Widespread student protests on the US campuses against Israel's genocidal war in Gaza are being labeled antisemitic by pro-Israel politicians and donors. They have now joined forces to intimidate the leadership of top American universities. President Liz MaGill of the University of Pennsylvania has already been forced out. Leaders at Harvard and MIT are also under threat. The Pro-Israel Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Brandeis Center have called on 200 college presidents to investigate pro-Palestinian student groups. Faculty members and instructors at several public and private colleges have either been placed on leave or fired for comments about the conflict, according to Bloomberg columnist Noah Feldman. These actions are a direct assault on the academic freedom in America, with long term negative consequences for the world's most admired institutions of higher education.
Academic freedom is about free exchange of ideas on campus by students and faculty. It is considered essential for learning. Limiting this freedom hurts pursuit of excellence which has helped American colleges and universities become the envy of the world. This freedom must be defended by all Americans to maintain the excellence of institutions of higher learning in America.
GOP politicians see these pro-Palestine protests on US campuses as a fundraising opportunity. Harvard alumna Rep. Elise M. Stefanik ’06 (R-N.Y.) aggressively questioned presidents of Harvard, Penn and MIT to score points with the Israel lobby. “At Harvard, does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Harvard’s rules of bullying and harassment?” asked — to which Gay twice responded that “it depends on the context.”
GOP politicians like Stefanik are deliberately conflating slogans such as "From the River to the Sea, Free Palestine Free" with call for genocide of Jews. In fact, this chant is only about ending the long brutal Israeli Occupation of Gaza (along the Mediterranean Sea) and the West Bank (of the Jordan River).
Several Jewish donors of major private sector universities have either cancelled their donations or threatened to do so over the Pro-Palestine protests. Investors Bill Ackman and Ross Stevens have been among the most vocal pro-Israel donors at Harvard and Penn. They both called for the ouster of the presidents of these universities over what they call "antisemitism" on campuses.
The aggressive behavior of Jewish donors is serving to reinforce the antisemitic stereotype of wealthy Jews. As former Labor Secretary Robert Reich put in a Guardian Op Ed: "As a Jew, I cannot help but worry, too, that the actions of these donors will fuel the very antisemitism they claim to oppose – based on the perilous stereotype of wealthy Jewish bankers controlling the world".
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion:
Some right-wing politicians and donors have attacked DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) programs as the cause of what they call "antisemitism" on campuses. These programs help bring in faculty and students from under-represented groups to colleges and universities that have traditionally been almost entirely white. They blame DEI because many new students from minority background tend to sympathize with Palestinians who they see as oppressed. Many of them see Israel as a "Western settler-colonialist oppressor par excellence", according to the Wall Street Journal.
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