We recently examined the alarming escalation in antisemitism seen on US college campuses — specifically at the Ivy League universities of Harvard, Yale, Cornell and Columbia — since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war on October 7.
In this second part, we will look at the remaining four Ivy Leagues, charting how America's most elite educational establishments have become havens of intolerance and why so many of their students harbor such hatred toward both Jews and the State of Israel.
University of Pennsylvania
Two weeks before Hamas's barbaric rampage through southern Israeli communities resulted in the biggest loss of Jewish life in a day since the Holocaust, the University of Pennsylvania was embroiled in an antisemitism scandal when notorious Jew-hating musician Roger Waters was invited to speak on campus.
Waters, who is best known as a founding member of the rock band Pink Floyd and for goose-stepping on-stage while dressed as a Nazi, was asked to address attendees at the "Palestine Writes Literature Festival" before he was banned from campus following a backlash by critics who had noted that the event was scheduled to coincide with the Jewish High Holiday period, thus reducing the likelihood of Jewish students protesting antisemitic speakers.
In the lead-up to the festival, which went ahead as scheduled with Waters speaking remotely, numerous incidents of antisemitism were recorded on campus, including a swastika that was drawn inside the school's Stuart Weitzman School of Design and the arrest of a man who entered the Penn Hillel and screamed statements such as, "F—k the Jews" and "They killed JC," a reference to the myth that Jews are responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus.
In light of the Waters controversy, UPenn President Liz Magill belatedly announced her personal commitment to addressing antisemitism at the college, adding: "The University of Pennsylvania has a long and proud history of being a place for people of all backgrounds and faiths, and acts of antisemitism have no place at Penn."
How utterly hollow those words were.
In the days and weeks after Hamas terrorists murdered and kidnapped more than 1,400 Israeli civilians, UPenn has again allowed antisemitism to rear its head on campus.
The university administration's first statement to condemn the Hamas atrocity was more than a week after it took place. On Sunday, October 15, Magill sent an email to the university community.
"I want to leave no doubt about where I stand," it said. "I, and this university, are horrified by and condemn Hamas's terrorist assault on Israel and their violent atrocities against civilians. There is no justification — none — for these heinous attacks..."
However, the email apparently only came after Jon Huntsman Jr, the former governor of Utah and former US ambassador to China, Russia, and Singapore, told Magill that his charitable organization, the Huntsman Foundation, would be pulling donations from the university over the issue of antisemitism.
For some UPenn students, though, the email's failure to mention Palestinians was akin to not recognizing their "existence," and they organized a mass walkout of classes in response. Videos and photos taken of the protest show students chanting slogans such as, "Intifada, Intifada," "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" and "Israel, Israel, you can't hide, we charge you with genocide." A handful of students reportedly harassed a rabbi who was manning a tefillin stand on the route marchers took.
Other wealthy UPenn donors have since followed Huntsman Jr's lead and pulled funding from the college, including Marc Rowan, who contributed more than $50 million in 2018, and Steve Eisman, who demanded his name be removed from a university scholarship.
In August this year, Israeli Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli wrote a letter to Princeton University's senior leadership about a book that was approved to go on the syllabus of the Near Eastern Studies Department's "Decolonizing Trauma Studies from the Global South" course.
The book, "The Healing Humanities: The Right to Maim," written by Jasbir Puar, falsely claims that Israel harvests the organs of Palestinians and that the country has a policy of trying to maim Palestinians.
Despite the text promoting a modern-day blood libel, Princeton's President Christopher L. Eisgruber refused to remove the text from the syllabus on the grounds that it would be "censoring" the curriculum.
"Those who disagree with a book, or a syllabus, are free to criticize it but not to censor it," he wrote. "Such arguments are the lifeblood of a great university, where controversies must be addressed through deliberation and debate, not administrative fiat."
However, one must question the sincerity of Eisgruber's view about fighting censorship, considering the fact that under his tenure, Princeton scrubbed the name of America's 28th President, Woodrow Wilson, from its public policy school on the basis that Wilson's "racist thinking and policies make him an inappropriate namesake for a school or college whose scholars, students and alumni must stand firmly against racism in all its forms."
Incidentally, as Michael Goldstein pointed out in the Jewish Journal, the inclusion of Puar's antisemitic tome in the curriculum actually marked the second time the "Israelis harvest Palestinian organs" blood libel had been legitimized on campus. Just months before the Puar controversy, professional Palestinian activist Mohammed El-Kurd, who has accused Israelis of eating Palestinian organs and lusting after their blood, was paid to give the Edward Said lecture at the university's English Department.
Many in Princeton's undergraduate student body have also been gunning to pass a resolution in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, which seeks to isolate and eventually dismantle the Jewish state.
What followed a March 2022 vote on BDS was reminiscent of something out of a banana republic. In total, 44 percent of students voted in favor, 40 percent voted against and 16 percent abstained, which was supposed to mean the resolution immediately failed, because abstentions prevented a majority.
However, a dispute ensued about how abstentions would be counted, with Eric Periman, then-president of the Princeton Committee on Palestine (PCP), which sponsored the resolution, arguing the pro-BDS camp had won.
Around the same time that PCP was pushing for Princeton to support BDS, the group made crystal clear its real target when it held a protest outside the campus Center for Jewish Life (CJL) in which protestors held signs with phrases commonly used by Hamas such as, "from the river to the sea" and during which PCP President Periman suggested Princeton's Jewish students were complicit in human rights violations.
Two pro-Palestinian students were arrested at Dartmouth last month after they allegedly trespassed on the grounds of the university's Parkhurst Hall late at night and threatened to "escalate" and take "physical action" against college administrators in a document titled the "Dartmouth New Deal," which demands the school divest from "Israeli apartheid."
"You have until the first day of the winter term to publicly address our demands and outline a plan to meet them. If you fail to do so, we will escalate and take further action," the document reportedly warned.
The arrests followed at least one pro-Palestinian rally in which attendees reportedly chanted, "Israel is a terror state."
However, while Dartmouth has grappled with more isolated incidents of anti-Jewish hatred on campus, including a swastika being carved on the college green and a public menorah being shot at with pellets, it should be noted that the general response by the university leadership to the Israel-Hamas war last month has been commendable.
Spearheaded by a group of Middle Eastern academics at the college, two public forums were set up on October 9 that featured professors from Israel, Lebanon and Egypt discussing the conflict, which were attended by hundreds of students in-person and online.
Encouraging students to attend the forums, the university's President Sian Leah said: "I watched with growing horror the Hamas attack on Israel this weekend, the escalating violence, and the devastating loss of life, especially among civilians... In every conflict, one of the most important roles a university can play is to help us understand it, and to make a space for dialogue and community."
Leah's dither-free response to the attacks, which was in stark contrast to the leaders of so many other colleges, was a welcome change from her predecessor Philip Hanlon, whose role in attempting to hire BDS-supporting Professor N. Bruce Duthu as Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences had been criticized as another "chapter in the school's history of anti-Semitism."
Brown's chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), an organization that has a well-documented history of disseminating vicious anti-Israel propaganda and vilifying Jewish students, was already organizing pro-Palestinian campus protests as Hamas terrorists were still cutting their bloodsoaked path through southern Israel.
In addition to organizing several student walkouts, the group posted on October 12 a statement to its Instagram account in which it claimed Israel was responsible for the Hamas massacre and stated it stands in "solidarity with the Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation."
At one such campus rally, an SJP member was captured on film telling the crowd: "Palestinians will die for justice and will die to return to our land. Glory to our martyrs from the river to the sea ... Palestine is the hope of the world."
Apparently, explicitly supporting a proscribed terrorist organization that is sworn to the destruction of both Jews and Israel is not enough to get the group banned from Brown's campus.
Although Brown University's President Christina H. Paxson has opposed calls for the college to adopt a pro-BDS stance, the school's response to antisemitism among the Brown community has been criticized, particularly after several high-profile incidents at the college over the past two years, including swastikas drawn around campus and antisemitic threats directed toward Brown Hillel.
It is not so difficult to explain why so many students — many of whom would proudly describe themselves as "anti-fascist" — are so intolerant toward Jews and Israel.
Wall Street Journal columnist Barton Swaim described the scenes on American campuses as a product of the Marxist theories that have been taught for decades in higher education establishments:
That's why they particularly hate Israel—a wealthy nation among neighbors whose poverty is relieved only by oil revenue. Israel is the one country in the Middle East where ordinary people stand a good chance of creating prosperity for themselves and their families. For modern progressive academics, weaned on the Marxian concept that wealth is the result of exploitation, that is precisely the reason for Israel's guilt. They can't behold its prosperity without concluding that the Jews have stolen their wealth from their neighbors."
And that is the crux of it: for American students, Israel and Jews are privileged, and privilege is the new original sin.