Why is it that university administrators at some of the most prestigious educational institutions in the country appear so intimidated by their own students or so confused by their institutional commitment to free speech principles that they refuse to condemn student organizations that promote violence, terrorism and antisemitism?
There are several examples. And several prominent offenders are in the Ivy League.
First, there is the jaw-dropping failure of Harvard University’s leadership to denounce the morally repugnant effort of 30 student groups to shift blame to Israel for Hamas’ brutal slaughter of over 1,300 Israeli citizens and abduction of an estimated 199 on Oct. 7. According to the Harvard geniuses, Israel was “entirely responsible” for the horrific violence.
And then there is the University of Pennsylvania’s failure to condemn an array of hate-filled blood libels against Jews and Zionists at the recent Penn-sponsored Palestine Writes festival. That gathering – which was supposed to focus on Palestinian arts, culture and poetry – featured verbal attacks on Jews, Israel and Zionism. One speaker even promoted ethnic cleansing and the exile of Jews to “cantons,” another defended the use of violence against Israel and several speakers accused the Jews of invading Palestine as
Similar anti-Zionist and antisemitic student rants preceded last week’s “Day of Resistance” promoted by Students for Justice in Palestine – an observance promoted as vigils to honor Palestinian “martyrs” killed during the Hamas raid on Israel. These and other campus challenges are increasing Jewish student discomfort in a university world that imposes no limits on the substance, content or morality of organized student rhetoric, even when that rhetoric is abhorrent and antisemitic.
The concerns are real and justified. How else is a Jewish student supposed to react to the toolkit prepared by SJP for use in preparation for the Day of Resistance, which boasted: “Today, we witness a historic win for the Palestinian resistance: across land, air and sea, our people have broken down the artificial barriers of the Zionist entity, taking with it the façade of an impenetrable settler colony and reminding each of us that total return and liberation to Palestine is near.”
These and similar experiences by Jewish students across America have prompted advocates to pressure the Department of Education to issue a regulation first developed during the Trump administration – but twice delayed by the Biden administration – to require universities that receive federal funds to investigate and adjudicate claims of antisemitic behavior or discrimination against ethnic groups on campus, or risk losing federal funding. Those promoting the regulation argue that when otherwise robust conversations about Israel cross into advocacy for violence and terror, it should be the responsibility of university leadership to deal with it.
We are puzzled by the Biden administration’s hesitation. The DOE rule is consistent with the administration’s National Strategy to Combat Antisemitism and would help provide protection and comfort for Jewish students who are feeling threatened or insecure as a result of unchecked hate and vitriol on campus.
Incitement, intimidation and the promotion of violence have no place on campus. We expect university leaders to understand that.