Antisemitism on Campus Must End

Antisemitism on Campus Must End

To make good on their sudden moral clarity and to protect their Jewish students, Penn, Harvard, and all universities should expel and dissolve, respectively, students and groups calling for genocide against the Jews.

Calling for the genocide of Jews is permitted at the University of Pennsylvania. School president Liz Magill conveyed this message at a congressional hearing earlier this month. Days later, she resigned. But Magill’s resignation won’t erase a campus climate that enables antisemitism and annihilationist anti-Israel activism. To protect Jewish students, universities should expel proponents of genocide.

The House Committee on Education heard testimony from the presidents of Harvard, Penn, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), as well as a professor from American University. They were asked to clarify their universities’ policies concerning hate speech and harassment amid the rise in antisemitic activity across U.S. campuses. While universities have long been toxic for Jews and supporters of Israel, in the months following Hamas’s slaughter of over 1,200 Israelis on October 7, Jewish students have been under siege.

Even before the attacks, in late September, Penn hosted a Palestinian festival that featured Roger Waters, the former Pink Floyd frontman with a long record of antisemitic incidents, and other speakers known for making antisemitic remarks and calling for Israel’s destruction. Just before the festival, a “member of the campus community” broke into the Penn Hillel, overturned furniture, and shouted antisemitic obscenities. At the festival, a speaker advocated ethnic cleansing by corralling “88% of Jews in Israel” into “three cantons” on 12 percent of the land. After the festival, someone vandalized the university’s Chabad house. Following the 10/7 attack, a group of Penn students called for an intifada, and a professor led a chant justifying Hamas’s crimes.

Things are just as bad on other Ivy League campuses. A Cornell professor described the Hamas attack as “exhilarating” and “energizing.” Just a few weeks later, federal agents arrested a Cornell junior who threatened to murder and rape Jewish students at the school’s kosher dining hall.

Anti-Israel protests have become violent at several universities, including Columbia, leaving Jewish students harmed and frightened. Protesters at Harvard surrounded a pro-Israel student and shoved and harassed him. At MIT, Jewish students were reportedly warned to avoid certain areas for their personal safety amid a disruptive demonstration. A furious Columbia University professor despaired, “We cannot protect your children from pro-terror student organizations because the president of Columbia University will not speak out against pro-terror student organizations.”

The main campus group supporting these protests is Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which claims to have around 200 chapters. Following Hamas’s attack, SJP’s national umbrella organization published a toolkit praising Hamas’s actions, declaring that “the Palestinian resistance stormed the illegitimate border fence,” and calling it a “historic win.”

The December education committee hearing addressed one of SJP’s signature slogans: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” This plainly amounts to calling for the destruction of the Jewish state and hints that the country’s 7 million Jews will be exiled or worse. SJP offshoot Within Our Lifetime’s (WOL’s) alternate chant is a bit more explicit: “From the water to the water, Palestine is Arab.” Both chants echo Hamas’s call for the “full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea,” found in the group’s 2017 policy document. But WOL would not be restricted to between the river and the sea. Instead, it promoted a campaign to “Globalize the Intifada,” which could include exporting Hamas’s violence to Israelis and Jews on campus.

In response to SJP’s intimidation, some universities have suspended or penalized their SJP chapters. George Washington University served its SJP chapter a ninety-day suspension for projecting “glory to our martyrs” and other offensive slogans on the side of the library. Columbia University suspended its chapter for the remainder of the semester. Brandeis University banned its SJP chapter due to its support for “Hamas in its call for the violent elimination of Israel and the Jewish people.” 

Eight students at Harvard who commandeered a building faced disciplinary action. However, when the identities of individuals engaging in extreme anti-Israel rhetoric were revealed, Harvard created a task force to protect students at risk—not the harassed Jewish students but rather their harassers who were outed. MIT threatened to expel students who engaged in disruptive protests but then backed down amid concerns that international students could have their visas revoked.

Meanwhile, the Education Department has opened civil rights investigations into several schools over their failure to combat antisemitism. Students have pursued legal action against several more for their failure to protect Jewish students. Conveying the administration’s indignation at the university presidents’ testimony, a White House spokesperson said, “calls for genocide are monstrous and antithetical to everything we represent as a country.” Last Friday, the House of Representatives called for the embroiled university presidents to resign. Universities are on notice.

Harvard’s president already walked back her testimony and determined that calls for genocide of the Jews do not belong at her university. Penn’s president did the same before she resigned. To make good on their sudden moral clarity and to protect their Jewish students, Penn, Harvard, and all universities should expel and dissolve, respectively, students and groups calling for genocide against the Jews.

David May is a research manager and senior research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), where Theo Hyman-Bockman is an intern. Follow David on X, formerly known as Twitter, @DavidSamuelMay. Follow FDD on X @FDD. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.