Jewish young adults ages 18 to 24, is intended to “strengthen Jewish identity, Jewish communities and solidarity with Israel by providing a 10-day trip to Israel for young Jewish people,” according to the program’s website.
The study, which was conducted in late April and early May of 2015, polled 3,199 North American young adults who were signed up for the trip but who had not yet gone on the program. Researchers gathered data on these individuals’ perceptions of anti-Semitism and hostility towards Israel in their campus environments.
The authors of the study, among whom were Profs. Leonard Saxe (HRNS) and Theodore Sasson (SOC) and research associates Graham Wright and Shahar Hecht, wrote in the study that the ultimate goal of the research was to explore “the extent to which criticism toward Israel evolves into antisemitism and how respondents’ views about Israel affect their experience and perceptions of the problem.”
In order to define anti-Semitism, the respondents were asked to react to a variety of beliefs, determining whether they were anti-Semitic or not. According to the results, approximately 90 percent of respondents believed that calling Jews living in the United States “not American” was anti-Semitic, while 78 percent of respondents believed that opposing Israel’s right to exist was inherently anti-Semitic.
The study found that Canadian universities, universities in the California state system and, to a lesser extent, large land grant schools in the Midwest tended to report higher levels of hostility toward Jews and Israel.
Instances of public events that can be understood as hostile have been steadily increasing since what the study references as last summer’s “Israel-Hamas war”
Many studies, including those done by the Israel Campus Coalition, have found an increase in both pro- and anti-Israel events on campuses.
The study also found that “nearly three-quarters of the respondents reported being exposed to at least one of these six antisemitic statements at least occasionally in the last year.”
These statements included “Jews have too much power in America” and “the Holocaust is a myth or has been exaggerated.”
Significantly, it was also found that, unlike anti-Israel sentiment, anti-Semitic sentiment was found at relatively the same rates on all campuses studied.
One of the overarching goals of the study was to determine how closely linked anti-Semitic statements are to the prevalence of anti-Israel sentiment on campus.
The study makes the point that studies like this one are meant to help determine to what degree resources need to be dedicated to Israel education and Israel advocacy on North American campuses.
According to the Cohen Center, the study is meant to inform and guide responses to anti-Israel sentiment, the goal being to help inform the public about the nature and extent of hostility towards Israel and anti-Semitism on campuses.