The reason university efforts to root out antisemitism will fail

On the morning of Oct. 7, American college students went to class, teachers taught lessons and all seemed well enough on the surface. The following day, after news of Hamas terrorists’ mass murders, rapes, torture and kidnappings spread, those campuses suddenly became hotbeds of terrorist sympathy and overt displays of antisemitism.

Americans were shocked our college kids could come out on the side of genocide, but we shouldn’t have been. The students dressing up as terrorists and demanding to know reporters’ ethnicities the week of Oct. 9 are the same kids walking to class the week of Oct. 2. 

They’d been primed; taught lies and false narratives, by the universities themselves – and so far, no school has even begun to take the steps necessary to root the hatred out.

To their credit, some have tried. On Friday, hundreds of UCLA faculty members called on the administration to “denounce in the strongest possible terms any celebrations of Hamas terror attacks and killings,” and asked the university to hold those “who directly participate in such incitement” accountable, using existing rules against incitement to violence.

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That letter, signed by 320 employees, painted a stark contrast with MIT, which said it didn’t want to suspend any of the students breaking university rules to intimidate Jews because that might get them deported to the countries they come from. The horror.

On Monday, MIT students rallied on campus to mock the institute’s attempt to punish them, chanting “Shame!” in unison.

At Harvard on Thursday, the school president announced a new Antisemitism Advisory Group, meant to increase “inclusion” in an environment where more than 30 official student organizations signed a statement blaming Israel for Hamas’s massacre, and where six members of the Divinity School faculty signed a letter doubling down. 

This week, 106 members of the faculty signed a letter protesting the university’s new advisory group, calling donor and alumni worries “patronizing” and racist.

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Columbia suspended two pro-Hamas groups for the rest of the semester. The actions bars them from taking university funds or operating on campus for at least five weeks, though the action will continue if the groups don’t stop breaking school rules, using violent rhetoric and intimidating Jewish students. The Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine responded on social media by ominously threatening “action,” and telling followers to “keep an eye on Columbia.”

The University of Pennsylvania announced Nov. 1 it would further boost educational and training programs to ensure antisemitism awareness, prevention and response are an integral part of equity and inclusion programs for faculty, staff and students. The moves have failed to quell a donor uprising after a string of antisemitic incidents on and around campus.

An assistant professor at Cornell was placed on leave after calling the murders “exhilarating.” His history of violent and racist comments, including calls for an “insurgency” in the United States, go back at least a decade.

The examples go on. At top-tier university after top-tier university, it was much the same all over the United States. 

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When surveying the pro-Hamas scene in American academia, it’s essential to recognize that these ideas weren’t grown in a vacuum. While they are certainly encouraged by China’s TikTok algorithms, the soil had long been laid by ethnic studies departments, gender studies schools, “Diversity Equity and Inclusion” education, and the better-known critical race theory.

Though different in name, at their core these departments and schools of thought all perpetuate the victim-oppressor model driving mass action on campuses. These departments and schools are the sources of the hatred we now see so arrogantly chanted in the streets. These are the sources of the faux-intellectual self-righteousness heard in the voices of kids just old enough to shave, as they explain why Jewish babies can be targeted when you’re “the real victim.”

The victim-oppressor model is wide, and can be applied to everything from domestic politics to parent-child relations, and from distant history to modern terrorism. 

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Closer to home, for example, the man shot by a police officer for trying to kidnap his children then charging police with a knife is a victim. The reason? All facts are subservient to his being Black, and therefore oppressed. 

On the international front, the kibbutz residents slaughtered by Hamas terrorists invading from Gaza are the oppressors, because the Gazans are the oppressed. On the flip side, over a thousand murdered Israeli civilians cannot be victims because they are part of the oppressor class.

The same cancer that’s sparked race riots in the United States drives pro-Hamas rallies on our campuses. The same simplistic worldview that turns morality on its head and kicks common sense to the curb here, is taken to its terrible conclusion in the Israel-Hamas war.

A Jewish trustee of an Ivy League university told me Monday afternoon he was pleased with the steps the college president had taken to address antisemitism, including programs and outreach on the subject. He didn’t realize that the oppressor-victim narrative so twisting the minds of the young couldn’t be addressed simply with counseling and community partnerships, as if the problem is drug abuse or depression.

This deadly mindset is not a problem for the American university system – it is a product of the American university system. Until governors and trustees, donors and presidents understand this, and deal with it directly, they won’t uproot the weed – and it will grow until it strangles the host.

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