News & Politics

U of Michigan Jewish Student Apologizes for 'Islamophobic' (and Accurate) Statements, Is Still Condemned

Supporters of the 'BDS', Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement protest for lifting the Gaza blockade and to boycott the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, outside the venue where the contest final will take place, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, May 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

For quite some time, it has been obvious that our nation’s colleges and universities are no longer institutions of higher learning, but radioactive wastelands of leftist indoctrination and antifa recruitment. Resounding confirmation of this came Tuesday from the University of Michigan, when a Jewish student was condemned for telling the truth and groveled before his persecutors with an abject apology that is unlikely to remove the cloud of suspicion over him that he is guilty of wrongthink.

JNS.org reported that “the student government at the University of Michigan has passed a resolution condemning its president for remarks critical of the Palestinians he made as a high school senior.”

Yes, as a high school senior. As far as we know, Benjamin Gerstein, the condemned student, has been in total ideological lockstep with leftist totalitarians during his entire time at the University of Michigan. If he had not been, they would certainly have condemned him for that, as well. But as it stands, the condemnation is for things he said before he even got there.

What kind of star chamber is the University of Michigan student government running, that they would censure this young man for statements he made before he was a University of Michigan student, and for which he has issued an abject apology? The snotty little Nazis who condemned Gerstein are now demanding that one march in ideological lockstep with them every day of one’s life or pay the consequences for dissent, no matter how callow one was at the time of the dissent, and how groveling one’s apology.

The University of Michigan student government further covered itself in shame with the fact that the vote wasn’t even close. Those who will dare to stand for the truth and freedom there are apparently quite thin on the ground. JNS reported that “the final vote of the Feb. 25 resolution rebuking Central Student Government president Ben Gerstein was 25 in favor, zero against and four abstentions.”

What double-plus ungood things did Gerstein say? On the TV show “North Town News Magazine” in 2017, he said: “There should be a test for what type of people deserve a state and what type of people don’t. I think the Palestinian people, with rejecting constant peace deals, with their financing of terror, with their raising kids to hate people purely because of their religion, I don’t think that people deserve a state at this point in time. Until we see a significant change in the Palestinian mentality and a significant change in the Palestinian leadership, I don’t think they deserve a state at this point.”

These statements are true. The “Palestinians” are indeed “rejecting constant peace deals,” financing terror, and “raising kids to hate people purely because of their religion.” So what was Gerstein apologizing for?

Even worse, his apology could not have been more servile, more reminiscent of the self-incrimination of a Chinese victim of the Cultural Revolution at its most febrile and hysterical:

“In this video as well as an op-ed,” Gerstein wrote, “I made statements that erase the history of the Palestinian people.”

What history? The “Palestinian people” are a propaganda fiction, a people that has no history, as The Palestinian Delusion proves. They were invented in the 1960s. Before that, even in the tumultuous days of the founding of the modern State of Israel, there is not a single mention in the international press, the deliberations of the UN, or the statements of Muslim Arab leaders of any “Palestinian people.” They’re the local Arabs, indistinguishable culturally, religiously, ethnically, and linguistically from the Arabs of Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. So what history did Gerstein “erase”?

And how would it even have been possible for an American high school student to “erase” the history of an entire people with a few oppositional statements, even if that people did exist? Is this the kind of flaccid, flabby, lazy thinking that the University of Michigan is encouraging? Yes.

And it gets even worse. Gerstein goes on: “I made racist statements, including the denial of the right to self-determination, that were ignorant of Palestinians’ struggle under occupation. I am sorry beyond words—both for my actions as well as not coming forward with the video sooner and seeking remedy for it. I accept total and complete responsibility for the harmfulness of my language, the offensiveness of my words and the active role I played in the silencing of Palestinian voices.”

What “racist statements” did Gerstein make? He made none, of course, and should have said so. But he and all his fellow students at the University of Michigan and at colleges and universities all over the country have been relentlessly barraged with the idea that “racism” is the original sin, the worst thing anyone can commit.

What’s more, it’s pretty much the only sin. Yes, there is all that “misgendering” nonsense, but I’ve encountered numerous young people who characterize as “racism” anything they dislike or think is wrong, even if it has nothing whatsoever to do with race. It is how they have been taught to think — or to appear to engage in a semblance of thinking.

Recently an earnest young man made a lengthy video all about how I am a “white nationalist” for opposing jihad violence and Sharia oppression of women. He adduced numerous statements from me to support his case, without seeming to notice that in nary a one of them did I even mention race, much less say anything “white nationalist.” I was embarrassed for him. “Racism” is the only way he has been taught to see the world, and he simply cannot conceptualize any problem without it. He and Benjamin Gerstein are poster children for how contemporary education destroys young minds.

Gerstein’s Cultural Revolution self-incrimination didn’t end there. “I have grown considerably since I made those statements,” he assured us, “and the repulsive views I expressed in the video no longer reflect my current understanding. I am devastated to see them reappear and be defended today. I know an apology is never enough, and I am complicit in the oppression of Palestinians through my past actions.”

An apology is indeed never enough. The student government’s resolution stated that Gerstein’s comments were “Islamaphobic [sic] and racist, and we formally condemn these comments.” And, of course, “we recognize the international plight of the Palestinian people, some of whom are constituents of this government.” It also stated: “We recognize that more work needs to be done to uproot racism and Islamophobia at the University of Michigan.”

Of course, it does. Why, what else should university students be doing?

The student government’s censure is indicative of the left’s general tendency to criminalize and marginalize any dissent at all.

Benjamin Gerstein looks to have been well and truly brainwashed, thoroughly and efficiently propagandized, at the University of Michigan. His is a cautionary tale of how far our universities and colleges today have fallen. Many of them are closing because of the coronavirus; it would be a magnificent stroke of luck if the expense they had to undertake to fight the virus made it so they weren’t able to reopen.

Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 19 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is The Palestinian Delusion: The Catastrophic History of the Middle East Peace Process. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.