The terrible news seems to come out daily: anti-Semitism on the rise in cities and towns across the country. One of the worst locations is college campuses, where the government has the power to reduce the scourge, and refuses to do so.
Beyond The US And Beyond This Year
To be clear, the problem is not just local and not only recent.
In March 2022, United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “I think that our universities, for far too long, have been tolerant of casual or indeed systemic anti-Semitism… it’s important that we have an anti-Semitism task force devoted to rooting out anti-Semitism in education,” calling out the Jew hatred in universities.
US President Donald Trump issued Executive Order 13899—Combating Anti-Semitism in December 2019 to address the problem, stating “my Administration is committed to combating the rise of anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic incidents in the United States and around the world. Anti-Semitic incidents have increased since 2013, and students, in particular, continue to face anti-Semitic harassment in schools and on university and college campuses.”
The United States government was trying to tackle the issue in November 2017 when it held a hearing to consider interpreting Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect Jewish students and other religious minorities from discrimination. At that time, Rabbi Cooper, Associate Dean, Director Global Social Action Agenda, Simon Wiesenthal Center called out for the government to help combat the hatred, arguing that “The failure of schools and Federal Government to protect Jewish students on campus from harassment is one of the most pressing issues for the American Jewish Community.”
But educational institutions and the government are backing away from providing protections to Jewish students on campus.
Failure of Leadership
The City University of New York (CUNY) has seen an enormous spike in anti-Semitic incidents. To combat the menace, over 100 non-profit institutions wrote a letter on June 28, 2022 to the NYC Council Committee on Higher Education to address “the alarming rise of antisemitism on campuses across the country, and at CUNY in particular.” After being postponed once, the committee finally met to address this serious issue, but CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez did not attend. Brooklyn Councilwoman Inna Vernikov was angered at the chancellor’s absence and said “last night, in a very cowardly fashion, the chancellor said he won’t appear. Instead he sent a lawyer to represent him. What a sham, what an insult to the Jewish community of New York.“
President Biden is similarly aware of the scourge of anti-Semitism on campuses and opted to delay action until after mid-term elections.
President Biden is aware of the scourge of anti-Semitism on campuses and opted to delay action until after mid-term elections.Tweet
Shortly after Biden took office in February 2021, Kara McDonald, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, embraced the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism. She said “we must educate ourselves and our communities to recognize antisemitism in its many forms, so that we can call hate by its proper name and take effective action. That is why the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, with its real-world examples, is such an invaluable tool.”
It was the logical and appropriate time for Biden to follow-through on Trump’s EO 13899 and the federal government’s efforts to apply the IHRA definition to Title VI. Title VI “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in any program or activity that receives Federal funds or other Federal financial assistance.” As most colleges receive federal funds and would collapse without them, and the fact that Jews do not fall neatly into “race, color or national origin,” Jews were counting on inclusion in the Title VI clause together with the working definition of anti-Semitism.
But Biden decided to postpone a decision on the Title VI matter until December 2022, after mid-term elections.
Biden Fears the Far-Left Anti-Zionists
While Biden was willing to champion the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, he fears members of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) within his party, and the threat that they will primary incumbent party centrists out of office. The IHRA definition has several references to Israel including “Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel“, “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” and “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.” These anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic statements often come from the mouths of Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Cori Bush (D-MO), members of the DSA. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY), a leading shrill voice of the DSA, has stated plainly that her squad will come after centrists if the Democratic leadership doesn’t bend to their extremist policy demands, including lambasting Israel. Biden doesn’t want to anger the squad and risk his party’s slim majority.
While studies have shown that “much of the antisemitic activity [on college campuses] was perpetrated by anti-Zionist students and student groups” at schools with “faculty academic boycotters,” and the federal government has a clear pathway to clamp down on the Jew hatred, President Biden has chosen to place party politics ahead of the safety of the young adults of the most persecuted minority in America.