by Jeff Jacoby
When Lawrence Summers became the president of Harvard last year, not even his greatest admirers predicted how resolutely he would make the university's motto - "Veritas" - his own. Almost from the day he was inaugurated, Summers has insisted on speak-ing unpopular truths:  about the disrespect shown to Americans in uniform, about the rot of grade inflation in Harvard's classrooms, about the absence of "mainstream values" among "coastal elites" -- even about the failure of a celebrity professor like Cornel West to do serious academic work.

Last week, voicing another unpopular truth, Summers spoke out against the spread of Jew-bashing -- not only in Europe and at UN conferences, but at American universities.

"There is distrubing evidence of an upturn in antisemitism globally, and also...closer to home," he said on Sept.17.  Profoundly anti-Israel views are increasingly finding support in progressive intellectual communities.  Serious and thoughtful people are advocating and taking actions that are antisemitic in their effect if not their intent."

Actually, even antisemitism intent can be found on American campuses these days. At San Francisco State University, for exam- ple pro-Palestinian demonstrators recently confronted supporters of Israel with signs reading "Jews = Nazis" and chants of "Hitler should have finished the  job."  Earlier this month, anti-Israel  rioters at  Concordia  University in Montreal smashed windows and hurled furniture to protest a scheduled speech by Benjamin Netanyahu.

Fortunately, such naked Jew-hatred is still rare in academia. What Summers had in mind was something less blatant but no less dis- graceful.

"Some  here  at Harvard  and some at universities  across the  country," he said, "have  called for the university  to single out Israel among all nations as the lone country where it is inappropriate for any part of the university's endowment to be invested. I hasten to say the university has categorically rejected this suggestion."

The divestment campaign  Summers was referring to demands that Israel be treated  as a pariah,  a country so toxic that American universities shouldn't  even own  stock in  companies that do business there.  It is modeled  on  the  anti-apartheid movement of the 1970's and 1980's,  and its planted  axiom is that  there is no  important  moral difference  between  Israel --  a  free  and  tolerant democracy at war with dictatorial enemies bent on genocide -- and the former white-ruled South Africa.  This is  a  position only a moral idiot could endorse.

Supporters of the divestment effort at Harvard and elsewhere were quick to condemn Summers for his   "McCarthyesque"   attack. "This is the ugliest statement imaginable," fumed John Assad, a neurobiology professor at Harvard's medical school, "to paint critics as antisemitic."

But Summers didn't "paint critics" as antisemitic or anything else; he characterized their "actions" as "antisemitic in their effect."  He was not ascribing base motives to those who support the divestment campain.  He didn't presume  to  read  their  hearts.Rather,  he was pointing out the impact of their behavior.  One who supports a campaign that singles out Israel for  demonization and  obloquy is taking an antisemitic action, whether he intends to or not.

Are Israeli  policies fair game for  criticism? Of course.  But  it  is not  "criticism"  to  falsely smear Israel as racist -- not when the
Arab world seethes with a hatred for Jews more rabid even than the Nazis'.

It is not  "criticism"  to portray  Israel's lawful  presence in Gaza and the  West Bank  as an illegal occupation, yet never murmur a word of objection to China's occupation of Tibet, or Syria's of Lebanon, or Turkey's of Northern Cyprus, or Russia's of Chechnya.

It is not  "criticism"  to lay the blame for the violence of the  Middle  East at  Israel's doorstep while ignoring the immense risks that Israel has taken and the sacrifices it has made in pursuit of peace with the Palestinians.

It is not "criticism" to accuse Israel of apartheid, when it is the Arab world that preaches "Kill the Jews!"   and dances  in the street when terrorists do so.

This is not criticism -- it is calumny.  It butchers the truth and subjects Israel to an outrageous double standard.  It abets the cause of the world's foremost Jew-haters -- people whose explicit goal is the liquidation of the Jewish State.  A professor who signs his name to something so grotesque is committing an antisemitic act.

"In our own day," Norman Podhoretz once wrote, 
"Israel has become the touchstone of attitudes toward the  Jewish  people, and anti-Zionism  has  become  the  main  and most  relevant form of antisemitism." Anti-semitism used to express itself in demanding
that good Aryans boycott Jewish shops.  Today it demands that good universities boycott the Jewish state.
It may look different on the outside, but it's the same old poison underneath.
Jeff is a columnist for The Boston Globe
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