As Chanukah lights flicker, symbolizing the triumph of light over darkness, a disturbing parallel emerges between Harvard University and Hamas-run Gaza. The journey to this juncture at Harvard and Gaza wasn’t sudden; it was a gradual “drip, drip, drip” of incidents — at Harvard, a growing tolerance for anti-Jewish sentiment; in Gaza, calls for the genocide of Jews. On October 7th, this insidious drip became a torrent with the massacre of Israelis from diverse backgrounds, signaling a dire need for a decisive policy shift.
Today, we confront a grim reality: Inclusion and DEI ideologies, once heralded as beacons of progress, have morphed into vehicles for antisemitism in academia, government, and digital realms. The toleration of these ideologies has culminated in the horrors of October 7th, when 1,200 Israelis were brutally attacked. This tragedy exposed the deep-seated issues within Ivy League universities and governmental policies, highlighting a need for urgent change.
In my role at the World Zionist Organization, I urge leaders in academia and government to move beyond insubstantial press releases crafted by disconnected legal and PR teams. We must confront the rise of antisemitism — a trend not new but dangerously ignored.
The right side of the political spectrum battles white supremacist groups, but actions fall short, especially from Israel. Conversely, the left has undergone a transformation. Post-George Floyd, what began as solidarity with BLM has, disturbingly, spiraled into anti-Jewish sentiment, fueled by misperceptions linking Jews with white supremacy. This shift is alarming and must be addressed with urgency and clarity.
AJC data from the 2021-2022 academic year paints a worrying picture: 11 incidents of Israel-related vandalism and 19 cases of harassment against Jews/Zionists by Boycott Israel movement supporters. In New York alone, antisemitic incidents surged by 125% between November 2021 and November 2022.
In 2022, approximately 165 anti-Israeli demonstrations took place across US campuses, some escalating to harassment and disruption of pro-Israel events. These included “apartheid walls” erected at prestigious universities like Boston University and Harvard, symbolizing Israeli security areas.
At the University of California, Berkeley, a student organization openly boycotted anyone expressing pro-Israel sentiments. This decision, endorsed by several student groups, blatantly prohibits free expression.
The BDS movement’s impact on academia is clear: Conferences, webinars, and events frequently feature anti-Israel rhetoric, denying Israel’s legitimacy and spreading hostility. Despite these developments, there has been a disturbing lack of intervention by the State of Israel and university institutions.
Post-October 7th, the situation has moved from drizzle to deluge. Antisemitic trends now permeate all political spectrums in the US, with radicalized discourse leading to an increase in hate speech and violent acts against Jews. NYPD data shows a tripling of hate incidents targeting Jews in October 2023 compared to the previous year. In just 14 days following October 7th, the number of antisemitic incidents matched the entire count of 2022.
This escalating chain of events, requires that we all develop an intolerance for policies of inclusion and turning a blind eye. The parallels are stark and the lessons clear: We must not only combat antisemitism on campuses but also address and hold our governments accountable to stop the tolerance of hatred, bombs and terrorism on college campuses and across Israel, France and Europe.
As we face this daunting challenge, I call upon leaders and policymakers to adopt policies that not only confront but also dismantle the growing momentum of antisemitism and terrorism. It’s time to embrace true pluralism and pave the way for a safer future, free from the tolerance of history’s oldest hatreds against Jews and Israel.
Raheli Baratz Rix, Head of the Department for Combating Antisemitism and Enhancing Resilience, and Board Member of the World Zionist Organization