OpinionSchools & Higher Education

Something very wrong from the top on down

If the heads of universities cannot answer a simple, moral and ethical question about attempted genocide—of any population—then we have a great deal to worry about.

Sally Kornbluth, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Source: YouTube/MIT.
Sally Kornbluth, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Source: YouTube/MIT.
Sarah N. Stern
Sarah N. Stern
Sarah N. Stern is the founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), a think tank that specializes in the Middle East. She is the author of Saudi Arabia and the Global Terrorist Network (2011).  

There is a deep, distressing and rapidly metastasizing rot within American society. And it was profoundly on display last week at the hearing on the House Committee on Education & the Workforce.

Harvard president Claudine Gay, Massachusetts Institute of Technology president Sally Kornbluth and University of Pennsylvania president Liz Magill, who resigned this weekend, could not answer a basic question about whether calls for the genocide of Jews violate their university’s codes of conduct and are actionable offenses.

When university presidents cannot place a moral judgment—and enforce it—upon expressions of antisemitism and hide behind murky moral relativism and First Amendment rights, we know that we can well begin to mourn for the United States, as we once knew it.

Why is it that only when it comes to the protection of Jewish students are First Amendment rights invoked?

There is a distinction between speech that is offered up on the town’s square and speech on the university campus or quad. Schools are supposed to be safe places to learn. And although it is protected speech to be able to say the very most vile things about minorities in Central Park, we have protections for almost every other minority group in our educational settings in the United States. These include protections for blacks, gays, Hispanics, transgender individuals and the handicapped—and they ought to be there. These protections make our educational institutions places where all students are amenable to learning.

Yet somehow, there is an egregious double standard when it comes to the Jews—only the Jews. And a society’s treatment of Jews has always been an indicator of whether or not it is a place that is vibrant, healthy and flourishing.

The 400% increase in antisemitic attacks within the past year did not come out of the blue. For the last 30 years, I have been examining academia, and a great deal of the professoriate has long embraced deeply radical views, including looking at the State of Israel as “colonialist,” “militaristic,” “nationalistic,” etc. These views have metastasized and trickled down through kindergarten through 12th-grade instruction, textbooks and agendas.

As we all know, the Oct. 7 barbaric massacre of at least 1,200 people in Israel, including the butchering and burning of babies, the use of the most horrific sort of sexual violence and gang rape against women, the sadistic and brutal savagery, and the taking hostage the elderly—Holocaust survivors even—amounts to the worst pogrom in Jewish history since World War II.

Yet, by Oct. 8, the riots on college campuses were in full swing. By Oct. 12, Students for Justice in Palestine had a “National Day of Resistance” throughout the United States in which they called for “dismantling Zionism on college campuses” and fully supporting Hamas. It issued a toolkit that made clear that it advocates for Hamas or other Palestinian forces to conquer all of Israel, and for the “complete liberation” of Israel and the full influx of Palestinians to Israeli land. It even made posters glorifying the paragliders who flew into the Nova music festival to massacre young people early on a Shabbat morning.

Something has gone terribly awry with this generation of students. These are nothing more than “intellectual sheep.” They follow the herd mentality and cannot think for themselves. Many of their professors spoon-feed hate to their students—one-sided, anti-Israel propaganda.

Take, for example, Cornell University professor of history Russel Rickford, who called the Hamas attacks of Oct. 7 “exhilarating” and “energizing,” or Columbia University professor Joseph Mossad, who called the Oct. 7 attacks a “sign of jubilation and awe.” Danny Shaw, from the City University of New York, defines a Zionist as “the most despicable form of a human being greedy, selfish, racist, exclusionary, anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, anti-human.”

And the list goes on and on.

Meanwhile, we have students in rallies throughout the country who are “virtue-signaling” their wholehearted support of the Hamas atrocities and ripping down posters of the approximately 240 kidnapped hostages—now a remaining 138, as innocent as Kfir Babis, not even a year old.

What motivates people to do that?

Many of our Jewish and Zionist students on college campuses are feeling scared, threatened, intimidated and bullied.

At Cornell, a student posted that he would “slit the throats” of Jewish students, rape and throw off a cliff any Jewish females, and behead Jewish babies in front of their parents. (This person was later arrested by the FBI.) At Harvard University, a business-school student was physically assaulted, while his attackers hid their faces with their keffiyahs. Also at Harvard, 34 student groups held Israel totally responsible for the Hamas attacks of Oct. 7. (President Gay issued a statement of moral equivalency, together with 17 other professors, saying she was “heartbroken about the death and destruction unleashed” by both Hamas and Israel.)

At Cooper Union in New York City, Jewish students felt compelled to lock themselves in the library in fear of a mob of protesters who chanted, “Long live the intifada.” At New York University, students and faculty overran the library, leaving Jewish students feeling vulnerable, scared and abandoned. At Tulane University, a Jewish student was struck after trying to stop a pro-Hamas protester who was trying to burn an Israeli flag. At George Washington University, the SJP chapter beamed onto the walls of a building” Glory to the Martyrs” and “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Shall Be Free.

And this is but a small sample. Today, campuses are not safe places for Jewish students to learn.

Many students who mindlessly ape the words “Intifada now” or “From the River to the Sea” just want to feel “cool.” They might not understand that this is a genocidal claim, leaving no room for the Jewish state.

Or even more frightening is the fact that maybe they do.

Hamas has made its goal infinitely clear: eradicating every Jew and infidel from the face of the earth. Emulating Hamas on our own nation’s campuses should be like emulating the Ku Klux Klan. Why the double standard?

Anti-Zionism, which denies Jews their connection to our one and only collective state—the State of Israel—is antisemitism.

And we learned on Oct. 7 that this form of antisemitism is every bit as lethal as the old.

I will leave it to the philosophers and theologians to decipher, but whenever there is a great threat to the West, as we know it—whether it be Nazism, fascism, communism or radical Islamism—it always harbors a particular antipathy for my people, the Jewish people.

And when university presidents hide behind the First Amendment exclusively when it comes to the protection of their Jewish students, we know that there is a deep moral rot creeping from the very top and permeating down through departments and student bodies. If they cannot answer a simple, moral and ethical question about attempted genocide—of any population—then we have a great deal to worry about.

Because what starts with the Jews never ends with just the Jews.

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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