All the hype about the decision by students at Yeshiva University's Cardozo School of Law to honor Jimmy Carter ended with a whimper today, not a bang. Carter received the International Advocate for Peace, bestowed by a student-run journal, without any of the hoopla one might expect from the controversy generated by the announcement that he would receive the honor. As the award ceremony commenced, not a single protester could be found. The event, which had supposedly caused uproar in the Jewish world, proved to be nothing more than angry online rhetoric from Cardozo’s pool of hawkish pro-Israel alumni.
As I waited outside of the Cardozo building, several reporters, mostly from Jewish newspapers, commiserated. Cardozo alumni had declared their willingness to stop Carter from entering the building. “Mr. Carter ain’t going to get anywhere,” one of the alumni blustered, according to the Forward. But bluster was all it was: Carter entered and left the building without incident. "Anti-Carter protestors are a no-show at Cardozo award scene. Not even one," tweeted Haaretz's Chemi Shalev from the scene. "Other than a few pro-Carterites and one foul- mouthed anti-Semite, all quiet as students file into Cardozo hall for Carter ceremony."
Carter's honor received growing media attention this past week, even rising to stories in two major national newspapers today. The New York Times reported that tensions ran high "because Cardozo is a part of Yeshiva University, an Orthodox Jewish institution where support for the state of Israel runs high. And among supporters of Israel, there are few figures more controversial than Mr. Carter, who has repeatedly criticized Israeli policy toward Palestinians and described their circumstances as apartheid."
None of the hawkish Yeshiva supporter apparently believed that it was worthwhile to actually show up. The plans to protest fell apart just before Carter arrived for the ceremony. Michael Osborne, a pro-Israel advocate and sophomore at Yeshiva’s Sy Syms School of Business, tried organizing a rally against the ceremony. “Unfortunately, the event was in the middle of the day, and students couldn’t leave class to protest,” he said. Osborne claims to have been in contact with Cardozo alumni who “simply didn’t come through in the end.”
Ben Winter, a senior at Yeshiva College, claims that YU’s students are ultimately unwilling to physically volunteer themselves for pro-Israel causes. “While many students at YU feel strongly about their Zionism, few have the courage to publicly express their opinions,” he said.
One wonders how the media will react to the next pro-Israel uproar at Yeshiva University. Judging from the disappointment that myself and the others journalists felt at the anti-climax, I highly doubt it will.