Key Takeaways From the House Hearing on College Campus Antisemitism

Incidents of antisemitism have exploded on American college campuses following the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel. Several college presidents appeared before a House committee on Tuesday to explain why antisemitism has been particularly acute on their campuses and what they will do to stop it.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce heard from Harvard University President Claudine Gay, University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Sally Kornbluth.

Here are some key takeaways from the hearing.

Accountability for Antisemitism, or More Excuses?

Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., read from a speech Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., recently delivered. Schumer is the highest-ranking Jewish politician in America.

In the speech, Schumer said that many of those expressing antisemitism right now “aren’t neo-Nazis or card-carrying Klan members or Islamist extremists.”

Instead, he said that they are people “most liberal Jewish Americans felt previously were their ideological fellow travelers.”

Foxx noted that while Schumer did a good job of acknowledging the antisemitism on the far Left, he did not mention college campuses.

“After the events of the past two months, it’s clear that rabid antisemitism and the university are two ideas that cannot be cleaved from one another,” she said while then noting various “diversity, equity, and inclusion” programs that specifically focused on race at Harvard.

She noted that Harvard became “ground zero” for hate directed toward Jews and ascribed the rise in antisemitism to the “race-based ideology” that’s become common on college campuses.

“Institutional antisemitism and hate are among the poisoned fruits of your institutions’ cultures,” Foxx said. She stated that the responsibility for stopping this problem is with the university presidents and their administrations.

She asked if these university representatives were willing to confront the ideology now driving antisemitism or whether they would offer “weak, blame-shifting excuses in yet another responsibility-dodging task force.”

“This moment is an inflection point. It demands leaders of moral clarity with the courage to delineate good from evil and right from wrong,” she said.

Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., said in his opening statement that, historically, college campuses have been hubs for students and faculty to express intellectual thought and expression. He said that following the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, campuses have become polarized.

“We’ve been witnessing a disturbing rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia,” he said.

Scott said that antisemitism didn’t start with the Oct. 7 attack or with diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

He said that America has a “centuries-long history of racism and white supremacy.”

The Virginia Congressman said that Republicans were stoking “culture wars that are divisive and discriminatory.”

Response from the Academy

Harvard’s president said that her university condemns the Oct. 7 attack on Israel. She said that since that incident, “We have seen a dramatic and deeply concerning rise in antisemitism around the world, in the United States, and on our campuses, including my own.”

Gay said that she had heard of incidents of intimidation of Jews from students and staff on her campus.

“At the same time, I know members of Harvard’s Arab and Muslim communities are also hurting,” she said. “During these past months, the world, our nation, and our campuses have also seen a rise in incidents of Islamophobia.”

She said that she has attempted to confront “hate” with “free expression.” In addition, she said that the campus has augmented mental health services.

“Antisemitism is a symptom of ignorance, and the cure for ignorance is knowledge,” Gay said.

University of Pennsylvania’s president said that she and her campus condemn Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel.

“There is no justification—none—for those terrorist attacks,” Magill said.

She noted that the hearing was taking place just days after a mob of anti-Israel protesters in Philadelphia gathered to intimidate and harass a Jewish-owned restaurant.

She said that in response to growing antisemitism around the globe and on her campus, the university has increased the presence of public safety officers at religious life centers on campus.

Magill touted that she launched a plan to combat antisemitism on Nov. 1.

“This builds on our anti-hate efforts to date, and it is anchored firmly in the United States national strategy to counter antisemitism,” she said.

The plan is focused on “safety and security, engagement, and education,” she said, noting that she also created a task force to “identify concrete, actionable recommendations.”

MIT’s president, who is Jewish, said that she abhors antisemitism and condemned the Hamas attack on Israel .

Kornbluth said that, nevertheless, shutting down the language of the anti-Israel protests is wrong, and that speech needs to be “countered with other speech and education, and we’re doing that.”

The right to free speech does not give the right to harass and intimidate, she said.

“We are intensifying our central efforts to combat antisemitism, the vital subject of this hearing,” Kornbluth explained. “I note that I am also deeply concerned about the prejudice against Arabs, Muslims, and Palestinians nationally and in our community.”

Why So Much Antisemitism and Terrorism Apologia on College Campuses?

Foxx asked the university presidents to explain why it is that antisemitism and apologies for terrorists have become so pronounced on their campuses.

“The antisemitism we’ve seen on your campuses didn’t come out of nowhere—they’re cultures that your institutions foster because you have faculty and students who hate Jews, hate Israel, and are comfortable apologizing for terror,” she said.

She described the situation as one of “institutional and moral rot.”

Harvard’s president answered that to be a successful university, professors have to be able to create discussions that bring out many different viewpoints, regardless of political viewpoint.

“We’ve devoted significant resources to training our faculty in that pedagogical skill, and we are prioritizing that in our hiring,” Gay said.

University of Pennsylvania’s president said that hate is “contrary to our values” and that antisemitism “has a role in the broader society, and that’s what we are seeing happening.”

MIT’s president stated that the school’s professors have many viewpoints but that they know the campus must be a diverse and welcoming environment.

Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wis., said that a 2016 study found that 2% of the faculty of Harvard viewed former President Donald Trump “as OK or good.” He stated, “I think in the 2020 election, the Harvard Crimson, your local paper there, found 1% of the students voting for Donald Trump.”

He said that given that the nation is roughly split in half on the issue he found it shocking that there was so little ideological diversity at the university.

“Does it concern you at all that you lack ideological diversity at Harvard, and do you think that atmosphere is maybe one of the reasons why there seems to be such an outbreak of antisemitism at your institution?” he asked.

“We strive to have as diverse a faculty as we can, because we want to make sure we are sampling from the broadest pool of talent available in the world. That’s how we ensure academic excellence,” Gay responded.

Grothman interjected and pointed to the numbers again: “When you compare the way people think at your campus compared to America as a whole, if there’s one thing you are, it’s not diverse.”

Gay said that she couldn’t speak to the data he was referring to, but said that at Harvard, they try to “create as much space as possible for a wide range of views and perspectives.”

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First Amendment Right to Religious Freedom Applies to Everyone but Jews

The First Amendment no longer applies to the openly Jewish. As antisemitic rallies, chants, and violence skyrocket in the United States and the Biden administration shifts focus to Islamophobia, many Jews have been forced to take their safety into their own hands.

In America, rallies and other activities in support of the Hamas terrorist organization are often met with little resistance or protection from local authorities and a neutral passing glance from political leaders and celebrities, has driven many Jews to change how they travel, dress, and express their worship.

Columnist and commentator Bethany Mandel told The Daily Signal that her family was no longer allowing her kids to walk to synagogue without protection. 

Mandel said that she and several colleagues also have been forced to stop keeping the Sabbath in order to stay up to date on threats and to cover the Israel-Hamas war and its effects abroad.

Heritage Foundation research fellows Jason Bedrick and Jay Greene both canceled plans to travel to conferences where they didn’t feel safe as Jews. (The Daily Signal is Heritage’s news outlet.)

Several Jewish students at MIT told The Daily Signal that they’ve changed how they dress to avoid being targeted again by pro-Hamas students on campus—for example,  swapping yarmulkes for baseball caps.

Countless synagogues, Jewish day schools, museums, and community centers have increased armed security drastically.

Why change your behavior in a nation where your right to religious liberty is enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution? Because pro-Hamas protesters from Pennsylvania to California continually chant threats such as “Israel, Israel, you can’t hide; we charge you with genocide.” 

Heaven help the Jew who is noticed acting a little too Jewish near a progressive university or pocket of fundamentalist Muslims. He might find his business, synagogue, student center, or cemetery protested, surrounded, and vandalized, as happened in New York , California , Florida , and Ohio .

The pro-Hamas protesters never explain how an Israeli Jew owning a coffee shop or retail store is equivalent to funding “the war against Palestine.” But like most other conspiracies steeped in antisemitism, sound data and logic are absent on principle.

In true American fashion, many Jews are preparing for the increased threats to the safety of their families and communities by arming themselves and taking firearms and self-defense training courses.

Chris Radcliff, a police officer in rural Indiana, told The Daily Signal that a large number of local Jews who didn’t carry prior to Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre of 1,200 Israelis have been filling up his classes on personal defense and firearms safety—and encouraging their friends to do the same.

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, an orthodox Jew living in Florida, consistently reports the same. On his daily podcast, Shapiro has reported that gun stores and shooting ranges are packed with Jewish individuals who don’t wish to be the targets of the racial lynch mobs that have begun to form in urban areas such as New York City.

In the past month, two distinct groups of pro-Hamas protesters, one made up of college students at Cooper Union and the other of high school students in Queens, surrounded Jews until police officers had to escort the Jews to safety.

In both cases, the mobs of young people screamed the genocidal chant of “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” as they beat on doors separating them from terrified Jews inside. 

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat, dispatched counselors from a “diversity, equity, and inclusion” group to lecture the mob of violent students in Queens, in place of any real consequence.

Jewish students have been harassed at MIT, Columbia, Penn State, Harvard, and NYU. Antisemitic incidents in the U.S. rose by over 400% in the first two weeks after Oct. 7.

Paul Kessler, a 69-year-old Jewish man, was beaten to death with a megaphone in Thousand Oaks, California, by a pro-Hamas protester, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office reported .

A California middle school forced four 11-year-old Jewish students to sign a gag order after they were harassed by a pro-Hamas student who told them that “all Israelis and Jews should be killed.” 

Community leaders also have altered their behavior to avoid offending pro-Hamas groups at the expense of Jews.

The Second Sundays Art and Music Festival in Williamsburg, Virginia, canceled an annual menorah lighting scheduled for Dec. 10 after the founder of the festival said the event “seemed very inappropriate” in view of the Israel-Hamas war and might indicate the festival had chosen a side in the conflict.

The event organizer later offered to allow the menorah lighting, if it were done “under a banner calling for a cease-fire.”

This action drew severe condemnation from the United Jewish Community of the Virginia Peninsula, which labeled as antisemitic this pandering and singling out of an apolitical religious event:

We should be very clear: It is antisemitic to hold Jews collectively responsible for Israel’s policies and actions, and to require a political litmus test for Jews’ participation in community events that have nothing to do with Israel. Those standards would never be applied to another community.

After being heckled by pro-Hamas protesters, Brown University President Christina Paxson altered her speech to omit a student’s right to safely wear a yarmulke or the Star of David on campus—choosing only to mention a student’s right to wear a keffiyeh or hijab.

Jews in the United States are under attack, and the Left only has eyes for Islamophobia. 

This isn’t new—only a different flavor of disgrace. After a transgender shooter slaughtered six, including three children, at The Covenant School in Nashville,Tennessee, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre mourned transphobia

Racial crimes in which a black individual kills a white individual are often left without the FBI’s “hate crime” label .

There isn’t a single reason that the full weight of our federal government—the same government that found Jan. 6 protesters in mere moments—shouldn’t be brought down on those who cause our fellow Jewish citizens to live in fear. 

Where is the social justice crowd now?

On paper, you have the freedom of speech, assembly, and religion. But after the cowardly responses to the blatant antisemitism that has become so common following Oct. 7, it’s clear that the First Amendment is extended only to a few select groups. Jews need not apply.

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