Alex Sternberg
A Jewish Activist

US College Presidents Need an Education

We have seen outrageous pro-Hamas demonstrations on numerous US campuses. Most striking were students at some of the highest-priced schools marching and screaming the genocidal slogan “From the River to the sea-Palestine will be free”.

In a recent op-ed article in the WSJ, a UC Berkley professor, Ron Hassner, commented on his recent survey of a few hundred US students from across America, who were enthusiastic supporters of this odious slogan.

Not surprisingly, the survey revealed, that a large percentage of these students were completely ignorant of even the basic facts surrounding the Gaza-Israel history.

Many thought that Yasser Arafat was the president of Israel! Very few had any idea what river (some named the Euphrates or Nile) and did not understand the implication of wanting a Free Palestine “from the river to the sea”. Once shown a map of the region and explained that it meant the eradication of Israel, close to 70% rejected the mantra.

The survey commissioned by the UC professor revealed the colossal ignorance of students in our “Ivy’ schools. We expected more. However, it appeared, that even a modicum of education went a long way.

Colleges and universities blatantly refused to offer Jewish students any protection from the menacing hordes who surged, screaming “Death to Israel. Jewish students were forced to escape and seek shelter from the menacing and dangerous mobs. No wonder why so many Jewish students complain of feeling unsafe on the campuses. This type of hate is directed at the Jewish students alone.

Can one imagine crowds surging in a university screaming “Hang blacks from every tree” or “Kill LGBT people” that would have required ‘context’ to be condemned?  Screaming “Gas the Jews” however, is ok.

The soothing promises made by universities to provide a “safe and nurturing environment” quickly evaporated as spineless university presidents hid behind false First Amendment issues that they applied selectively to attacks against Jews or conservatives and all those who do not fit the progressive narrative. All students, including Jewish ones, deserve a safe and protected university atmosphere that allows them to thrive without threats.

At a congressional hearing looking into the rise in antisemitism on college campuses, the presidents of Harvard, UPenn, and MIT equivocated when asked to define what constituted hate speech that would breach the school’s code of conduct. “Calling for the death of Jewish students is hate speech at Harvard- Yes or no”? President Gay was asked. She offered an astounding answer “It depends on the context”. When asked if she thought a call for the hanging of Black people, would be tolerated and protected as “freedom of speech” she refused to answer.

Her lack of resolve regarding Jewish students is all the more troubling in light of the strict code that punishes any Harvard student who addresses a student by the wrong pronoun. (God forbid). But advocating a Jewish student’s death “depends on the context”!

After their shameful performance, there was a national outrage. Calls for their resignation or firing followed. The next day a massive attempt at damage control followed by all three. After much thought and contemplation, they agreed, that, yes calling for the genocide of Jews may constitute punishable hate speech. Students may be expelled. But what took them so long?

It begs the question did they not know they would be asked such questions? Why did they need a 48-hour period to be coached into the correct answer?

And if students could be expelled for urging the death of Jews, shouldn’t presidents face expulsion for failing to condemn it?

Even young children learn in civic classes that freedom of speech is not absolute. It does not assure anyone the right to threaten others. If ever there was an example of “screaming fire in a crowded theater” this is it. Freedom of speech has exceptions to it. Threatening others with death is surely one of them.

My Holocaust survivor parents often warned me saying  “It could happen here, even in America.” Looking at the surging crowds surrounding Jewish students threatening them and forcing others to seek shelter behind locked library doors, I began to wonder if the time they warned about had arrived.

When I attended college in the 70’s, there were similar threats against Jewish students. Many learned karate and other self-defense techniques and fought back. Has the time arrived for our students to similarly protect themselves?

With the rise of anti-Jewish threats sweeping across the USA, synagogues have enlisted armed security teams to defend the members. Some shuls hire professional guards consisting of retired and off-duty police officers. But many others invite members from their own congregations, trained and licensed to carry firearms, to stand guard. I feel more secure when I see my fellow shul goers armed and standing guard at the doors.

This wave has produced a sharp spike in applications for gun permits across the country, with gun stores reporting a brisk sale of firearms to Jewish customers.

Dr. Alex Sternberg is the author of “Recipes from Auschwitz; The Survival Stories of Two Hungarian Jews with Historical Insight” and the forthcoming memoir “The Toughest Jew in Brooklyn”

About the Author
Born in Hungary, emigrated to the US in 1961. USA Karate Champion and sensei. Jewish activist, and leader of JDL. Doctor of Physiology and Public Health (SUNY College of Medicine), was the Director of the Pulmonary Function and Exercise Physiology Lab at Downstate Medical Center. President Center for Hungarian Holocaust Education. Author and teacher of Zionism, Jewish history, and the Holocaust MaccabiUSA Karate Chair over 40 years, “Legend of the Maccabiah” recipient 2018. Inductee Jewish Sports Heritage Ass. 2024 USA Karate Federation Hall of Fame inductee 2015 Author of "Recipes from Auschwitz-The Survival Stories of Two Hungarian Jews with Historical Insight". Amazon. Author: "The Toughest Jew in Brooklyn" in progress
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