The Real Reason So Many American University Students Hate Israel

student protest for Palestine

The Left’s Long March Through the Institutions has been a resounding success.

It’s simple, really. Why do so many college and university students hate Israel? Because they know nothing about it, and have bought into the propaganda they’ve been fed.

In the midst of the recent and nationwide demonstrators featuring students (and many others) denouncing Israel for its alleged crimes, Algemeiner reported that “students who care strongly about the ‘Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories’ do not have knowledge of basic facts surrounding the subject, and do not share similar concerns about other geopolitical conflicts.”

This wholly unstartling bit of information was gleaned from a survey of 230 undergraduates at University of California, Berkeley. Ron Hassner, who has the unenviable position of being Berkeley’s Helen Diller Family Chair in Israel Studies, conducted the survey, which began by presenting students with 18 issues and asking them to rate how interested they were in them.

These issues, according to Hassner, included “US-Iran relations, the civil war in Yemen, drone warfare, etc., on a five point scale, ranging from ‘I’m not that interested’ (1 point out of 5) to ‘I care deeply’ (5 points out of 5).” The survey went on from there to ask the respondents a “series of open-ended questions ‘on history, geography, and current affairs.’”F

Forty-three percent of the students were most interested in Israel’s alleged “control of Palestinian territories,” while expressing much less interest in “other Middle East occupations, such as the Kurdish struggle for independence, the occupation of Western Sahara, or the occupation of Northern Cyprus.”

That’s understandable. These indoctrinated bots aren’t inundated daily with self-righteous leftist rubbish about the massive, outrageous, world-historical injustice of the occupation of Western Sahara or Northern Cyprus. In all likelihood, they haven’t even heard of either one.

Why is that likely? Because they know virtually nothing regarding the conflict about which they claim to care very deeply: “Eighty-four percent of those in the most passionate cohort could not name the decade when Israel captured the West Bank, while 75 percent could not locate the Palestinian territories in question on a map.” Moreover, a full twenty-five percent of these programmed and propagandized student “placed the Palestinian Territories west of Lebanon, in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.” Nor did just a few of them drive the Palestinians into the sea that they chant about wanting to fill with Israelis: “The class average for this blunder was 14%.”

The survey data also showed that “students who expressed the most interest in the Palestinian issue were less informed than more moderate peers, who ‘are more likely to admit gaps in their knowledge and, as a result, are less likely to hold erroneous beliefs.’” Thus “like the rest of the class, only 25% of passionate students placed the Palestinian Territories, correctly, south of Lebanon. But students with more moderate levels of enthusiasm provided the correct answer 28% of the time.”

The anger of the students toward Israel correlated with their ignorance of it: “the most passionate students were also the least likely to leave questions unanswered and ‘the most likely to offer a wild guess,’ marking them as the most overconfident respondents.” This pattern continually recurred “in all answers related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Hassner stated: “Only 16% of students who ‘care deeply’ about the Palestinian issue provided the correct decade for the Six Day War and only 17% were able to guess that the population of Israel was somewhere between 8 and 12 million people. The others offered guesses ranging from as low as 100,000 persons to as high as 150 million persons.”

Hassner himself professed not to know why ignorance and passion about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict correlated so strikingly: “While acknowledging that his survey could not answer why students were driven to profess strong opinions on issues they were not particularly knowledgeable about, Hassner posited that ‘it does indicate, strongly, that education and moderation go hand in hand.’” He added: “The questions that students answered most accurately involved Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Morocco, all countries for which they expressed moderate but not extreme interest. If misinformation is both a cause and a consequence of political passion, then good teaching is the antidote.”

Yes. The students who are most passionate about hating Israel know the least about the conflict because they are suffering from a social contagion, not acting upon a reasoned conclusion. Those who actually study the issue, if they do so thoroughly and honestly, will come out supporting Israel. Our nation’s colleges and universities are doing their level best to prevent that outcome.

The Left’s Long March Through the Institutions has been a resounding success. Most of our nation’s colleges and universities, including — indeed, especially — those who enjoy an outsize influence on American politics and culture, have long ago ceased to be centers of higher learning and have become centers of far-Left indoctrination. Marxist sloganeering and agitprop masquerades as genuine intellectual inquiry, and so it’s no wonder that once American youth graduate from their once-renowned institutions, they happily take jobs in government or social media that involve stripping free speech and self-defense rights from Americans. They have been trained to be cogs in the machine. Their hatred of Israel is just one aspect of that indoctrination.

Robert Spencer

Photo: Axios

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About the Author

Robert Spencer
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 26 books including many bestsellers, such as The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)The Truth About Muhammad and The History of Jihad. His latest books are The Critical Qur’an and The Sumter Gambit. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.