March 30, 2021
Cornell University student Isaac de Castro warned in a March 29 New York Daily News op-ed that there is a “modern-day inquisition” against pro-Israel students on college campuses.
De Castro, who runs the Instagram account “Jewish On Campus,” wrote that there has been a “precedent set” for students who openly support Israel or even proudly display their Jewish identity.
“At Columbia University, Jewish students were spat on and called murderers on their way to class, and professors have told their students anti-Semitism is no longer an issue,” De Castro wrote. “At Cornell, a student assembly member was threatened to be outed to his family if he did not vote for BDS (boycotting, divesting from, and sanctioning Israel). At USC, the student body vice president resigned from her position after being the victim of bullying and harassment for her identity as a Zionist. At Tufts, a student judiciary member was silenced when discussing an unquestionably anti-Semitic referendum because his Jewish identity allegedly made him biased.”
He added that when Jewish and pro-Israel students attempt to defend themselves, their “efforts are smeared as attempts at censorship, and infringements on academic freedom and freedom of speech. Faculty biases and student body bigotry are not addressed.”
De Castro proceeded to argue that if students don’t feel comfortable expressing their opinions on campus, then that actually undermines academic freedom. “The truth is that academic freedom is not for me. It is not for conservatives, it’s not even for liberals, and quite definitely not for Zionists. Academic freedom is the freedom to have the correct opinions. Right and wrong, good and bad, and no in-between — these have already been decided for us. Our job is to accept them without question. This ‘academic freedom’ is not freedom at all.”
The Cornell student analogized cancel culture on college campuses to “a modern-day inquisition,” comparing teachers to preachers, students to a mob, and Jewish students as “the archetypal heretics.” The inquisition goes beyond college campuses, de Castro argued, pointing to the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) that the California State Board of Education unanimously passed on March 18. “The lesson plans aim to teach children a racial hierarchy, in which Jews are the only group described with the word ‘privilege.’ In previous edits, Jews were not even mentioned.”
De Castro concluded that the Jewish community now faces a choice to either force-feed “hostile ideologies” with Jewish and Zionist identity or “be key to a resistance. The singularity of our preemptive cultural suppression is also the gift of clarity in discerning the hypocrisy of these ideologies. Courage is needed, but the choice is a given.”
StandWithUs CEO and co-founder Roz Rothstein said in a statement to the Journal that de Castro’s op-ed was “important.” “Israel is part of Jewish identity and if Israel is made to be the villain through misinformation campaigns that leave context out of conversations, the ‘group think’ leaves no room for inconvenient information that creates cognitive dissonance for people who have accepted the popular sentiment,” Rothstein said. “While there will always be disagreements about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, there should obviously be room for everyone to speak and share feelings openly.
“It is absolutely outrageous that bullying of students who support the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people has resulted in their feeling the need to hide their identities for fear of being punished. But that’s how it is right now, and that reality needs to be acknowledged and needs to change.”
Journalist Gary Weiss similarly tweeted that de Castro’s piece is “depressing but important.”
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