Colleges Must Respond to Antisemitism on Campus


Monday, December 18, 2023

If there was any lingering doubt that universities suffer from an antisemitism problem, how they have responded to Hamas’s latest round of violence against Israel should dispel it. The most recent attacks mark the darkest time for the Jewish people since the Holocaust. More Jews died on October 7 than any single day since 1945. Whenever Israel is under attack, antisemitism surges around the world. Nowhere is this trend more clear than on college campuses. 

Across the country, campus chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) have called for “decolonization” from Israel. GWU SJP expressed support for “resistance, in all its forms,” presumably including the rape and murder of innocent civilians. In no uncertain terms, UC Berkeley’s Bears for Palestine compared Hamas’s current attack to the Second Intifada, which they frame as “one of the last major historic markers of the resistance.” It is hard to read these statements as anything other than unadulterated Jew-hatred. Make no mistake; to praise the Intifada is to celebrate Jews being murdered. 

The Anti-Defamation League’s Jonathan Greenblatt asked on MSNBC, “Where are the university presidents who gave clear statements about all these other causes that mattered… Why are they silent on dead Jews?” Suddenly, institutions that once regarded themselves as the foremost defenders of human rights have found themselves at an impasse: speak out against the murder of Jews or toe the line of radicalism. Columbia University chose the latter, issuing a statement that did not condemn or even name Hamas. University of Pennsylvania, on the other hand, did condemn Hamas, but it came too late, over a week after the violence had started and only after calls from a wealthy donor for the president to resign. 

At Harvard, 34 student organizations signed onto a statement to “hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.” Their statement made no mention of Hamas or the Israelis who have been kidnapped, raped, and murdered. When asked to condemn the open antisemitism on her campus, Harvard President Claudine Gay affirmed the university’s commitment to free speech. It does not take a Harvard grad to recognize the ludicrousness of this statement. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), Harvard is the single worst school in the country for free speech. Their commitment to the principle of free speech is nearly nonexistent.  

None of these incidents are by accident. Gay, like every other college and university president, is terrified of the radicals in her midst. It is not merely students who embrace this radicalism. A professor at UC Davis called for the murder of “zionist journalists” on social media. Professors at UCLA hosted a teach-in where they smeared Israel as a “settler colonial society.” If this is the sort of discussion prompted by the murder of Jews, then we can finally do away with the notion that it is possible to be an anti-Zionist without being an antisemite. American Jews like myself have undoubtedly observed that anti-Zionism and antisemitism are inextricably linked. By failing to respond to pro-Hamas students and professors, schools across America are signaling that they do not value the safety of their Jewish students. 

While many universities have issued condemnations of antisemitism, it is not enough. Society must have zero tolerance for this kind of bigotry. Three students from Harvard and Columbia had job offers rescinded from the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell over their endorsement of antisemitism. Winston & Strawn likewise rescinded an offer to a pro-Hamas law student at NYU. A number of CEOs, including hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, have expressed support for a blacklist against antisemitic students. Several universities, including GW and Columbia, have suspended chapters of SJP over their support of terrorism. These measures combating antisemitism are all welcome.

At the same time, it is not enough for universities to change their tune to condemn hatred of Jews. They must recognize the role they have played in allowing antisemitism to flourish. Universities have become obsessed with social grievances and positioned themselves as purveyors of “social justice.” In doing so, they have cultivated a monster emblematic of the very racism and bigotry they sought to oppose. Students, alumni, and donors who care about fighting antisemitism must speak out. Otherwise, the problem is only going to get worse. At the very least, as a college student and a Jew, I will not stay silent.

Russell Kitsis is a Jewish conservative student at Babson College. Russell is studying finance and hopes to work in investment banking upon graduation.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.

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About Russell Kitsis

Russell Kitsis is a Jewish conservative student at Babson College. Russell is studying finance and hopes to work in investment banking upon graduation.

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