How to shut down antisemitic assault, bullying and bias on campus

The time to fight back is now.

A pro-Palestinian rally in Cambridge, Mass., on Oct. 10, 2023. Credit: Flickr via Wikimedia Commons.
A pro-Palestinian rally in Cambridge, Mass., on Oct. 10, 2023. Credit: Flickr via Wikimedia Commons.
James Sinkinson
James Sinkinson
James Sinkinson is president of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.

At Columbia University, one student was reportedly hit with a wooden stick upon confronting another student ripping down flyers with names and pictures of Israelis kidnapped by Hamas. At the University of Massachusetts, a student was arrested after apparently punching a Jewish student and spitting on an Israeli flag. A suit just filed in U.S. District Court alleges that “on-campus displays of hatred, harassment and physical violence against Jews” have erupted anew at UC Berkeley since Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre. These incidents represent a small sample of the outrageous—and illegal—antisemitic incidents occurring on campuses in recent weeks. 

Due to violent pro-Hamas support and opposition to the Jewish state, many Jewish students are afraid of going to class. 

Anti-Israel activities and rhetoric routinely violate university Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) policies, as well as schools’ antisemitism strictures. Moreover, much of this vitriolic Jew hatred and anti-Israel activity violates federal law. Yet response from college administrators has been notoriously cowardly, effete and ineffective. 

While the structures and liberal values of higher education are crumbling before our eyes, some defenders of the Jewish people—and civil liberties on campus—are beginning to stand up and take action against today’s vicious Nazi-like hounding of Jewish students. 

Pockets of concerned alumni are revolting, some few college administrators are banning the worst antisemitic student organizations, and a spate of new lawsuits are calling a half dozen or more prominent offending institutions to account. 

Indeed, donors have threatened to withhold financial support for colleges that don’t fight antisemitism. Business executives have committed to not hiring students who take part in antisemitic actions. Elected officials are seeking new legislation to cut funding for offending schools and others are seeking to deport terror-supporting foreign students. Finally, lawsuits have the potential to cut off billions of dollars in federal aid to thousands of U.S. universities. 

Clearly, however, the most powerful weapon against hate attacks on Jewish students and the stifling of free speech on campus is the U.S. Constitution and the laws that protect it. While it’s not illegal to criticize Israel or even call for Israel’s destruction—as so many campus haters do—these supporters of Hamas invariably swerve into violations of policy and the civil rights of Jewish students. 

Hamas supporters on campus have committed a number of illegal acts. They have assaulted Jewish students, like Nathaniel Miller, who was hit with a flagpole when he tried to stop a man from burning an Israeli flag at Tulane University. At Harvard, pro-Hamas students crowded around an Israeli student filming their protest, verbally and physically assaulting him—a criminal act known as “menacing.” At Cooper Union, Jewish students locked themselves in a library as pro-Hamas protesters pounded on the doors and windows—an act of “making criminal threats.” And at American University, swastikas and a Nazi slogan were sprayed on the doors of Jewish students—vandalism. Yet where is the enforcement? 

Unfortunately, Hamas supporters’ crimes go beyond misdemeanors. Jewish students have had their civil rights violated, specifically their rights under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or nationality in “any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” 

Colleges fall into this category, which means they are obligated to protect Jewish students from discrimination. DEI policies are formulated by colleges for this purpose. But as recent events have demonstrated, these policies are rarely employed to protect Jewish students. Indeed, most DEI programs include little if any programming to fight antisemitism, the largest category of religious hate. 

Take, for example, the situation at UC Berkeley, where there is an “Exclusionary Bylaw” adopted by some student organizations prohibiting speakers with Zionist views from addressing them. In addition, Berkeley Law Legal Services associations reportedly require Jewish students to take a course called “Palestine 101,” which denies the legitimacy of the State of Israel. Practices like these violate Jewish students’ constitutional rights to equal protection and Title VI civil rights, which is why UC Berkeley is now the subject of a lawsuit launched by the Brandeis Center and Jewish Americans for Fairness In Education (JAFE). 

More than a half-dozen other colleges are or will be the subject of litigation, including Harvard, Cornell, Columbia, NYU, MIT, Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania and Wellesley College. They are all accused of violating the civil rights of Jewish students and not doing enough to stamp out antisemitism on their campuses.

Fortunately, a few colleges have taken concrete action against antisemitism. For instance, George Washington University has suspended its chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a group notorious for its antisemitic, anti-Israel vitriol. Brandeis University went even further and banned the organization. 

Many college benefactors have also taken a stand against antisemitism on campus. For instance, more than 1,600 Harvard alumni declared they will withhold donations to the school until it takes urgent action to address antisemitism. Prominent CEOs and law firms have promised not to hire students who participate in antisemitic activities, such as the students at Harvard who signed a statement blaming Israel for the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre.

Antisemitism on U.S. college campuses has also gotten the attention of elected officials. The U.S. House of Representatives recently approved a measure to ban funding any institution that “authorizes, facilitates, provides funding for, or otherwise supports” events promoting antisemitism on campus. Some representatives have appealed to the State Department to enforce existing statutes permitting revocation of visas for students who support terrorism. The State of Florida ordered that the college chapters of pro-Hamas groups like SJP be shut down, though this measure faces court challenges. 

Above all, those who violate the civil rights of Jewish students must know that when Jewish Americans—and all those who support Israel and oppose antisemitism—say “Never Again,” we are dead serious. Our response must be broad-based and unrelenting—encompassing lawsuits, legislation removing funding, deportations, termination of weak-kneed administrators, slashing alumni gifts and blackballing terror-supporting graduates in the job market. 

We will not allow rampant antisemitism and its sibling anti-Zionism to skyrocket further on a majority of our highest-level universities. The time to fight back is now.

Originally published by Facts and Logic About the Middle East.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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