By Lauri B. Regan
This past January marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. For Jews the world over, the atrocities of the Holocaust remain burned into our collective souls and memories. To us, the mantra Never Again is meaningful because it denotes our recognition that if we do not learn from history, we are destined to repeat it. Without historical context and lessons learned however, the phrase Never Again is simply a vapid talking point without meaning.
One would think that the one place in which lessons from the study of history would lead to the protection of Jews from antisemitic attacks would be in the academy. The academy after all used to be the place where one would enter in order to learn facts, exchange ideas, and seek wisdom and the truth. No longer. Today’s campuses resemble those of pre-WW2 Germany in which Nazi propaganda and hate was given birth.
The analogy of pre-WW2 Europe to the world today is not a terribly large stretch. Jews have been demonized and scapegoated for millennia. And so it was the case in Germany in the 1930’s when Jews were blamed for the problems that visited that country after WW1 including economic and social woes, just as many blame them today utilizing classic antisemitic tropes such as Jews control the world – claims even emanating from members of the Democrat Party.
Boycotts of businesses became common place in the lead up to the Holocaust; today they are all the rage from Airbnb to Ben & Jerry’s while calls to divest from investment in Israel have been made across campus faculty and student organizations on a regular basis. Part of never forgetting, however, involves understanding that student organizations at German universities were the breeding ground of Nazi propaganda just as they are the breeding ground of Jew-hatred at American universities today.
Almost a century after Hitler employed youth groups to begin his campaign to marginalize, then silence, and finally annihilate European Jewry, antisemitic student groups are once again given carte blanche to physically assault, intimidate and ostracize Jewish students who are the one demographic in today’s woke world who are not considered a protected minority notwithstanding the amount of discrimination and vitriol directed at them.
For instance, on campuses with a Students for Justice in Palestine chapter, there is a 70% greater likelihood of antisemitic incidents taking place; SJP has over 200 chapters across the country. The Muslim Students Association, Jewish Voices for Peace (a group that is anything but for peace), and other pro-Palestinian student groups are joined by untold numbers of anti-Zionist faculty members and administrators who have united in shutting down the voices of Jews while hiding their hate behind claims of being anti-Zionist, not antisemitic. But that is simply a distinction without a difference.
Recognition of the dangers that Jewish students face on campus, coupled with the refusal by a Democrat-controlled House to pass the Antisemitism Awareness Act, led to President Trump’s Executive Order on antisemitism that he signed in December, 2019. That order extended the protections under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to Jewish students, adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s non-legally binding definition of antisemitism which has been adopted by over 30 countries globally including the U.S. State Department, and provided the Department of Education with tools to protect Jews on campus including loss of federal funding.
After the signing of the EO, the DOE Office of Civil Rights (OCR), under the leadership of Kenneth Marcus, received numerous complaints leading to investigations and various settlements including with the University of North Carolina and New York University. Unfortunately, since the Biden administration took office and Secretary Miquel Cardona stepped in at DOE, Trump’s EO has not been enforced and seems largely ignored. That does not bode well for Jewish students as they return to campuses this fall.
Several organizations including the Anti-Defamation League and AMCHA Initiative have been documenting the frightening increase in incidents of antisemitism on American’s college campuses. The numbers are staggering and since Covid-19 on which Jews were once again blamed for the woes of the world, and then Operation Guardian of the Walls during which Hamas sent over 4,000 missiles into Israeli cities leading Israel to once again defend herself in the face of international condemnation for doing so, the numbers have continued to increase exponentially.
Stories abound of students who are frightened to wear a kippah or Star of David necklace lest they face physical or verbal abuse when walking through the quad. Zionists are frightened to speak up in classrooms. In fact, a recent survey by Alums for Campus Fairness indicates that 44% of Jewish college students and recent graduates say they or someone they know has been physically threatened for being Jewish, 80% shared that they were the target of threatening antisemitic comments, and 95% stated that antisemitism is a problem on their campuses.
So why then do college administrators ignore the threats to the Jewish students entrusted to their care? Why are faculty members permitted to lie to and brainwash unwitting students in their classrooms with propaganda rather than facts, while some threaten failing grades to Zionists as occurred at Johns Hopkins this past year? University administrators are shirking their responsibilities to protect and defend every single student under their care. Sadly, we have learned that until they are forced to take measures, they will continue to deny Jewish students the protection that every other student enjoys on campus.
Thus, it is the responsibility of the OCR to enforce the Trump Executive Order, utilize the IHRA definition of antisemitism to identify Jew-hatred and Israel-bashing that steps over the line of free-speech into a breach of civil rights, and encourage college administrators to treat Jewish students as they would every other minority on their campuses. Antisemitism is a disease but unlike Covid, there is a cure. The DOE holds the power to end the spread of Jew-hatred on college campuses beginning today. What is stopping it?
Sarah N. Stern is the founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth. Lauri B. Regan is the New York chapter president and a board member of EMET and the treasurer and board member of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.
The Twenty Years Confusion
Prime Minister Bennett: Please Summon the Courage to Ask the Hard Question
Help us work to ensure that our policymakers and the public receive the EMET- the Truth.