By Dr. Susanna Kokkonen – Since the October 7, 2023, horrific surprise attack by Hamas against innocent Israeli civilians, Anti-Defamation League reported a 400% spike of antisemitic incidents in US college campuses. This was during the first weeks following October 7. Jewish students were reportedly afraid to attend classes. On December 5, a Congressional Hearing of the Presidents of Harvard, Penn and MIT, all IVY League Universities, brought the seriousness of the issue to wider public attention.

Since then, pro-Palestinian occupations have become the norm in many universities. Columbia University became a major center of pro- Palestinian protesters, who even occupied the Hamilton Building and held workers inside. Police officers were called to clear the building. At Princeton University, protesters waved flags of Hezbollah terrorist group. In Harvard, Palestinian flag was hoisted where American flag should be. At UCLA pro-Palestinian demonstrators initiated violent confrontations.

Police used chemical irritants and tasers to disperse protests at Emory University in Atlanta. At Emerson College in Boston classes had to be canceled and police carried out arrests. In Washington, students from Georgetown and George Washington University (GW) established a solidarity encampment. More than 200 people protesting the war have been arrested at universities in Los Angeles, Boston, and Austin, Texas.

There are concerns about safety in the context of antisemitic incidents. Some say that campuses are encouraging intimidation and hate speech. In Texas, the President of the University of Texas at Austin issued a statement pondering upon the role of universities in speaking out against Hamas and the growing antisemitism in campuses.

“I’ve never felt more scared to be a Jew in America right now,” said Skyler Sieradsky, a 21-year-old student of philosophy and political science at George Washington University. “There are students and faculty standing by messages of hate, and standing by messages that call for violence.” (Times of Israel)

The Holocaust Remembrance Association sees these developments as serious threats to academic liberty, freedom of movement, and even to personal security of the persons of Jewish students and faculty.

The Holocaust Remembrance Association rejects and condemns the hateful rhetoric of the demonstrations and the intimidation against Jewish students and faculty.

The Holocaust Remembrance Association urges university faculty and principals to not to negotiate with those, who call for the destruction of the State of Israel, a longtime ally of the United States and the only democracy in the Middle East.

The Holocaust Remembrance Association refers to Governor Gregg Abbott’s Executive Order GA44 from March 27, 2024, according to which institutes of higher education are to review and update free speech policies due to the increase in antisemitic speech. In Texas, universities are to include the Texas State Definition of Antisemitism in free speech policies.

The Holocaust Remembrance Association exists to remember, reconcile, and take a stand against antisemitism in all its forms.