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 also hate Jews and Israel, in large numbers. But in emblematic of what American academia has become is the fact that those who hate Israel the most know the least about it.
Algemeiner reported recently 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 fact comes 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 this survey, which began by presenting students with 18 issues and asking them to rate how interested they were in them.
Hassner explained that these issues 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.’”
According to Hassner, 43 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 twaddle about the massive, howling, world-historical injustice of the occupation of Western Sahara or Northern Cyprus. They likely haven’t even heard of either one.
That’s a reasonable conclusion to come to in light of the fact that they know virtually nothing about the conflict that they do profess to care, and care very deeply, about: “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%.”
Strikingly, 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.”
In fact, “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.” And this pattern continually recurred “in all answers related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Hassner noted: “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 professed not to know why ignorance and passion about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict correlated so markedly: “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.