Supporters of Palestine gather at Harvard University to show their support for Palestinians in Gaza at a rally in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Oct. 14, 2023.JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images
In the past week, I have spoken to students at five American universities, and another five lectures are scheduled over the next two weeks. From Boston University to Emory to Duke and Cornell and beyond, what I heard were Jewish students feeling abandoned by university administrators and faculty. In a woke world where saying the wrong pronoun can threaten your job, macroaggressions of antisemitism, intimidation, and violence against Jews are tolerated, rationalized, or excused.
Even the few college presidents who have spoken publicly about the atrocities of Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack rarely impose consequences for blatant incidents of antisemitism on campus. Since this war began, anti-Zionism has been revealed, more than ever, to be Jew-hatred.
There are now Israeli and Palestinian versions of the massacre, rape, torture and mutilation that Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, perpetrated on Israeli civilians. Rationalizing this orgy of hatred and violence infects many American college campuses, and far too many faculty and administrators are staying silent.
The best litmus test to prove this is antisemitism is to imagine this: If any other group on campus were subjected to intimidation, stigmatization and abuse, what would the professors and college presidents do? You know the answer: They would not tolerate it.
Enduring a double standard because you are Jewish and support the Jewish state — America’s most important ally in the Middle East — is antisemitism by definition. When they chant “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” that means ending the Jewish state, wiping out the Jews. This is the ugly truth: Not vociferously speaking out against the spouting of this degree of hatred on a campus makes the university’s faculty and administrators complicit in supporting groups that defend terrorism.
President Biden correctly called the antisemitism on college campuses “grotesque.” Now, he should use the power of his office to instruct the Justice Department to investigate hate crimes against Jewish students, and the federal government should cut off funding to any university that doesn’t protect all of its students, including those who are Jewish.
Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) have introduced a bipartisan resolution denouncing the raging antisemitism in institutions of higher learning and calling on university leaders and educators to speak up and to protect Jewish students.
“In the aftermath of the terrorist attack on Israel by Hamas on Oct. 7, 2023, there has been a rise in incidents of antisemitism, including hate speech and intimidation, on college campuses,” says the resolution. It notes that when freedom of speech is “used to promote violence, hatred or discrimination on the basis of religious beliefs, national origin or ancestry, higher education leaders have the right and obligation to respond.”
But what does “respond” mean when administrators and faculty appear too fearful of confronting the antisemitic rhetoric of political progressives who align with supporters and defenders of the use of terror?
Six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. It was not the internet age; the information emerged slowly. Even when conclusive proof was evident, some media organizations and the Roosevelt administration tried to suppress it. Today, 7 million Jews have targets on their backs in Israel. We know almost instantly when an attack happens. One cannot deny the images of Hamas’s brutality, although the organization’s supporters have removed from social media some photos and videos of the carnage. It is like Holocaust-denial in real time.
During my talks with college students, I explained what international law requires regarding proportionality and distinction in war, especially when Hamas uses civilians as human shields to increase the casualty count and manipulate the global media, while targeting Israeli civilian areas — a double war crime. I show them what the Hamas charter says about obliterating Israel; we should thank the terrorists for their clarity.
But when the international media show a picture of a civilian structure destroyed in Gaza, without providing any context, the viewer is led to believe that Israel targets civilians as a matter of course. Having covered four Gazan wars, I know firsthand that is not true; I have seen the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) trying to avoid harming Palestinian civilians.
According to an accurate reading of international law, one that is not politicized, when Hamas uses a civilian structure, that infrastructure loses its immunity and becomes a lawful target — and much of the military infrastructure and munitions for Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) are located in civilian buildings.
We are entering the next phase of the Israel-Hamas war, and Palestinian civilians in Gaza will be killed in greater numbers. Terrorist leaders, many governments and some in the international media will conflate higher death tolls with disproportionality.
It is a human tragedy but it is not disproportionate when terrorists use their people as human fodder. Under international law, when Hamas abandons the principle of distinction, then Hamas is responsible for civilian deaths that may result. And when someone says the Palestinians must resort to terror tactics because they live in an open-air prison, remind them that Israel left 100% of Gaza in 2005. The Palestinians could have turned Gaza into a place like Singapore, a highly developed and beautiful country, and lived peacefully with their neighbor.
As for the Jewish students on American campuses and the 400% rise in antisemitism that oozes out of the far-left, leaving the antisemitic far-right in the dust, only one thing will make a difference: sustained pressure on universities by donors who end their funding and the imposition of real financial consequences on higher education institutions by federal, state and local governments.
This article originally appeared in The Messenger on Oct. 30, 2023
Dr. Eric R. Mandel is director of MEPIN, the Middle East Political Information Network, and Mandel Strategies, a consulting firm for business and government officials in the Middle East. He is the senior security editor for the Jerusalem Report.