Why won’t the government enforce its own laws against campus antisemites?

The Justice and Education Departments must finally protect Jewish students’ civil rights.

The seal of the U.S. Department of Justice. Credit: Lev Radin/Shutterstock
The seal of the U.S. Department of Justice. Credit: Lev Radin/Shutterstock
Ron Machol
Ron Machol
Ron Machol is the COO of Zachor Legal Institute, an organization using the law and activism to combat antisemitism. He can be reached at ron@zachorlegal.org.

Elie Wiesel once said, “The opposite of love is not hatred, it’s indifference. … Even hatred at times may elicit a response. You fight it. You denounce it. You disarm it. Indifference elicits no response. Indifference is not a response. Indifference is not a beginning; it is an end.”

UCLA has been in the news lately for all of the wrong reasons. A video recently went viral that showed anti-Israel “protestors” preventing a Jewish student from walking across campus. There was also footage of a Jewish student being physically assaulted. Pro-Hamas student “activists” lead antisemitic chants, demonizing and delegitimizing Israel and terrorizing Jews. This obviously constitutes the creation of a hostile environment and the violation of civil rights.

It didn’t have to come to this.

UCLA could have fulfilled its responsibility to protect Jewish students as it would any other group of students. The federal government could have enforced existing laws that safeguard protected groups. Had this occurred, the current antisemitic campus mayhem would have been prevented.

My organization the Zachor Legal Institute has filed two Title VI complaints with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights on behalf of UCLA students—one in 2018 and the other in 2022. In response, investigations into UCLA were opened. Neither complaint has been resolved, however. Based on what we have heard from others, the Department of Education is simply sitting on the investigations and taking no action.

Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in federally funded programs based on, among other things, national origin and shared identity. Lest there be any question as to whether Jews are protected by Title VI, President Donald Trump enshrined existing understandings on this matter in an Executive Order that governs Title VI investigations.

Our complaints related to Jewish students’ experience of antisemitism at the UCLA campus, driven by the hate group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and UCLA faculty. The first complaint specifically addressed the hostile campus environment created by SJP. Nonetheless, the Department of Education has steadfastly refused to take any action against the group notwithstanding numerous investigations since 2018.

The results of inaction are clear: The federal government is not enforcing civil rights law and universities are not in compliance with those laws or even their own regulations.

Besides Title VI, the campus rampages are a blatant violation of three civil rights laws enacted after the end of slavery. The laws were intended to prevent mobs from depriving freed blacks of their constitutional and other rights.

Long after slavery was abolished, mobs often affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan worked with local officials to deprive blacks of the right to free speech, assembly and participation in government programs like public education. The mobs carried out this campaign in a familiar fashion: They hid behind masks and engaged in open violence. With the backing of local law enforcement, school officials and even political office holders, the mobs showed up in large numbers to prevent blacks from attending schools or voting.

Thankfully, laws were enacted to confront this menace. Those laws still exist. Often known as the “KKK Laws,” they are used to combat everything from police brutality and election interference to, just this year, preventing access to abortion facilities.

When we see masked SJP agents brandish weapons and physically prevent Jewish students from moving freely on campus, we are seeing history repeat itself. Only instead of Klansmen in robes it is students in keffiyehs.

After waiting months for the Department of Justice to take action and enforce the KKK Laws to protect Jewish students, a coalition of 29 organizations led by Zachor Legal Institute sent a detailed prosecution request to Attorney General Merrick Garland. It laid out the case for the application of the KKK Laws to SJP’s systemic civil rights violations.

This request, if acted upon, will result in criminal investigations (and punishment) of those who commit these violations. It does not seek to silence speech but to protect vulnerable students while ensuring that everyone on campus can exercise their rights. Fighting the KKK back then was not oppression and fighting its modern counterparts is not oppression now.

The U.S. is a nation of laws, yet Jewish students are being abandoned by those tasked with enforcing those laws. Their suffering is far worse than being called by the wrong pronoun. As an activist organization seeking equal protection for Jewish students, Zachor Legal Institute and our allied organizations will not stand idly by as the country descends into a morass of terrorist campaigns to deprive Jews of their basic rights.

Think about it this way: If KKK-connected campus groups prevented black students from moving freely on campus; if the Westboro Baptist Church invaded campuses to prevent gay students from attending classes; if Jewish students were to hunt down Muslim students; or if pro-life activists prevented students from accessing campus abortion resources, would the Department of Justice refuse to act? Would federal civil rights investigations be in their sixth year without no updates, let alone action?

Only the Department of Justice can enforce the laws meant to ensure that all Americans can exercise their constitutional and federally protected rights. Continued inaction feeds the flames of hate. It enables those who sympathize with terrorism. Jewish students are the sacrificial lambs.

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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