Zero Tolerance For Campus Antisemitism

After the presidents of Harvard, Penn and MIT told a recent congressional hearing that calling for the genocide of the Jews is not necessarily a violation of their institutions’ code of conduct, a consensus emerged that their statements were outrageous and unacceptable.

The presidents resorted to muddled legal evasions that focused on free speech in the abstract. They conveniently avoided the fact that, following an executive order issued by then-President Donald Trump in 2019, Jews are a protected group under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Acts. Thus, harassment of or discrimination against Jews is illegal.

The presidents’ attempt to avoid the clear stipulations of Title VI is part of a larger problem: Universities’ refusal to enforce existing rules against antisemitic conduct. Indeed, instead of punishing the violators, administrators often attack the victims in order to bury the problem.

This cannot be allowed to continue. Immediate action is required to prevent further harm to Jewish students and the de facto denial of educational opportunities to Jews. Such actions could include suspending federal funding to and tax exemptions for universities under Title VI. In addition, enforcement mechanisms must be taken away from biased administrators and given to an independent body. 

Any ambiguity about what antisemitism is must end. All relevant institutions, especially in higher education, must adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism and only that definition. Not only universities, but the Biden administration and the U.S. Congress must do so as well.

The constant conflation of antisemitism with “Islamophobia” must also end. It was a fundamental mistake for the Biden administration to include the antisemitic Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) as a partner in its plan to combat antisemitism. Thankfully, the administration finally recognized its error and dropped CAIR after the head of the group came out in favor of Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre. The bogeyman of Islamophobia cannot be allowed to deter enforcement of the law against antisemites.

Moreover, the administration itself must clean house. There is no place for antisemites on the president’s staff or in any government agency. This includes the approximately 40 White House interns who signed an antisemitic letter falsely claiming that Israel is committing “genocide” and calling Israel an “apartheid” state. This is wholly unacceptable and undermines the administration’s own policy.

The interns also made shrill demands for a “ceasefire” in a clear attempt to rescue Hamas from almost certain destruction. This malign motive is revealed by the fact that the interns are not calling for Hamas to surrender and return its hostages. This would end the war immediately and save numerous lives. The only reason to call for a ceasefire instead is the desire not to save civilian lives but to save Hamas.

To purge the antisemitic poison from universities, these institutions must reform or eliminate their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs. By placing Jews in the category of “white oppressors” who deserve to be condemned, these programs clearly discriminate against Jews, thus violating Title VI. DEI also provides cover for students and staff to harass and assault Jews, or to condone such racist actions.

The ideology underlying DEI, which separates humanity into the binary categories of “oppressed” and “oppressor,” has become bitterly antisemitic. The hard-won success of many Jews has automatically classified them as one of the “oppressors” despite the horrific crimes committed against the Jewish people throughout history, the discrimination and harassment they suffered and continue to suffer, and all the other travails they have endured. The solution to this is not to categorize Jews as one of the “oppressed.” It is to eliminate DEI ideology altogether.

Equally important is to adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards antisemitism. No antisemitic conduct by professors or students should be tolerated. No student clubs should be recognized if they engage in antisemitic conduct. Swift disciplinary actions, including suspensions and expulsions, must be taken against professors, staff or students who engage in antisemitic rhetoric or actions on college campuses.  

It is the absence of prompt and tangible consequences that has enabled a toxic antisemitic atmosphere to become pervasive on many campuses. We must make our universities safe again for Jews and all students by making sure that the antisemites are finally held accountable.