Antisemitism rampant across America

In the wake of Hamas’s barbaric October 7 assault on Israeli Jews, antisemitism has become so rampant that Jews all across America are feeling unsettled and unsafe.

This is horrifying, and it is unacceptable. It is also un-American.

In 1790, George Washington famously sent a letter to a synagogue in Newport, R.I., which set forth the radical notion that the new nation would be dedicated to protecting religious freedom. Washington wrote, “May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants — while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.” Following Washington’s lead, the United States has distinguished itself as the safest and most consistently welcoming to Jews of all the major world powers in history.

I am not so naive to believe that antisemitism in America began on October 7. Jews have often been viewed with suspicion by a certain portion of the population; subjected to accusations of divided loyalty and false rumors about their religious practices; and well into the 20th century excluded from living in certain neighborhoods, working for certain businesses, and joining certain clubs. Despite composing just 2 percent of the population, Jews have consistently been victims of a majority of the anti-religious hate crimes since the FBI began publishing data in the 1990s.

But the explosion of antisemitism I’ve seen in the past several weeks is on a different scale from anything I’ve experienced in contemporary America.

The current surge started almost immediately after news broke of the Hamas attacks. On U.S. college campuses, antisemitic students and activist professors, protected by a legion of DEI administrators, jumped in to either excuse Hamas’s attacks or to argue that Israel had it coming. The rhetoric quickly moved well beyond what could be reasonably categorized as mere criticism of Israeli policy, and into calls for mass slaughter of Jews.

“Settlers are not civilians,” declared a Yale professor, an effort at dehumanizing the victims of Palestinian terrorism that included infants. A University of California, Davis, professor wrote on X, “One group of ppl we have easy access to in the US is all these zionist journalists who spread propaganda & misinformation[.] They have houses w addresses, kids in school[.] They can fear their bosses, but they should fear us more.” Just in case nobody got her point, the professor took the time to add helpful emojis: a knife, an axe, and drops of blood. Pro-Hamas students, gathering in large mobs to chant genocidal slogans, such as “one solution, intifada, revolution” (a reference to the wave of terrorism that killed thousands of Israel civilians) and “Free Palestine from the River to the Sea” (which would mean the destruction of Israel and millions of Jews).

Last week, an angry mob of students calling for the murder of Jews stormed into a building at Cooper Union in New York. As Jewish students were locked in the library for their own safety, the mob started banging on doors and windows. Eventually the Jewish students had to be escorted out the back. No arrests were made, and there were no serious consequences for any of the students participating in the mob scene.

The Cooper Union incident, sadly, was not an isolated one.

At Tulane University in New Orleans, video captured a Jewish freshman who was marching with an Israeli flag being assaulted by several Hamas supporters. His nose was broken in the attack.

Over the weekend, in an online forum used by Cornell University students, somebody going by the name “jew evil” wrote a post titled, “[J]ewish people need to be killed” that instructed, “if you see a [J]ewish ‘person’ on campus follow them home and slit their throats. [R]ats need to be eliminated from [C]ornell[.]” Another post, by “kill jews,” was titled “gonna shoot up 104 west” (which is the location of the kosher dining hall). Cornell University’s initial response was to tell Jewish students to avoid the dining hall. Later, the university said police were brought in to secure the building and that the FBI had been notified.

The antisemitic activities are not confined to college campuses. Activists have routinely ripped down signs being posted of hostages currently being held by Hamas. Members of Congress led by Representative Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.) have unapologetically spread lies about Israel that provide more cover – and fuel – to Jew-haters. Massive pro-Hamas marches have taken place in all major cities. Protesters temporarily shut down the Brooklyn Bridge and Grand Central Terminal. Swastikas and other antisemitic graffiti has been found in areas with vibrant Jewish communities. When Hamas called for a global “day of rage,” a number of Jewish schools were closed out of caution.  When activists, borrowing the word Hamas used for its terrorist attack, promised to “flood Brooklyn for Gaza,” Jews were advised to “avoid the area.” Fortunately, this specific event did not result in a violent attack, but the specter of Jews being told to go into hiding in Brooklyn — which is home to one of the largest concentrations of Jews outside of Israel — is deeply alarming.

The problem will only get worse, though, as long as those in power are unwilling to take action.

University administrators, who for years looked for excuses to cancel conservative students and professors while they coddled progressive students with “safe spaces,” suddenly decided to rediscover the virtue of free speech while hiding in fear of their own student bodies. For things to change, they need to be more proactive in protecting Jewish students by ramping up security, and they need to identify the students whose actions cross the line from free speech into harassment, intimidation, and incitement — and expel them from campuses.

State and local law enforcement need to work closely with the federal authorities to identify, arrest, and prosecute those who are threatening or engaging in violence; the FBI has the tools to track down those who post messages such as the ones threatening massacres of Jews at Cornell, and it should use them.

Unfortunately, a big barrier to holding culprits responsible is the progressive ideology that has infected our government, media, and elite academic institutions. Put another way, it isn’t so much that antisemitism is being excused because it has the wrong victims, but the current wave of Jew hatred has the wrong perpetrators.

If the current rise in antisemitism were primarily coming from far-right white supremacists rather than leftists and minority groups, university presidents and the Biden administration would be all over it. But the makeup of those behind the incidents is politically inconvenient. Perversely, pointing out the current climate of antisemitism has been met with accusations of intolerance and “Islamophobia.”

Last week, when White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked about the threat of rising antisemitism, she first said, “We have not seen any credible threat,” before, incredibly, launching into a description of how “Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim have endured a disproportionate number of hate-fueled attacks.” President Biden has struggled to condemn antisemitism in its own right, repeatedly seeking to pair it with “Islamophobia” as part of a broader message of condemning “hate.”

Even in announcing, on Monday, a more coordinated federal response to antisemitism on college campuses, the Biden administration said the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights would expedite the processing of discrimination complaints of both antisemitism and Islamophobia. There is of course no place for harassment and intimidation of students of any religious group, including Muslims. The administration’s purpose is to include a more politically convenient form of hatred.

For example, for many years now, campuses with an active chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (or similar anti-Israel groups) have been significantly more likely to experience antisemitic incidents than those without, according to the AMCHA Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to combating antisemitism. It has become clear that these groups are a driving force behind much of the current antisemitic intimidation we have seen. What happens when efforts to punish members of these groups get met with cries of “Islamophobia”? There is good reason to worry about whether the Biden administration or universities will hold them accountable.

History is rife with examples of antisemitism being allowed to fester and only becoming more violent with time. If those in authority don’t start taking direct action to contain its worrisome spread, the Jew haters won’t stop at broken noses and chat-room threats.

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