A Call to End Anti-Semitism on America’s College Campuses

April 26, 2024

By David K. Trimble

We’ve all seen the footage: in recent days, students and other protesters at Columbia University shouting, “Hamas, we love you! We support your rockets, too!” And, “Red, black, green, and white, we support Hamas’s fight!” And even, “Death to America!”
This is disturbing on many levels. First, because these students are expressing outright support for an officially designated terrorist group, whose stated goal is the eradication of the Jewish people. And second, because these pro-Hamas sentiments are coupled with harassment, threats of violence, and actual violence towards Jewish students and faculty – actions that drive these protests far beyond the protections rightly afforded to peaceful assembly and free speech.
These campus protests purportedly aim to condemn Israel’s military operations in Gaza since the October 7 terrorist attacks by Hamas. To be clear, the inherent dignity of all Gazans, and the need to protect non-combatants, are unequivocal. But regardless of where one comes down on Israel’s military response over the last six months, the exuberant support for Hamas on display at Columbia and elsewhere is beyond the pale, and the other expressions of anti-Semitism abhorrent.
On Sunday, with Passover approaching, Rabbi Elie Buechler, the director of the Orthodox Union-Jewish Learning Initiative at Columbia University, issued a warning to hundreds of Jewish students, saying: “The events of the last few days, especially last night, have made it clear that Columbia University’s Public Safety and the NYPD cannot guarantee Jewish students’ safety in the face of extreme antisemitism and anarchy.”
Leaders at other universities recognize the threat these protests pose. Earlier this week, Harvard Yard was closed to the public, Columbia canceled in-person classes, California State Polytechnic University shut down its campus, University of Southern California (USC) canceled its commencement ceremony, and police have arrested protesters at Yale, New York University, Princeton, University of Texas, USC, and elsewhere.
How is this happening on American college campuses?
These leaders and their institutions, first and foremost, have failed their Jewish students. But they have also failed all of their students by fostering an ethos that opposes ordered liberty, classical liberal ideals, and bedrock principles of American democracy. Instead of upholding the search for truth and promoting equal human dignity, these institutions are gripped by cynicism, expressive individualism, and a view that reduces every person to either “oppressed” or “oppressor.”
The bad fruit of this ideological turn is now before our eyes, and Jews once again find themselves on the wrong side of the dividing line.
Earlier this week, RFI Senior Media Fellow Kathryn Lopez wrote, “Jew-hating did not start at Columbia with the October 7 attacks and will not end there…People might previously have thought that antisemitism was a thing of the past, but clearly it’s not. And it’s not merely a political issue. It’s evil.”
Anti-Semitism is, indeed, evil. It is also decidedly anti-religious freedom and anti-American. We need look no further than the First Amendment to the Constitution and George Washington’s 1790 letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island for proof.
It has no place on American campuses, and it is long past time for the leaders of these institutions to make that unmistakably clear.
RFI has many university partners who champion academic freedom and free speech and hold an unapologetic commitment to seek truth, defend religious freedom for all, and protect the values that have made America the land of the free.
Education is the incubator of culture. Through it, we can restore the ideals of human dignity, ordered liberty, and religious freedom for all. America’s university leaders must end anti-Semitism on our college campuses.

David K. Trimble serves as RFI’s President.