Hugh Taylor

Israel and the true purpose of American Universities

Harvard Yard in 1985 (Copyright 1985 by Hugh Taylor)

Last month, the Harvard Jewish Alumni Alliance (HJAA) released a report on the experience of being Jewish at Harvard after the 10/7 attack based on interviews with 42 Jewish students and faculty members. The report, “The Soil Beneath the Encampments: How Israel and the Jews Became the Focus of Hate at Harvard,” chronicles a shocking collection of antisemitic incidents that include Jewish students being spat on, professors ordering Jewish students out of lecture halls for making their classmates “uncomfortable,” a constant stream of violent threats, and worse.

It’s hard to know how common these attitudes are among students and faculty. They may represent a small but loud minority, but the atmosphere at Harvard seems pervasively anti-Jewish. The university’s response has been tepid, and that’s being generous. According to a lawsuit filed by Harvard students, the university has refused to take serious disciplinary action—reinstating students who had been suspended for egregious violations of its rules.

Harvard is just one school, but it’s representative of the conditions affecting Jewish students at many other American and Canadian universities. In the last few weeks, for example, pro-Palestinian protesters physically blocked Jews from attending classes at colleges in Toronto and Montreal. Protesters ransacked the office of the President of Stanford University, causing extensive damage and injuring a campus police officer in the process. They will be charged with felony burglary, so there is some hope for sanity.

Still, would you send your kids to a college where they would face such discrimination and threats? Will there ever be a return to a time when Jewish students could attend college without having to worry about harassment and open-throated hatred? If so, what will that take?

Would you send your kids to a college where they would face such discrimination and threats?

These are simple questions, but they’re rather complicated to answer. The go-to explanation, which is that a toxic blend of lavish Arab funding and Marxist faculty has exploded in an antisemitic firestorm, is inadequate to explain the scale and breadth of the crisis. Getting to any sort of solution requires a deeper exploration of what’s really happening, and why.

Harvard recently offered an inadvertent opportunity, via a self-serving lie, to probe the issue. The school announced that it would no longer make public statements on issues outside the school’s core educational mission. The announcement opened with the revealing statement. “The purpose of the university,” it read, “is to pursue truth.” Harvard’s motto, Veritas, literally means truth. Yale’s is “Lux et Veritas” (Light and Truth).

Do these people need to get over themselves or what? Harvard and other elite schools have more than one purpose. If you ranked them, pursuing the truth would probably not crack the top 10. Just as Kurt Vonnegut once mockingly described West Point as “A school that teaches young men to be homicidal maniacs,” Harvard et al exist for reasons far more important than mere education. You can get a good college education at many schools. Harvard offers something extra.

What is the main purpose of Harvard? You won’t find this in the brochure, except as all but the most naïve understand at a gut level, Harvard et al exist as tightly guarded gateways to exclusive circles of money and power in American society. If you want to get to the top of Wall Street, the Fortune 500, the legal field, the news media, medicine, science, government, and non-profits, you invariably need to start with a degree from an elite school. This is not always the case, but it’s sufficiently true that the exceptions tend to prove the rule.

You won’t find this in the brochure, except as all but the most naïve understand at a gut level, Harvard et al exist as tightly guarded gateways to exclusive circles of money and power in American society.

You don’t go to Harvard to save the world. You go to Harvard to run the world. And, this is where the education part becomes relevant: At Harvard, you learn how the world works and what America’s role should be in global affairs. This is why donors from the Arab world have funneled over $13 billion into American universities since 1981. (US Department of Education data) They want to influence how the up-and-coming generation of American leaders should think about Israel, the Middle East, and the United States.

Here are the schools receiving the greatest portion of Arab largesse:

School Total donations received from the Arab world since 1981
Cornell $2.1 billion
Georgetown $933 million
Texas A&M $909 million
Carnegie Mellon $900 million
Northwestern $714 million
University of Colorado $507 million
Virginia Commonwealth University $324 million
University of Missouri $306 million
Penn State $304 million
Harvard $258 million
MIT $247 million
George Washington University $232 million


These totals represent hundreds of individual donations over four decades, and some of them are unrelated to Middle East politics, e.g., for medical schools. However, the targets of Arab generosity in American education have not been selected without purpose. The focus on schools that graduate Washington insiders, such as Georgetown and GWU, is not a coincidence. Nor is the focus on elite schools like Harvard.

Graduates of these schools represent:

  • 8 out of 9 Supreme Court justices
  • 12% of the US House and Senate
  • 25% of the current Presidential cabinet
  • The top editors of the New York Times and the Washington Post, among other media elites

The Arabs are engaged in a process called social engineering. They want to change the direction of American government, foreign policy, and society by influencing political leaders, government officials, judges, media figures, and business leaders. It’s a long-term strategy. While the US government and most American institutions remain supporters of Israel, as the emerging cohort of elite graduates enters these fields, the future looks pretty shaky.

This money goes toward teaching an entire generation of American leaders to hate Israel.

This money goes toward teaching an entire generation of American leaders to hate Israel. It’s a big investment, but they’re getting a twofer: Not only is the process causing Jews running for the exits at these schools—choking off the flow of Jews into positions of influence—it also leads to anti-Israel sentiment and outright Jew hatred at the highest levels of American life. How can you put a price on that?

It’s easy to get indignant, but if you track such things, you’ll know that it’s not just the Arabs. China pumps billions into American universities, too, and has gained immeasurable geopolitical and economic benefit from the process. America’s top universities are for sale. If you didn’t know that, consider that Harvard recently sold the naming rights to its entire Graduate School of Arts and Sciences to financier Ken Griffin for $300 million.

It’s also tempting to argue that this simply can’t be true, that shaping the minds of graduates from a handful of colleges can’t possibly affect the direction of the entire country. Believe it. Many of us are so absorbed in the American myth of meritocracy that we don’t see how a narrow set of elite institutions have a stranglehold on political and economic power in this country.

This is something that Arab leaders understand. The US is much more like Saudi Arabia than we want to admit. There, members of the royal family and their close allies hold the good jobs and most financially rewarding positions. Here, it’s graduates of elite schools. They know us better than we know ourselves. We may make fun of “nepo babies,” but that is exactly who makes decisions about what goes on in this country, including how much the US should support Israel.

At the same time, we should acknowledge that no amount of money or social engineering will make Americans believe in something if they weren’t predisposed in the first place. Why do Americans so easily believe lies about Jews and Israel? It’s likely they already had those beliefs, but they were masked by social stigmas against prejudice that are rapidly coming undone. Only time will tell if these attitudes will truly prevail.

About the Author
Hugh Taylor is an observant Jewish writer and essayist whose work has appeared in The Daily Beast, Huffington Post, and The Washington Spectator. He has worked at Silicon Valley startups and in the Fortune 100. He earned his BA and MBA at Harvard University.
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