Punish the anti-Semitic rioters on campuses

It's time to end the privileges of the Ivory Tower
It's time to end the privileges of the Ivory Tower - Anadolu

As Jews around the world gather to celebrate Passover, praying that the hostages still held captive by Palestinian terrorists will soon return home, a very different scene is playing out at elite universities across America.

Once again, Palestinian activists are occupying land that’s never been theirs, stabbing people, and then complaining when there are consequences: only this time, these horrible acts have happened on American soil. For years, college students could play-act as mini-jihadists, switching out their cosplay keffiyehs for high-paying jobs at Blackrock. This time around, thanks in no small part due to pressure from the halls of Congress, the country is beginning to wake up to their true threat – if ever so subtly.

Columbia’s campus has been overtaken with students chanting for Hamas to “strike Tel Aviv”. Others shouted for an “Intifada”, and sang “from the river to the sea”. At Yale, at least 47 students were arrested for illegally trespassing after setting up a pro-Palestine encampment. A Jewish student claimed she had been stabbed in the eye with a Palestine flag by a protester on Saturday. Harvard has suspended the student Palestine Solidarity Committee, the same group that blamed the October 7 pogrom on “the Israeli regime”.

These outbursts of violence are nowhere near the first time campuses have gone up in flames in recent years. Even still, it’s undeniable that something is different this time around. No-one was hauled to Congress in 2017 when Berkeley erupted in a spasm of violence. Now, the House’s education committee is doling out subpoenas like they’re sparklers on the Fourth of July.

America’s truly elite colleges are held to a different standard than known radical campuses like Berkeley. Marc Caputo, a veteran journalist, wondered aloud how Columbia university “with its top journalism school and journalism review” could possibly “miss the formation of so much anti-Israel or anti-Semitic bias fostered at and around the school”.

The answer is simple: for years, college newspapers have practiced anti-journalism, seeking to obfuscate truths rather than champion them. Look at Columbia’s quad, and you can see that Columbia’s school paper clearly dropped the ball on what’s been bubbling up on campus for years.

Following his ignominious exit from the Trump administration, former attorney general Jeff Sessions went on a campus speaking tour. One of his stops was at Northwestern University, home to the purportedly prestigious Medill School of Journalism. Sessions made the foolish mistake of believing that the home of the then almost century old school of journalism would allow a dissenting voice to be heard. He was wrong. Students climbed through windows and did their best to prevent Sessions from speaking. Their lawlessness was dutifully chronicled by the school’s Daily Northwestern paper, until it wasn’t.

The student journalists were shamed for doing basic journalism until they deleted their reporting. “Last week, The Daily was not the paper that Northwestern students deserve,” the paper wrote, flagellating itself for doing journalism. “One area of our reporting that harmed many students was our photo coverage of the event. Some protesters found photos posted to reporters’ Twitter accounts retraumatising and invasive. Those photos have since been taken down.” Is it any wonder that their counterparts at Columbia would gloss over emergent anti-Semitism?

Around the Passover table, Jews have asked the same series of questions for countless generations – ma nishtana? What is different about this night than other nights? In the Passover context, that answer requires eating a lot of unleavened bread and bitter herbs, but the same question is worth asking here. Ma nishtana? Why are these campus occupations different from those in years past? Around the Passover table, four answers are posited – and four present themselves here.

First is Hamas’s unprecedented and barbaric invasion of Israel on October 7, which had two simultaneous outgrowths: the campus Left completely lost its mind, and the rest of America recoiled at what they saw. At Columbia, for example, a professor of modern Arab politics published a screed in Electronic Intifada on October 8, while the butchered bodies were still warm, praising Palestinian terrorism: “perhaps the major achievement of the resistance in the temporary takeover of these settler-colonies is the death blow to any confidence that Israeli colonists had in their military and its ability to protect them,” wrote Joseph Massad.

The start of the most recent campus culture wars controversies featured schools no one had ever heard of, like Evergreen State College inviting white students and faculty to leave campus for a “day of absence” and, of course, the usual suspects like Berkeley. This time, it was schools whose alums are titans of finance and football. Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, is a Columbia alum who has showered the campus with donations totaling almost $10 million. Even he has washed his hands of the school until it gets its act together.

The third change is that there has been meaningful accountability, by a precious few in the press and by Congress. Three days after the brutal invasion of Israel, John Hasson published a piece in Townhall, “Meet the Harvard Students Supporting Hamas’ Invasion of Israel,” that named and shamed the organisations and their leaders who signed a statement blaming Israel for being invaded. In the past, these meaningless virtue signalers would sign insane statements, amass campus social credit points, and forget about it by the time they leave.

No longer. Hasson did what journalists had systematically refused to do – hold people in power accountable, including the leadership of organisations that have precisely nothing to do with the Middle East. The leadership of Harvard’s Nepali Students Association and Undergraduate Ghungroo are welcome to sign onto statements showcasing their ignorance of foreign affairs, but now their names are forever linked with their stupidity. The First Amendment gives anyone a right to be an idiot publicly.

The consequences were magnified tenfold when the Republican-controlled House of Representatives hauled the leaders of purportedly elite institutions who were revealed to be plagiarisers and cowards. As colleges search for new leadership, it would behoove them to have candidates sit down with Congresswoman Elise Stefanik for interviews in private before she excoriates them in public. These failures, combined with ceaseless pressure from finance titans like Bill Ackman, have left colleges hurting in the only places they care about: their massive pocketbooks and their reputations in elite circles.

Finally, the difference with anti-Semitic lunatics taking over campuses is that Democrats have finally started to care. Unfortunately, the near-unified opposition from Republicans to groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which immediately praised Hamas’s attacks on Israel as “legitimate, and... necessary,” has never been enough to move the needle. But elected Democrats, like President Joe Biden, Senator John Fetterman, and Congressmen Jared Moskowitz and Ritchie Torres have, to varying degrees of sincerity, opposed these demonstrators.

Biden absurdly equivocated between the mobs and their victims, but Fetterman went so far as to suggest that retiring Senator Mitt Romney take over Harvard, and Moskowitz walked through Columbia’s campus. None of this is to say that Democrats are basking in glory here. Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, a Jewish alum of Columbia, hid behind the human shields in the White House until she put out a statement completely devoid of substance – which is explainable once you remember that now that she is running for statewide office, she needs to mollify the voters in Dearborn, who were recently seen chanting “death to America”.

With the differences between the pre-and post October 7 protests established, the question is: what can be done? Past and present events suggest three buckets of consequences for the perpetrators: academic, professional, and legal consequences.

For the former, look no further than how the University of Chicago famously expelled forty-two students who illegally occupied the administration’s building during the Vietnam era, which bears no shortage of similarities to what we see happening today.

In the present day, these academic consequences must carry weight, lest they create martyrs, like Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s daughter. Even a suspension is meaningless. There is no shortage of school policies these students are violating as they block Jews from walking on campus, as we’ve seen at Yale. Unmask the perpetrators and send them packing.

For the students who remain on campus, they should actually have to spend time in classes. It’s long past time that we acknowledge that most colleges are simply lavish summer camps. Columbia’s decision to suspend in-person classes is the sort of caving to terrorism that always fails, whether it is the Biden administration giving Afghanistan over to the Taliban or Columbia telling protesters that they are actually in charge of the campus.

Another watershed moment on par with Hasson’s coverage was when Winston & Strawn, a Chicago-based law firm, rescinded a job offer to NYU Law’s Ryna Workman, who issued a statement through the campus’s Student Bar Association that “Israel bears full responsibility for this tremendous loss of life.” Subsequently, two dozen top law firms wrote to law schools warning them that they need to get their acts together – and quickly.

Finally, there should be legal consequences for violent protesters. Whoever allegedly stabbed a student journalist at Yale in the eye with a Palestinian flag should see the inside of a courthouse tomorrow. Senator Tom Cotton revisited his infamous “send in the troops” proposal again, writing that “if Eric Adams won’t send the NYPD and Kathy Hochul won’t send the National Guard, Joe Biden has a duty to take charge and break up these mobs.”

The October 7 terrorist attacks revealed something very ugly right beneath the surface of American politics and academia – something that’s been strenuously avoided in polite company, but which can no longer credibly be ignored, even in the esteemed halls of higher education. Passover is ultimately a triumph of Jews returning to our homeland – Israel – after our oppressor du jour failed to break us down. Maybe these protesters can brush up on the book of Exodus, or even just watch Prince of Egypt, while they’re sentenced to academic hard labour, or jail time.