OpinionSchools & Higher Education

No disinfectants to antisemitism

The sun has been shining for the last 2,000 years, and it hasn’t prevented or diminished Jew-hatred.

A pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel student tent encampment at Brown University in Providence, R.I., April 29, 2024. Credit: Kenneth C. Zirkel via Wikimedia Commons.
A pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel student tent encampment at Brown University in Providence, R.I., April 29, 2024. Credit: Kenneth C. Zirkel via Wikimedia Commons.
Mitchell Bard
Mitchell Bard
Mitchell Bard is a foreign-policy analyst and an authority on U.S.-Israel relations who has written and edited 22 books, including The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews and After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.

At least two excuses have been given for the toleration of antisemitism on college campuses. One is that if antisemites say they are not bigots, then they are immune to criticism or punishment. The other is that antisemites are entitled to free speech and should be allowed to express their prejudices in ways not permitted to racists, sexists or homophobes because “sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

The first excuse is a function of university cowardice. Administrators stubbornly refuse to define antisemitism and, therefore, have no basis for combating it. We are left with the embarrassing spectacle of presidents of elite universities unable to recognize that calling for the extermination of the Jewish people is antisemitic.

The most obvious solution is adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition used by the U.S. government45 countries and 34 U.S. states. Adoption of the IHRA places no restrictions on any speech or provides for any punishment for antisemitic behavior. It allows the university to determine what may be considered antisemitic. Properly applied, it would lead to the same response used to preempt other forms of discrimination. In the best case, students, faculty and administrations collectively refuse to accept antisemitic speech the same way they reject the use, for example, of the “N-word” despite the constitutional right to say it.

Efforts to promote the IHRA have been stymied by antisemites and their enablers, many of whom are Jewish faculty, who speciously claim that they would be prevented from expressing their often antisemitic criticism of Israel. Zero evidence exists for the claim, debunked explicitly in a study of British universities that adopted the IHRA definition. Though Israel’s critics complain ad nauseum about a “Palestinian exception” and make other arguments about limitations on their freedom to criticize Jews and Israel, we saw how nonsensical they are by the campus protests and Faculty for Justice in Palestine statements.

First Amendment purists like to throw out the quotation from Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis about sunlight to suggest that rather than banning offensive speech, it should be allowed because it will be exposed as abhorrent and countered by those with more informed opinions. Brandeis was talking about the need for transparency in government, not freedom to be an antisemite. The idea that the scourge of antisemitism can be disinfected by more speech rather than less is pure rubbish. Students are being infected by antisemitism, and rather than inoculate them, their peers and professors are actively and intentionally spreading the virus.

The sun has been shining for the last 2,000 years, and it has not prevented or diminished antisemitism. Rational speech cannot counter antisemitism, which is irrational. Allowing antisemites to spread their poison contaminates the campus, creates a toxic environment for Jewish students, and substitutes propaganda for scholarship.

As professor Scott Galloway succinctly observed: “Free speech is at its freest when it’s hate speech against Jews.”

Lunatics are now running institutions that better resemble asylums than places of learning. They took over the president’s office at Stanford! Why not? The person who holds the office doesn’t seem to have any influence. Let the arsonists burn the place down.

Elite universities need to be rebuilt from scratch, and people with moral character and a commitment to scholarship should be given power. The dead weight of the faculty, tenured or not, needs to be culled, and propagandists and pseudo-scholars removed.

Oh, one can dream.

At the very least, before the campus Klansmen return in their keffiyehs for the fall semester, university presidents should send letters to all students and their parents informing them that any violation of campus rules—demonstrating in unauthorized areas, disrupting classes, visiting lecturers or other operations, harassing or intimidating students—will result in immediate expulsion. No warnings. No suspensions. No deals. Universities should announce the names of all expelled students so other institutions and employers know their history.

Trustees and boards should be equally explicit in informing the presidents and chancellors of their universities that failure to enforce these rules will result in their immediate termination.

Faculty should also be notified that their jobs will depend on their teaching and scholarship, and that academic malpractice—such as using the classroom for propaganda and personal agendas—is a firing offense. Faculty and departments should not be permitted to make statements using their university affiliation unless they express views adopted by the school. They are free as individuals to exercise their First Amendment rights in the public square, but they should not be permitted to teach courses where their political views create a hostile environment in their classrooms. Students should not have to take classes, for example, from faculty who support Hamas or call for the destruction of Israel. Antisemitic faculty should be shunned, as would any racist professor.

Donors, members of Congress, parents and organizations should spend the summer pressuring universities to adopt these positions, which would make campuses safe for all students and restore their purpose to research and teaching.

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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