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Resurgent Antisemitism: Global Perspectives

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Dating back millennia, antisemitism has been called "the longest hatred." Thought to be vanquished after the horrors of the Holocaust, in recent decades it has once again become a disturbing presence in many parts of the world. Resurgent Antisemitism presents original research that elucidates the social, intellectual, and ideological roots of the "new" antisemitism and the place it has come to occupy in the public sphere. By exploring the sources, goals, and consequences of today's antisemitism and its relationship to the past, the book contributes to an understanding of this phenomenon that may help diminish its appeal and mitigate its more harmful effects.

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1. Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, and the Rhetorical Manipulation of Reality \ Bernard Harrison

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Bernard Harrison

Mal nommer les choses, volontairement ou pas, c’est ajouter au malheur du monde.

—ALBERT CAMUS

Over the past decade or so, in the Western world, it has become customary, on university campuses, in certain sections of the media, and among a diverse collection of “public intellectuals,” to argue, in the name of something called “anti-Zionism,” that Israel is an “illegitimate” state: a state that should never have been allowed to come into existence in the first place and whose continued existence is to be condemned as morally and politically intolerable.

It has become equally commonplace for those holding such views to be accused of propounding a “New” antisemitism, or at the very least of creating a climate of opinion favorable to the marked rise in antisemitic attacks in Western countries since the end of the 1990s.

Those charges have provoked a number of standard rebuttals, which characteristically include one or more of the following:

 

2. Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism as a Moral Question \ Elhanan Yakira

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Elhanan Yakira

The past few years have witnessed concerted efforts to bring about what is called Israel’s delegitimation.1 What explains these anti-Israeli and so-called anti-Zionist campaigns, such as the BDS (or the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign), the Free-Gaza flotillas, the aftermath of the bloody struggle on the Mavi Marmara, the Israel Apartheid weeks, the legal warfare against Israel and Israeli officials, the Durban conferences, the anti-Israeli discourse held by human-rights organizations and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)? Do these activities and the language that accompanies them belong to the old traditions of antisemitism (or Judeophobia), or do they represent something else?

Whether anti-Zionism is or is not a form of antisemitism is an interesting theoretical question, but it may also have significant practical implications. For Israelis, anti-Zionism has become a real problem, and understanding its nature, scope, origins, and the stakes involved in it goes well beyond theoretical concerns. The same holds true for Jews living outside of Israel, who often find themselves the targets of Israel’s detractors. The immediate and almost automatic association of Israel with Jews proves that anti-Israeli feelings and acts are very closely linked to anti-Jewish feelings and acts. The fact is that non-Israeli Jews are today vulnerable to anti-Israeli rhetoric and activities (the late Tony Judt was not alone in thinking that Israel had become a liability to Diaspora Jews). In Arab anti-Israel discourse, the terms Jews and Israelis are very often synonymous. It comes as no surprise, then, that many Jews now dissociate themselves from Israel, refuse to see it as representing them as Jews (or otherwise), or claim that their own anti-Israeli positions are nothing but an expression of legitimate criticism of Israeli policies judged to be objectionable. Jewish protests against being associated with Israel may well be just one more expression of a classical aspect of antisemitism that has come to be known as “Jewish self-hatred.” One famous attempt to understand what is referred to with this unhappy term depicts it as a complex psychological transfer mechanism: Jews apply to other Jews the images they believe the stereotyped non-Jew has of “bad Jews.”2

 

3. Manifestations of Antisemitism in British Intellectual and Cultural Life \ Paul Bogdanor

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Paul Bogdanor

British antisemitism has a long and depressing history. The first recorded blood libel occurred in England in 1144. A Christian document testified thus: “The Jews of Norwich brought a child before Easter, and tortured him with all the tortures wherewith our Lord was tortured, and on Long Friday hanged him on a rod in hatred of our Lord, and afterwards buried him.”1 It was an English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, who preserved the calumny for all time in his Canterbury Tales.2 One of the first pogroms took place in York in 1190. A century later came the first total expulsion of a Jewish population from a European country; Jews were not readmitted to England until 1656, after a nearly four-hundred-year absence. In England the tradition of literary antisemitism was inaugurated, and it includes some of the greatest classics of English literature: from the usurious Shylock in The Merchant of Venice to the villainous Fagin in Oliver Twist, stereotypes of Jewish power and cruelty (Shylock’s “pound of flesh”) have merged seamlessly with contempt for Jewish claims of victimhood (“If you prick me, do I not bleed?”) and a scarcely hidden desire for the Jew’s humiliation (Shylock forfeits his wealth and converts to Christianity).3

 

4. Between Old and New Antisemitism: The Image of Jews in Present-day Spain \ Alejandro Baer

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Alejandro Baer

Shouting “We are sick of the Jews” and “Jews out!” a group of students in spring 2009 greeted the president of the Spanish Jewish Community and other speakers about to participate in a conference on racism and antisemitism at Madrid’s Complutense University, the second-largest university in Spain. The central topic of the conference, whether antisemitism was still alive in Spain and how it was manifested, was answered right away, empirically, even before the lectures began. One of the scheduled speakers, historian Gonzalo Álvarez Chillida, wrote a few days later in the university’s weekly paper that “the main characters of this story were not Spanish fascist, neofascists, nor Catholic fundamentalists, eager to bring up to date the decree of expulsion of the ‘saint’ Queen Isabel. Even as it may seem strange,” wrote Álvarez, “it was a group that considers itself antifascist.”1 In pamphlets posted on the billboards in the hallways of the hosting institute, the conference was defined as part of a campaign orchestrated by the Jewish lobby—“a financial elite specialized in victimization and manipulation”—to silence criticism of the genocide it supposedly was perpetrating against the Palestinians. The Jewish guest was described as an obscure businessman devoted to “usurious practices.” As a faculty member at Complutense University at the time, and a participating speaker at the conference, I tried along with two other colleagues to bring about a public reprobation of the incident by the university authorities (the dean and the rector). We were not successful. The incident was interpreted by large sectors of the academic community as a (more or less comprehensible) outcome of the tensions in the Middle East, particularly against Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians. Hence, these events not only provided insight through firsthand experience into the intellectual authorship, the ideological composition, and specific semantics of the so-called “new antisemitism” within a particular sector of Spanish society. What this event proved beyond doubt is an even more somber reality: the denial of present-day antisemitism and, at the same time, its “normalization” in a country where the vast majority of researchers, politicians, social figures, and government institutions believe that in today’s Spain anti-Jewish sentiment does not in fact exist.

 

5. Antisemitism Redux: On Literary and Theoretical Perversions \ Bruno Chaouat

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Bruno Chaouat

Antisemitism can be buried, but it can never be destroyed as long as the Jewish people keeps its ancient position as a clearly defined foreign body in the midst of other peoples’ societies.

—JULIUS MARGOLIN

I will begin with a paradoxical and bitter admission: I believe that the transmission of the history and the memory of the Holocaust has triggered a backlash against Jews and Israel, at least in the West if not beyond, and at least throughout the last decade, although the phenomenon is arguably much older. This backlash has been described and analyzed in depth by Elhanan Yakira in his absorbing book, Post-Holocaust, Post-Zionism.1 Yakira argues that in a broad philosophical and journalistic corpus, in the works of a certain, perhaps marginal, Israeli intelligentsia deeply influenced by European and American postmodern and postcolonial theory, Israel is portrayed as owing its legitimacy to the Holocaust, then as exploiting the memory and the history of the Holocaust, and finally as perpetrating a new Holocaust, this time on the Palestinians. The same misrepresentation can be observed in France, and I would argue in Europe in general. Yakira insists that his method is phenomenological and that his purpose is not to provide any explanation. I wish humbly to complement this major contribution to the understanding of theoretical and political perversions with an attempt at tracing the sources of this paradoxical delegitimization of Israel grounded on Holocaust hypermnesia.

 

6. Anti-Zionism and the Resurgence of Antisemitism in Norway \ Eirik Eiglad

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Eirik Eiglad

On July 21, 1973, Ahmed Bouchiki was shot dead on the streets of Lille-hammer. Although he was a Moroccan citizen, Bouchiki had lived in Norway since 1965 and was expecting a child with his Norwegian wife when agents connected to Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, killed him. The Norwegian police immediately caught the agents, and five served jail sentences in Norway. Until the recent atrocities at Oslo and Utøya, the Lillehammer affair, as it was to be called, was considered by many to be the worst terrorist act ever to have occurred on Norwegian soil.

In 1973 the impact of the Second World War was already ebbing, and Lilliputian Norway stood on the threshold of an oil adventure that would pump unprecedented wealth into its national infrastructure. Due to its wealth as well as its outsider status, Norway was soon to gain a reputation as a generous donor to Third World development. The country was also considered to be an impartial international observer, and ultimately a peace broker. Today, the small town of Lillehammer is most famous for hosting the Olympic Winter Games in 1994, and one year earlier the Norwegian capital city lent its name to the Oslo Peace Accords. Together with its Scandinavian neighbors, Norway has gained an international reputation in sportsmanship, impartiality, and commitment to peace.

 

7. Antisemitism Redivivus: The Rising Ghosts of a Calamitous Inheritance in Hungary and Romania \ Szilvia Peremiczky

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Szilvia Peremiczky

Religion, history, race, ethnicity, nationality, social memory, socialization: these are the explosive ingredients of every form of Jew-hatred, the crazed obsession that forms an all-pervasive psychopathology in Eastern and Central Europe. The virulent grassroots antisemitism rife across the whole region combines traditional Christian Judeophobia with ethnic and nationalist1 racial hatred of the Jew. Contemporary Hungary and Romania both fit squarely into this regional picture.2 History in this region is particularly important as the root cause and driver of contemporary manifestations of grassroots antisemitism: it is conspicuously present in contemporary public discourse and obsessively engages the public mind in sterile blame games, which in Hungary, in particular, become an all-pervasive culture of grievance and ressentiment, an overwhelming sense of having been treated badly by the world, and particularly by “the Jews.”

The twentieth century was indeed not kind to Hungary—as it certainly had been to Romania—for early in the century Hungary had suffered grievous losses of territory, population, and regional status. As a result of the Treaty of Trianon (1920), Hungary became landlocked. It lost two-thirds of its former territory and one-third of its non-Jewish Hungarian population to the surrounding successor states to the Habsburg Empire. Trianon cost the country much of its agricultural base, its mining industry, its perimeter railway system, the Croatian seaports, as well as its status as a serious player in the Great Game of Europe and as the dominant power in the Carpathian Basin. Above all, the Treaty meant the painful loss of millions of Hungarians to the successor states and the relinquishing of many country towns that were 100 percent Hungarian. Romania, on the other hand, emerged as the clear winner in the post-World War. With one great reordering of the geopolitics of the region, along with the annexation of Transylvania, Romania walked away with the jackpot in the Balkan sweepstakes. It may well be said that Hungary’s agony has been Romania’s triumph.3

 

8. Comparative and Competitive Victimization in the Post-Communist Sphere \ Zvi Gitelman

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Zvi Gitelman

The interpretation of the recent past occupies a prominent place on the agenda of post-communist states and societies. They seek to make sense of the five or seven decades of communist rule and place them in the larger narratives of their national histories, the latter being matters of contention within and between states. History serves as the legitimizer of present states and is therefore highly politicized. As the prominent Soviet historian M. N. Pokrovsky said in the 1930s, “history is politics projected into the past.”1

One of the most troublesome issues for several of the post-communist states is that significant numbers of their citizens collaborated with the Nazis in the war against the Soviet Union and in the mass murder of Jews. Many assume that this raises questions not only about their behavior in the recent past but also about their political cultures and democratic commitments. If they do not at least address the “dark spots” and “blank spots” in their histories, this would mean, as the Talmud puts it, shtika ke-hodaʾah damia, silence is acquiescence. One way to meet this challenge is to equate the evils of fascism and communism and to portray Jews as perpetrators of evil as much as they might have been victims of it. That would, in some people’s view, tie the moral score, absolve the present governments and populations of the region of guilt, and put the issue to rest. Of course, this is not the only way the issue is being treated, and there are nuances and complexities that both apologists for their national histories and vocal critics of them choose to ignore. Reinterpreting history is not an academic exercise but a deeply political one, with implications for how Jews are viewed and treated, among many other things.

 

9. The Catholic Church, Radio Maryja, and the Question of Antisemitism in Poland \ Anna Sommer Schneider

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Anna Sommer Schneider

As bishop of Rome and successor of the Apostle Peter, I assure the Jewish people that the Catholic Church, motivated by the Gospel law of truth and love, and by no political considerations, is deeply saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution and displays of antisemitism directed against the Jews by Christians at any time and in any place.

—JOHN PAUL II, MARCH 23, 2000, JERUSALEM

The question of antisemitism has never been thoroughly researched in Poland with regard to ideological, political, and social developments. It is not clear whether antisemitism, in all its forms, is a “by-product” of the growth of antisemitic propaganda in Western Europe or a Polish phenomenon. Apart from some sociological studies, antisemitism has been virtually ignored by Polish scholars. The subject has been considered cumbersome and even taboo.1 For some, research into this issue is irrelevant since they believe that the problem of antisemitism doesn’t exist in Poland. For others who might be inclined to carry out such a study, available survey data is rather fragmentary and inconsistent and does not provide scholars and others with the necessary empirical information.

 

10. Antisemitism among Young European Muslims \ Gunther Jikeli

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Gunther Jikeli

Muslims are the largest religious minority in the European Union, and Islam is the fastest growing religion. Estimations suggest that there are between 13 and 20 million European Muslims; approximately 70 percent live in Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. But relative numbers are low; Muslims form approximately 5 percent of the population in Germany, 6–9 percent in France, and 3 percent in the UK. The proportions are significantly higher in many urban areas. Europe’s Muslim population is diverse in many aspects: religiously, culturally, ethnically, and economically. Most Muslims in Europe are immigrants or descendants of immigrants from former colonies or countries with special historical ties to the respective European country in which they now reside. The first substantial wave of Muslim immigrants to Europe started after the Second World War in the 1950s with the continent’s growing economy and the need for manpower. With the economic crisis of the early 1970s, legislation made immigration difficult, and migration then consisted largely of people arriving to reunite with their families. A third wave included those who arrived in the 1980s and 1990s as refugees rather than as economic migrants. Political persecutions and civil wars were the major reasons that asylum seekers from Turkey, the former Yugoslavia, North Africa, Somalia, and the Middle East moved to European countries.

 

11. The Banalization of Hate: Antisemitism in Contemporary Turkey \ Rifat N. Bali

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Rifat N. Bali

On the Turkish Foreign Ministry homepage there is a section titled “Frequently Asked Questions on Foreign Policy” (sorularla diş politika).1 Of the twenty-one questions proffered, ten—in other words, half—are concerned with the Armenian Genocide. The answers given to these questions reflect a view that rejects the claim of a Turkish-perpetrated genocide against the Armenians, a reality accepted by the international community but rejected as an unjust accusation by the Turkish government. The FAQs and answers that the Foreign Ministry feels obligated to give show that Turkey believes itself to have an “Armenian Genocide problem.”2

In contrast to this extensive grappling with the Armenian issue, there are no questions on the website along the lines of “Is there antisemitism in Turkey?” This would seem to indicate that neither the international community nor civil society organizations and intellectuals in Turkey have seriously pressured the Turkish government to fight antisemitism. As a result, the issue is not even on the Republic’s agenda.

 

12. Antisemitism’s Permutations in the Islamic Republic of Iran \ Jamsheed K. Choksy

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Jamsheed K. Choksy

According to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s official census in the year 2006, Jews made up 0.02 percent of a nationwide population of 70,049,262, or 14,009 men, women, and children.1 More impressionistic, and therefore possibly less reliable, estimates placed Iran’s Jewish population at between 20,000 to 25,000 individuals in 2010. But when the Islamic Republic released results of its 2011 population census, there were only 8,756 Jews in Iran, or less than 0.012 percent of a total population of 75,149,669.2 During the mid-1970s, the community’s demographic number had hovered around 80,000 individuals. Jews were mainly based in large cities like Hamadan, Shiraz, Isfahan, and Kerman, with roughly 75 percent of them living in the capital city of Tehran, due to urbanization and commercial opportunities under the Pahlavi shahs. Since then, many families have immigrated to the United States, to Israel, and to the European Union in search of religious, economic, and political freedom. They left behind empty Jewish neighborhoods that are being repopulated by Shiʿites and financial assets that have been appropriated by the Iranian state.3

 

13. The Israeli Scene: Political Criticism and the Politics of Anti-Zionism \ Ilan Avisar

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Ilan Avisar

One of the greatest ironies of modern Jewish history is that Zionism was considered to be the remedy to the malaise of antisemitism, and today Israel has become the main focus of contemporary antisemitism. Herzl and Pinsker did not simply envision the establishment of a Jewish state to function as a safe shelter from threats and persecutions. The thrust of Zionist thinking was to eliminate the causes of modern antisemitism by obtaining sovereignty, territorial independence, a return to the ancient homeland, a distinct culture, and normalization of the Jewish historical situation so that Jews would be seen as equal members in the family of nations. In the first three decades of Israel’s existence, Western guilt over the tragedy of the Holocaust and the young state’s own significant achievements, including inspiring military victories over its many enemies, elicited widespread sympathy and respect. And yet, Israel is today the principal focus of antisemitic sentiments and activities. To complicate the irony of history, Israelis themselves have some role in the perpetuation and incitement of contemporary anti-Zionist antisemitism.

 

14. The Roots of Antisemitism in the Middle East: New Debates \ Matthias Küntzel

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Matthias Küntzel

When I witnessed the events in Imbaba, I realized [the Jews were behind them],” wrote journalist Safaa Saleh on May 13, 2011 in the Egyptian government newspaper Al-Gumhouriyya, following clashes between Copts and Muslims in Cairo’s Imbaba district that had claimed twelve lives. “There is no disaster in the world that was not caused by the Jews,” declared Saleh, calling in evidence a star witness: “Hitler said, ‘I could have exterminated all of the Jews, but I left some of them [alive] so that the world would know why I exterminated them.”1

In the West, such statements would have been met with outrage, but not in Egypt, where positive references to Hitler and the destruction of the Jews have been an accepted part of public discourse for decades. In this respect, at least, the uprising of 2011 that deposed former President Husni Mubarak changed nothing.

Irrational ideologies are harder to defeat than illegitimate rulers. This is certainly true in the case of Egypt, where the ousted Mubarak was condemned as a friend of Israel and the protestors carried placards in which the president’s face was covered with Stars of David.2 The emergence of mass movements for change in the Arab world has not, therefore, removed the need to tackle Arab antisemitism; on the contrary, in a context of heightened political activism and major reorientations, that need has become more pressing than ever. It is, therefore, all the more regrettable that researchers into antisemitism are divided into separate camps. While all agree that in no other part of the world is antisemitism as widespread and commonplace as in the Middle East, the unanimity vanishes when it comes to explaining the causes and context of this antisemitism.

 

15. Anti-Zionist Connections: Communism, Radical Islam, and the Left \ Robert S. Wistrich

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Robert S. Wistrich

Most historians tend to regard the ideologies of communism and radical Islam as mutually incompatible. Certainly, there is little in common at first sight between the Communist Manifesto and the Holy Qurʾan. Nor does the Islamist cult of death or martyrdom for Allah seem to have much to do with the secular rationalist worldview that influenced Bolshevism and the Western Left a century ago. But the communists who came to power in Russia in 1917, beginning with Lenin himself, were nonetheless quick to see the tactical benefit to themselves of sparking off a Bolshevik-led jihad against Western imperialism in Asia and the Near East. At the Second Congress of the Communist International held in Baku (1920), its president, Grigorii Zinoviev, aggressively called for “kindling a real holy war against the robbers and oppressors . . . a true people’s holy war in the first place against British imperialism.”1 The close to two thousand delegates, representing the “enslaved popular masses of the East” (Persia, Armenia, Turkey, Russia, the Arab lands), were ecstatic. About two-thirds of the delegates were Bolshevik Party members. But they made a point of “respecting the religious feelings of the masses” even while educating them (in Zinoviev’s words) “to hate and want to fight against the rich in general—Russian, Jewish, German, French.”2 Zinoviev was not the only Bolshevik internationalist of Jewish origin to play a central role in such incitement to holy war.

 

16. Present-day Antisemitism and the Centrality of the Jewish Alibi \ Emanuele Ottolenghi

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Emanuele Ottolenghi

Since the beginning of the second Intifada in late September 2000, Europe has experienced a dramatic increase in antisemitic incidents.1 These phenomena have quickly spilled over to other Western countries as well. Though in each country antisemitism comes with its local peculiarities and its original historical baggage, across boundaries and continents much of this resurgence is clearly correlated with the ebb and flow of Middle East violence.2 The strongest piece of evidence that something irrational is happening in the way Western societies react to Israel’s actions is the unparalleled unleashing of hostility and hatred toward Jews that accompanies events in the region.

The phenomenon is so well documented that there is no need to recite statistics and evidence here.3 There is also a wealth of literature on the nature of current antisemitism: how it resembles and differs from past manifestations, what causes it, what role debates over Israel’s actions fulfill within the context of current antisemitism, and so on.4 It is not the goal here, therefore, to report on a debate that has been largely and comprehensively covered by others.

 

17. Holocaust Denial and the Image of the Jew, or: “They Boycott Auschwitz as an Israeli Product” \ Dina Porat

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Dina Porat

The image of the Jew depicted by Holocaust deniers since the Second World War raises numerous issues, including these two: (1) can this image change once circumstances themselves change? And (2), if so—is the denial of the Holocaust the deniers’ final goal, or is it the perpetuation of a certain, always negative image of the Jew?

Hard-core Holocaust denial, which reached its heyday in the 1980s and the 1990s, created a certain image of the “Jew,” as Brian Klug put it when he tried to define the distinction between Jews and a “Jew.”1 He argued that antisemitism “is best defined not by an attitude toward Jews but by a definition of a ‘Jew,’ ” and that antisemitism is “the process of turning Jews into a ‘Jew.’ ” His distinction is equally relevant to both the “Jew” in the singular and “Jews” in the plural, because in both cases the quotation marks turn the Jew/Jews into an idea, a symbol, a stereotype, in which each individual is meant to represent his people at large as a collectivity, and both cease to be recognized as part of reality. The process of turning individuals and a people into “Jew/Jews” is at the heart of the following discussion.

 

18. Identity Politics, the Pursuit of Social Justice, and the Rise of Campus Antisemitism: A Case Study \ Tammi Rossman-Benjamin

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Tammi Rossman-Benjamin

On November 6, 1968, students from the Black Student Union and the Third World Liberation Front at San Francisco State College (later San Francisco State University) initiated a five-month strike—the longest campus strike in U.S. history—which set in motion a chain of events that changed the face of American higher education. One of the earliest and most significant results of the strike was that acting college president S. I. Hayakawa agreed to the immediate establishment of the nation’s first departments of black and ethnic studies, to be housed in a separate school of ethnic studies. These had been the key demands of the strikers themselves, who believed such programs would revolutionize the “white racist” institution and provide students of color with the necessary tools for combating oppression and pursuing social justice within their respective communities.

The student strike at San Francisco State College (SFSC) reflected the broader social upheaval that was characteristic of the 1960s, and the strikers’ demands echoed the cris de coeur of radical social activists across the nation.1 On the heels of the SFSC strike, similar battles were waged by students at the University of California Berkeley, Columbia University, Cornell University, and on many other American campuses. By 1971, students had won black studies programs in more than 500 colleges and universities and were responsible for the introduction of ethnic studies courses into the academic programming in almost 1,300 institutions of higher learning.2

 

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