Israel Needs to Take an Active Role in Mitigating US Campus Antisemitism

Jewish student leaders will head to Knesset in Jerusalem next week. Pictured is their March #ZeroTolerance for antisemitism mission to Washington. Courtesy of Olami

The Rising Tide of Antisemitism on US Campuses

Many college campuses were “unsafe spaces” for Jewish students during the 2023-24 academic year. From anti-Israel encampments to outright attacks on “Zionist” Jewish students, and even the revival of the blood libel accusing Jews of using blood to bake matzos, America’s campuses are burning with the fires of antisemitism.

Implications Beyond the Classroom

Even as classes end for the summer, this wave of antisemitism is not over. American Jewish students—and American Jews in general—have never faced a situation like this before. Today’s college students are tomorrow’s national leaders, and the longer the hate festers, the more entrenched it will become. This trend endangers the strong US tradition of political and military support of Israel.

What is happening on campuses will spread if it goes unchecked.

Current Responses and Their Limitations

New responses are needed; what’s happening now isn’t working. Heroes like Noa Tishby, Rudy Rochman, and Montana Tucker, speak out on social media and during campus visits, seeking to engage in open, honest dialogue with anti-Israel protesters, to no avail. The other side just isn’t interested in understanding or even talking.

Pro-Israel rallies, which espouse Jewish pride and positivity, often face off against hate-filled anti-Israel and antisemitic mobs. However, the large majority—some 90%—of Jewish and pro-Israel students don’t attend these rallies, limiting their effectiveness. These are the principal responses of Jewish and pro-Israel students to the situation, and they are not making a dent in the growing movement of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish protesters on campus.

The Broader Impact on US-Israel Relations

This issue goes beyond American Jewish students. If Israel does not act to protect itself, it may lose crucial American support, both material and political. The protests are clearly having an effect. The Biden administration has already withheld its level of support for Israel in direct response to pressure from anti-Israel factions. This pressure is likely to grow as the election edges closer. Instead of demanding #ZeroTolerance for antisemitism, campus administrators are negotiating with these groups, agreeing to cut ties with Israeli companies and institutions, and even placing restrictions on pro-Israel students and staff. These successes may encourage similar tactics in the political realm.

Without a strong voice battling that pressure, Israel can expect even more retrenchment in its relationship with the US. This could range from a partial arms boycott to a lack of support at the United Nations. While Congress has been a bulwark of support for Israel during the current crisis, that too could change if enough political pressure is applied.

Urgent Need for Action

Dealing with this needs to be a priority for Israel. The campus protests must be more than an item of concern among the long list of challenges that Israel faces. If steps aren’t taken by Israel to invest more in relations with the diaspora, Israel’s support is at risk.

That is why we organized a first-of-its-kind mission, bringing dozens of Jewish student leaders from universities across the United States to meet with MKs and government officials in Jerusalem on Monday. These students will present first-hand accounts of what Jewish students and supporters of Israel are experiencing, emphasizing the urgent need for Israeli intervention and support.

While Israel faces many expenses this year, mostly due to the war against Hamas and Hezbollah, the billions in American aid factored into the national budget could be in jeopardy—a lot sooner than they think. Israel needs to get involved in the battle against Israel and Jew-hatred in the US; if it misses this battle, it may lose the war for American support.

About the Author
Rabbi David Markowitz, Executive Vice President of Olami, has been focused on Jewish outreach for the past 15 years. He has worked in numerous outreach capacities, including educational development, programming, Kiruv training, camp programming, campus outreach, and management. Prior to his role with Olami, he worked as the COO of Aish NY, a campus Rabbi at UCLA, and managed ten college campuses for JAM in LA.
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