The Corner


Violent Antisemitism Is the Language of the Privileged

Pro-Palestinian students take part in a protest in support of the Palestinians amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza, at Columbia University in New York City, October 12, 2023. (Jeenah Moon/Reuters)

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that the hordes of young adults seen perpetrating acts of antisemitic vandalism or harassing Jews are, for lack of a better word, dumb. But though it may well be true that these young people are ignorant, they are not unschooled. Quite the opposite.

On Thursday, the New York Post published a video of the scene of the attack on Paul Kessler, a 69-year-old Californian who was killed after he was allegedly struck with a bullhorn while counter-protesting a pro-Hamas demonstration. The footage features deputies questioning Moorpark College professor Loay Alnaji, who admits to attempting to strike Kessler’s phone — a strike that caused his target to fall fatally backward onto the pavement. The allegations are, as yet, merely those. Alnaji has not yet been charged for his role in the attack, much less convicted. His innocence is presumed. But Alnaji has not been shy about expressing his support for terrorism in the highly abstracted and intellectualized way academics discuss bloodshed in support of causes to which they are predisposed.

It is no coincidence that so many of the prosecutors of the campaign of antisemitism to which we are witness are some of American society’s most comfortable, most affluent, most cosseted citizens. Islamist violence is not the language of the desperate and dispossessed. It is a product of indoctrination, and its perpetrators are often the well-heeled products of a misbegotten education.

A number of studies of the phenomenon of Islamist terrorism support that conclusion. A World Bank study found that nearly 70 percent of Boko Haram’s terrorists completed at least a secondary level of education. Higher levels of education closely corresponded with support for the first intifada, according to a Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research study. Research published in the journal Applied Economics found “a positive association between education and terrorism, which suggests that more educated people are more likely to engage in terrorism.” “All leaders of Hamas,” the Israeli journalist Ronni Shaked told terrorism researcher Bruce Hoffman, “are university graduates, some with master’s degrees.” He continued: “This is a movement not of poor, miserable people but of highly educated people who are using poverty to make the movement more powerful.”

As the late Justice Antonin Scalia observed, there is a reason why the Holocaust was the innovation of one of the most literate, progressive, and cultured societies on Earth. It is a myth that desperation is the fuel that produces episodes of hateful, terroristic violence. After all, you’ve got to be carefully taught.

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