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Strong leadership can fight anti-Jewish hatred with words and actions

In the face of rising antisemitism, leaders bear the serious responsibility to not only vocalize solidarity but to actively contribute to the safety and well-being of the Jewish community.

Former Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Md., on Feb. 26, 2015. Credit: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.
Former Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Md., on Feb. 26, 2015. Credit: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Great leaders condemn bigotry and make no excuses for hateful behavior. They lead by example, and some voices of leadership are emerging above the clamor. Disturbing scenes of hatred in America against Jews and Israel have repeatedly crossed the line. While some protesters openly call for physical attacks against Jews and tear down posters of kidnapped Israeli babies, those who value human rights, morality and truth are taking a stand. They call out hate on campuses, across social media and in the workplace, but they are also taking decisive action.  

Many of America’s top law firms sent a letter to the deans of several law schools, including Columbia, Stanford and Yale universities, condemning the “antisemitic harassment, vandalism and assaults on college campuses, including rallies calling for the death of Jews and the elimination of the State of Israel.” They are concerned that law students are not receiving a proper education in ethics as part of their curriculum. These firms recruit from universities and are committed to a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination. Some have rescinded job offers to graduating students who express hate and bigotry.

“I’d rather put you in a gas chamber” was one of several violent messages sent by an attorney in the Illinois comptroller’s office to a Jewish person on Instagram. She continued: “Bet you’d like that, with all your Zionist ancestors, Hitler should have eradicated all of you.” The lawyer was fired. Hate and discrimination in the workplace should never be acceptable anywhere.

University alumni and donors also are translating words into action, proving that their support is not unconditional. A University of Pennsylvania graduate who has donated millions of dollars to his alma mater sent a $1 check, his new annual gift amount until “the board of trustees grows the backbone to fulfill its mission, which is to govern the university according to the principles upon which it was founded.”

Some university presidents have also spoken out. University of Florida president and former Sen. Ben Sasse was one of the first to issue a forceful statement: “I will not tiptoe around this simple fact: What Hamas did is evil and there is no defense for terrorism. This shouldn’t be hard. I also want to be clear about this: We will protect our Jewish students from violence. If anti-Israel protests come, we will absolutely be ready to act if anyone dares to escalate beyond peaceful protest.”

A member of the University of California system’s governing body slammed a letter from the UC Ethnic Studies Council, condemning it for “willingly choosing to be surrogates and supporters for Hamas’ destructive actions. It is beyond shocking that you rely on falsehoods, inaccuracies and antisemitic innuendos.” Following a freeze in donations by more than 1,600 alumni, Harvard University’s president “reiterated what I and other leaders have already said: There is no place for antisemitism at Harvard.”

In late October, the Anti-Defamation League and Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law sent a letter to nearly 200 college and university presidents in response to the dramatic increase in anti-Jewish incidents on campus. The organizations called on the presidents to urgently investigate Students for Justice in Palestine chapters for “potential violations of the prohibition against materially supporting a foreign terrorist organization.”

Columbia University temporarily suspended its campus chapters of the virulently anti-Israel SJP and Jewish Voice for Peace. Both groups support the destruction of the Jewish state—an antisemitic mission. The groups were suspended because they violated campus event policy. At the anti-Israel event, a person shouted racist and anti-Jewish statements. Days earlier, Brandeis University banned its SJP chapter for openly supporting the Hamas terrorist organization.

Universities are not the only cesspools of hate against Jews. A Michigan hospital fired a medical director for celebrating the Oct. 7 attacks as a “beautiful day.” A New York physician’s assistant praised the Hamas terrorists and stated that the “Zionist settlers got a taste of their own medicine.” A California radiologist tweeted: “Zionists are genocidal, demonic, greedy, pedophilic retards.” Some were affiliated with university hospitals, such as New York University and Emory University. A Florida dentist was caught ripping down posters of the kidnapped victims. They all lost their jobs.

Similar behaviors also extend into Europe, where a Norwegian ICU nurse was let go after posting a picture of himself posing at work while showing off his Hamas tattoo. A British doctor commented in German that “the Jews are our misfortune,” referred to Jews as “circumcised venom” and called a Facebook user a “Jew boy.”

American Zionist Movement executive director Herbert Block presents The Focus Project with its annual Vision of Herzl Award in 2023. Credit: Courtesy.

There are many videos on social media showing Americans ripping up posters of the hostages held by Hamas. In a recent example, a University of Southern California Ph.D. student was captured on video giggling while defending her actions in response to the false accusation of “genocide.” The physics teaching assistant is the daughter of a Washington mayor. In an interview with Piers Morgan, a young man in California repeatedly smiled while defending his actions. He stated: “The posters are perpetuating the narrative that Hamas are terrorists,” and that “the attack wasn’t on Jewish people.”

Hamas is believed to be holding about 240 hostages from more than 30 countries. An exact count is difficult to determine because Israel has been unable to identify the remains of more than 200 bodies burnt beyond recognition during the Hamas massacre, including DNA. Archaeologists trained to analyze ancient artifacts are helping to identify human remains left from the carnage. Hamas terrorists will not allow the Red Cross or other humanitarian aid organizations access to the hostages.

Recently, dozens of Broadway performers, including Debra Messing, recorded a song, “Bring Them Home: A Broadway Prayer.” The video recording includes the names and ages of all of the hostages scrolling along the bottom of the screen in an attempt to bring attention to their plight and pray for their safe release.

Points to consider:

  1. Businesses have an obligation to take action against hate-mongers.

Businesses, law firms, universities and hospitals have a moral duty to act when employees and students promote hate of any kind, including anti-Jewish beliefs or actions. More than just advancing an inclusive workplace, they have a responsibility to protect, patients, customers and fellow employees from harmful behavior. How should Jewish cancer patients feel if they are being treated by a doctor who jokes about prescribing the wrong medications? Standing up to hate should be unequivocal, and sympathizing with Palestinian civilians and advocating for their freedom from Hamas should not be a contradiction.

  1. Talk must translate into meaningful action.

The effectiveness of leaders’ words is demonstrated by the behavior and actions they take. A press statement condemning anti-Jewish hatred is welcome, but concrete steps must be taken to protect American Jews. Leaders must be measured by the alignment of their words with meaningful, substantive actions. In the face of rising antisemitism, leaders bear the serious responsibility to not only vocalize solidarity but to actively contribute to the safety and well-being of the Jewish community.

  1. Leaders must be applauded for their actions.

Promote and praise leaders who take decisive action against anti-Jewish hate, incitement and violence. Effective managers, college deans and corporate executives recognize concrete measures are required to ensure the safety and well-being of all communities. Whether firing bigoted employees, suspending student groups that violate campus policies, counteracting prejudice or advocating for legislative changes, those who take tangible steps deserve commendation.

Dispelling Falsehoods, Stating Facts

Falsehood: Israel intentionally targets hospitals, schools and mosques.

Fact: Hamas purposefully uses precious civilian areas, including hospitals, schools and mosques, to store weapons and use them as military outposts. Hamas even uses ambulances as taxis for its terrorists! Explosives were found in a kindergarten. Children’s rooms in the homes of terrorists contained weapons and one had a highlighted copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

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The Focus Project is a consensus initiative of major American Jewish organizations that provides crucial news, talking points and background content about issues affecting Israel and the Jewish people, including antisemitism, anti-Zionism and relevant events in the Middle East. Click here to receive weekly Talking Points from The Focus Project.
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