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"Brain washing" on campus

Reader comment on item: Happy Israel
in response to reader comment: OK for now, but how about the next generation in the US?

Submitted by Sigmund Derman (United States), Jun 8, 2013 at 17:46

Does anyone have actual data on the opinions of college studies vis-à-vis Israel? I do not claim to know the answer, but let me give some observations based on my association with universities (albeit as a teacher in a medical school but at a school on the main campus of a university).

When I was in college most Jewish students seemed rather apathetic about Israel. Now a large number of them seem engaged with Israel and they frequently attend Israeli oriented programs though Hillel and in other ways. Such students probably do not have a one dimensional view of Israel but the ones I have spoken to seem pro-Israel and they also seem well informed. Also, they are not isolated from other students but have many friends and contacts among students of all races and nationalities. If there has been any change, I think the Jewish students are more engaged with Israel than before. They are more willing to self-identify as Jews and such self-identification does not seem to have negative consequences (in general).

When we speak of the pro-Palestinian professors we tend to focus on a very small subset of the faculty. Naturally they are of concern to those who write and read columns such as this. Middle East Studies faculty members are probably much on the mind of Middle East scholars such as Dr. Pipes and rightly so. But few students take courses in these subjects. The faculty I interact with are mostly in the sciences, engineering, and economics and the majority of those seem neutral to strongly positive with respect to Israel. Of course, they don't indoctrinate their students but they attend scientific meeting in Israel and invite Israelis to campus. In columns such as this one we rarely hear about the Israeli professors who come to give a talk on gene cloning or cardiology but their presence may do more to shape students' views on Israel than the highly publicized loud-mouthed anti-Israeli speakers.

Finally, what are students majoring in? Though it might be a good thing if we had Dr. Pipes teaching at Harvard instructing a new generation of Middle East scholars there, the majority of students I know about are majoring in things like the sciences, engineering, computers, business, criminal justice, restaurant and hotel management, healthcare administration, environmental studies, and other more practical things. Some also still major in the humanities but when you add up the majors in English, other languages (of which Arabic and other Middle Eastern languages are but a subset), creative writing, technical writing, history (of which Middle Eastern history is but one component), and many others I think you will find that very few students are exposed to the pro-Palestinian propaganda.

I am not a sticker and sign oriented person, but if I were to put a pro-IDF sticker on my car in the campus parking lot there would be little chance that the sticker would attract vandalism. I think a pro-Hamas sticker would be riskier, especially if it had any Arabic on it (and the latter is too bad because I do not believe that Islam per se is bad, just Islamism).

But this is just my general impression. Does anyone have some well-done unbiased surveys?


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