Israel Matters! – December 2023

Israel Matters On Campus Too!

As of the date this article is written, Israel is under attack from all sides. While the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) relentlessly continue their mission of dismantling Hamas in Gaza following the atrocities of October 7, amid all the tragic collateral civilian casualties due to Hamas having embedded deeply in the local population, Israeli cities and towns continue to be targeted by rockets fired from Gaza.  Other Iranian-sponsored terrorists have joined in this naked aggression: Hezbollah rockets have forced Israel to evacuate civilians from the “finger of the Galilee” emptying towns from Metulla to Kiryat Shemona. Combined with surviving residents forced to flee their homes in Israel’s south (the “Gaza envelope”), at least half a million Israelis are now refugees in their own homeland living in hotels, shelters, or with family elsewhere in the country.  Iranian-backed terrorists based in Syria have launched rockets and drones at Israel, one of which landed on a kindergarten in Israel’s Red Sea resort town of Eilat.  From the south, Iranian-backed Houthis have also launched rockets at Israel, though so far none of these have reached their targets, having been intercepted by US naval forces or Israeli missile defense systems.

But the attack on Israel has gone global with violent, antisemitic demonstrations worldwide. This outpouring of hatred celebrates Hamas as “freedom fighters” while demonizing Israel and Jews. Even more shocking is the speed and intensity with which such actions have become a regular occurrence in American universities. Yale is sadly no exception to this pattern, with outrageous statements emanating from faculty and students alike.

One example: on October 7, the same day that Hamas crossed Israel’s southern border and committed unspeakable atrocities against Israeli civilians, and even before Israel had a chance to respond, one Yale professor thought this the perfect time to Tweet her “scholarly” view that “Israel is a murderous, genocidal settler state and Palestinians have every right to resist through armed struggle.” The student group Yalies4Palestine adopted the judenrein slogan “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” (meaning Palestine will be Jew-free) in multiple demonstrations on and off the university campus. At another event named “Gaza Under Siege” sponsored by several Yale academic departments in association with Yalies4Palestine, invited speakers remarked that

“Israel cannot remain the state of the Jewish

people,” “Hamas is a resistance group,” and

“[Israel is] trying to inflict as much harm, damage

and death as possible.”

Yale’s response to these outrageous examples (and there have been many more) can be summed up in two words: free speech.  In more words, Yale defends the free expression and exchange of ideas as fundamental to a liberal university education. Leaving aside that the examples above do not exactly reflect the exchange of ideas (perhaps beyond ideas for different ways Israel could be dismantled), this “free speech” defense is disingenuous when said speech is hate speech.  To wit: official Yale policy prohibits speech that meets the definition of harassment or discrimination. Yale policy does not allow speech that creates an intimidating or hostile environment. Yale would not tolerate the bullying of community members on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, or racial/ethnic identity. Why is such behavior being tolerated when the persons targeted are Israelis and Jews? And how do you think if feels to be a Jewish person on campus with all this going on?

Yale is not the only campus experiencing such an outpouring of unbridled antisemitism, and Harvard, Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania among others have fared much worse. But finally, the fact that American universities are suffering from campus antisemitism is sinking in. Brandeis University became the first private US university to ban its local chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). Speaking plainly, Brandeis president Ron Liebowitz stated that “This decision was made because SJP openly supports Hamas, which the United States has designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, and its call for the violent elimination of Israel and the Jewish people.” Columbia University followed suit by banning both SJP and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) from campus because both groups “…repeatedly violated University policies related to holding campus events, culminating in an unauthorized event … that proceeded despite warnings and included threatening rhetoric and intimidation.”  And Harvard’s president Claudine Gay stated that “Our community must understand that phrases such as ‘from the river to the sea’ bear specific historical meanings that to a great many people imply the eradication of Jews from Israel and engender both pain and existential fears within our Jewish community…I condemn this phrase and any similarly hurtful phrases.” These recent actions did not occur in a vacuum; antisemitic actions and rhetoric spurred a backlash among prominent Jewish donors who have threatened or already started to withhold contributions to their alma maters.

Hamas supporters on campus contend that what occurred on October 7 was an organic response to the Israeli “occupation” of Palestinians in general and Gaza in particular. Never mind that Israel completely pulled out of Gaza in 2005 (or that Egypt occupied Gaza from 1949 through 1967 but never advanced Gaza self-rule). The Hamas pogrom was not an inevitable outcome of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Unprovoked, Hamas slaughtered civilians, almost all Jewish. In a cruel twist of fate, a majority of those Israelis killed and kidnapped came from those parts of Israeli society most open to peaceful coexistence. Peace activists, civilians who helped needy Gazans gain access to Israeli medical care, young people at a music festival…none of this mattered to Hamas. This was not the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict over land as much as Iran pursuing regional hegemony via Hamas.

The rapid outpouring of pro-Hamas sentiment on campuses makes one wonder whether that was pre-arranged. Recently the Network Contagion Research Institute in conjunction with the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy released a fascinating but disturbing report detailing how concealed foreign funding of US higher education predicts antisemitic incidents on campus. The study is shocking: from 2014 to 2019, over 200 American colleges and universities illegally withheld information on approximately $13 billion in undocumented contributions from foreign governments. All such foreign donations by law must be reported to the United States Department of Education. Much of this funding came from the Middle East; Qatar alone was the source of $2.7 billion. The table above indicates the amount of undocumented money traced to specific universities. The report claims that Yale received almost half a billion dollars of such funds! But this new study not only estimated how much undocumented money different schools received. It also explored if schools receiving these undocumented funds experienced higher levels of antisemitic activities measured in multiple ways (e.g., targeting of individuals, or episodes of antisemitic graffiti, slogans, and chants). You can guess the results. Antisemitic activity was significantly higher at universities receiving undocumented funds. Perhaps the “spontaneous” outbreak of antisemitism at US college campuses after October 7 was planned and paid for.