Within a day after the evil Hamas’ murderous invasion of Israel and Hamas’ commission of sadistic and unspeakable atrocities, there began a series of antisemitic disturbances on college campuses. They were too well organized and financed to be spontaneous, with a panoply of flags, posters and strident and provocative slogans, orchestrated by well-trained operators. The atmosphere was raucous and often resulted in violent or destructive acts, intimidation and despicable displays directed at Jews. "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" was chanted over and over in the demonstrations.
As if this was not shocking enough, the response by many affected colleges was tepid or non-existent. Even worse was the fact that some college professors and staff either actually participated in or encouraged the outbursts of antisemitism. Even when some colleges took action to quell the antisemitic outbursts, some professors perversely took umbrage and, in effect, objected to protecting Jewish students.
The immediate reaction of the Biden Administration was obtuse. Instead of concentrating on the rising and dangerous trend of antisemitic incidents that accounted for an overwhelming percentage of the hate crimes reported by the FBI, it chose to highlight the specter of possible Islamophobia. While salutary in the abstract, this kind of mixed messaging can have a chilling effect. Imagine dealing with an antisemite who happens to be Muslim. Should a university balk at taking appropriate action because of some misplaced, politically contrived concern that it might be penalized because of an unfounded claim of Islamophobia?
Jewish students on college campuses are experiencing a very real and prevalent problem of antisemitism that must be solved now. Any ambiguity in the approach only serves to hamper resolving the problem. Despite the Administration’s highly publicized recent plan to combat antisemitism, the prevalence of antisemitic incidents has only escalated.
Moreover, CAIR, one of the vaunted partners in the plan, absurdly blamed Israel for Hamas’ atrocities and failed to condemn Hamas. Yet, bizarrely, the Administration continues to keep CAIR onboard, despite this antisemitic posture. It is also patently at odds with the President’s own well founded view that evil Hamas must be unqualifiedly condemned and there are no two sides nor moral equivalence.
The need to adopt the IHRA working definition of antisemitism unequivocally and vigorously enforce it, has never been clearer. This definition of antisemitism, adopted by the US State Department, includes, among other things:
· Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
· Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective
· Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
· Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
· Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism to characterize Israel or Israelis.
· Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
· Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.
The desperate situation on college campuses is not precipitous; it is the result of a long process of decline. It is exemplified by an exchange that occurred not that long ago when U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris visited George Mason University, on September 28, 2021. She outrageously responded to a student accusing Israel of committing “ethnic genocide” by saying, “… [Y]our voice, your perspective, your experience, your truth, should not be suppressed.”
In essence, she condoned an obvious lie and antisemitic slur, instead of correcting or at the very least challenging the student’s factually incorrect assertion.
Rabbi David Wolpe aptly reacted: “Madame Vice President, the idea that Israel has committed genocide against the Palestinians is not someone’s truth; it is someone’s lie, whether they know it or not. And it is pernicious, destructive and should not be elided or ignored by the highest officials in the land.”
College campuses have touted their sensitivity to diversity and inclusion and devotion to keeping students safe and protected from abuse and intimidation. However, it appears this concern excludes Jews. It appears colleges are consciously tolerating and, in some cases, staff members are even promoting antisemitism. They are objectively failing their Jewish students.
Existing rules at many colleges were designed to deal with this kind of abuse, but they are not being enforced when Jews are being abused. For example, the Harvard University Office of Student Life’s standard for recognized clubs and campus groups "prioritizes anti-racist and anti-oppressive practices and reflects the rich diversity and plurality of our community."
Yet, over thirty recognized Harvard Student Groups, including Harvard Law School Students for Justice in Palestine and Amnesty International of Harvard, were among the signatories to a letter stating: "We, the undersigned student organizations, hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence. The apartheid regime is the only one to blame, Israeli violence has structured every aspect of Palestinian existence for 75 years..." There was no condemnation of Hamas, just Israel.
The Hamas Charter calls for the elimination of Israel and genocide against the Jewish people. Indeed, White House National Security spokesman Admiral John Kirby pointed out how inappropriate it was to libel Israel with the word ‘genocide’. He said: “Israel is not trying to wipe the Palestinians off the map…Israel is trying to defend itself against a genocidal terrorist threat” from Hamas.
Yet, these parvenu and loathsome student groups support Hamas. They also shout genocidal slogans “from the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free’ and ‘by any means possible’, which demand the violent destruction of Israel.
What is this juvenile fascination with rhymes? The seemingly mindless incessant screeching of these repugnant words that rhyme is reminiscent of other appalling robotic chants and gestures from the Nazi era calling for the genocide of the Jews. Here’s another example that directly channels the Nazi genocidal final solution program for the elimination of the Jews; a thoroughly despicable chant, “There is only one solution: intifada revolution!”.
It’s also not unusual to see the raised hand Nazi salute.
Is it any wonder that an Editor of the Harvard Law Review accosted a Jewish student in the vicinity of a protest on campus that turned violent? Harassment of students on College campuses is usually a violation of student codes of conduct. It would appear that holding students to account for their misbehavior when it comes to targeting and abusing Jews and applying disciplinary actions, ranging from probation to suspension and, if repeated or egregious, expulsion, have been abandoned. The only rule when it comes to antisemitism seems to be, in effect, there are no rules, because there is no tangible enforcement.
Has Harvard taken any action against the Editor or others harassing Jewish students? How will students learn that this kind of lawless conduct is wholly unacceptable? Indeed, given the position taken by a number of professors at Harvard challenging even the University’s weak response to antisemitism, it might seem to many that the University condones it. (At least we now witness some of the signers losing their job offers at prestigious law firms, some Jewish and some refusing to have someone pro Hamas violence represent their clients, ed.)
Some universities have taken the important first step of decertifying these antisemitic student groups. Others have taken milder action like suspending them. But there are still many who have not taken any tangible action to protect Jewish students. Worse, they have counseled them to sequester themselves and remove any visible signs of their Jewishness. This is not only appalling, it is eerily reminiscent of the scene on college campuses in Nazi Germany, even before the infamous Nuremburg Laws, when college students enthralled by the sordid Nazi movement then in vogue were in the vanguard of harassing and barring Jewish students on campus.
The hypocrisy is blatant and galling.
Would any college recognize or tolerate a student group that advocated chattel slavery? Of course not and this must be the same standard applied to any group supporting Hamas or antisemitism. Hamas is a US designated Foreign Terrorist Organization for good reason and there are also severe legal implications for providing material support to Hamas. These student groups must be decertified, not suspended and any professors or staff supporting Hamas or antisemitism must be removed.
The House of Representatives, on November 15, 2023, adopted an amendment, with broad bipartisan support, rescinding federal funding for colleges providing a platform for antisemitic hate, as well as an amendment requiring the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education to prioritize the investigation of antisemitic incidents. The Department of Education has also recently announced the commencement of a number of Title VI investigations against colleges with an antisemitism problem and there have been a number of private actions commenced as well.
We cannot remain silent in the face of evil. We must redouble our efforts to battle and defeat the evil that is Hamas and antisemitism on campus, as well as wherever it rears its ugly head.
Leonard Grunstein, retired attorney and banker, founded and served as Chairman of Metropolitan National Bank and then Israel Discount Bank of NY. He founded Project Ezrah and serves on the Board of Bernard Revel at Yeshiva Univ. and the AIPAC National Council. He has published articles in the Banking Law Journal, Real Estate Finance Journal and more.