The film, “Hate Spaces” extends beyond its immediate subject matter. Although at its core, it speaks to the evils of anti-Semitic fervor that plague college campuses around the nation, the film addresses larger issues about intolerance in this country. Just shy of two hours, “Hate Spaces” is a film about the truth and complexities of American culture, and the forces that promote intolerance under the banner of human rights and equality for all.
College campuses across North America are infused with political rhetoric that is purposefully antagonistic. When it comes to protesting Israel’s right to exist, it is often common for students to shout, “From the river to the sea Palestine will be free!” along with “Intifada, Intifada.” It’s place in the film is not to scare those who attend universities, but rather to illuminate a problem that has become systemic.
The beginning of the film presents a short but concise history of American higher education, why it was founded, along with its methods of inclusion and attention on diversity and multiculturalism beginning in the 1960s and 70s. The film then breaks down the inner workings of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), an organizations with -hundreds of chapters spread across the United States. Each SJP chapter is different in both tone and action, with some more radical than others. But all of them subscribe to the false and demonizing notion that Israel is a colonial apartheid state and that Zionism is equivalent to racism.
Through this film it becomes abundantly clear how the motives of students in SJP are not so much about protecting Palestinian human rights, as they are demonizing the Jewish people. The SJP chapter at my university, UMass-Amherst, operates in a similar fashion, During our Million Student March, a nation-wide protest championing progressive causes, the megaphone was handed to a board member of SJP where he called for an end to the occupation of all Palestinian territories, demanded that Palestinians in Israel no longer be treated as third-class citizens, allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland, and called on UMass to boycott all Israeli products. Before I go further, it should be noted that the Million Student March was in reference to tuition fees. This begs the question: why was Israel and the Palestinian conflict even being mentioned, regardless of where ones opinions lie on the subject? Did those who partook in the march do so to advocate for BDS, or to advocate for lower tuition fees?
Putting aside that there is no other organization with the global mission of enforcing an international boycott of another country, Israel remains the exception to that rule. Furthermore, it is clear that the boycott the UMass SJP chapter aligns itself with is in no way concerned with the plight of the Palestinian people.
Organizations like SJP thrive on the notion of safe spaces, and on the beliefs of equality and multiculturalism. However, it is clear that their attacks of Israel are nothing more than attacks against Jews and a front for hiding anti-Semitic thought. One example of this took place at Vassar college where its SJP chapter handed out Nazi propaganda in a further effort to expose, “the alleged pervasiveness of Zionism in the halls of power.” On college campuses from coast to coast whether it be UC Berkeley or Northeastern students come together in solidarity against the Jewish state. No one learns anything about what it means to be a Palestinian, whether it be religious, cultural or ethnic. It is entirely about expressing supposed love for a people while uniting to hate another. A lot of this has to do with moral narcissism; something that occurs when one hides under the banner of tolerance in a further effort to spread intolerance. By taking advantage of racial and ethnic diversity programs at colleges and universities, as the film argues, students have employed safe spaces as a defense mechanism. The logic goes; how can anyone call an opinion intolerant if you present yourself as an activist who fights for equality?
“Hate Spaces” illuminates an unfortunate reality that has never gotten the attention it deserves. Antisemitism is alive and well in the United States. It is up to students and parents, but more importantly academic institutions, to stand up for all people against prejudice.
Contributed by Isaac Simon, CAMERA Fellow at University of Massachusetts, Amherst