Outrage as US Congress Slams University Chiefs Over Supposed ‘Anti-Semitism’ on Campuses

While U.S. congressional hearings drew attention to supposed anti-Semitism on universities, Naomi Klein urged advocates of a ceasefire in Gaza to ignore the “distraction machine,” which is “on overdrive.”

March for Free Palestine and Ceasefire in Gaza in New York City on Oct 28. (Pamela Drew, Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

By Julia Conley
Common Dreams

Naomi Klein, the writer and activist, has led calls for supporters of a permanent cease-fire in Gaza to stay focused on Israel’s mass killing of civilians and to resist the “smoke and mirrors” of Congressional hearings this week that sought to distract from Israel’s “genocidal violence.” 

“The distraction machine is in overdrive,” said Klein on social media after more than a day of reaction to the presidents of three top universities being hauled before Congress on Wednesday to testify at a House hearing titled “Holding Campus Leaders Accountable and Confronting Antisemitism.”

Republican members including Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) demanded to know whether the presidents of the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) would discipline students for “calling for the genocide of Jews.”

The university leaders suggested that their schools typically do not punish students for speech alone — in accordance with the U.S. Constitution, Penn president Liz Magill said in a video posted later — but said such calls could qualify as harassment if they were “directed and severe, [or] pervasive,” and could be punished if it “crosses into conduct.” 

Sally Kornbluth, president of MIT, said she had “not heard calling for the genocide of Jews on our campus.” Stefanik replied that “chants for intifada” — a call for an “uprising” which is not inherently violent — have been heard at the school. 

Videos of students holding an anti-war protest at University of California, Los Angeles were widely circulated in October, with some influential pro-Zionist celebrities and commentators asserting that students were proclaiming, “We want Jewish genocide.” The protesters were actually addressing Israeli officials and saying, “We charge you with genocide.”

“Can someone point me to an example of a student group calling for the genocide of Jewish people?” asked Mari Cohen, associate editor of Jewish Currents. “Why are we having this conversation?”

The hearing wasn’t the first to confront speech on college campuses since Israel began its U.S.-backed onslaught in Gaza, which has killed at least 17,177 Palestinians in just two months. 

Last month the House Judiciary Committee invited student leaders of conservative and pro-Zionist groups to testify about “hostility towards certain points of view” on campuses, and the hearing was interrupted by pro-Palestinian rights students who demanded to know whether their speech should also be protected. 

Klein said Wednesday that the repeated hearings on the topic “are smoke and mirrors to distract from genocidal violence in Gaza.” 

Klein suggested that it has not gone unnoticed by Israeli officials that journalists and residents in Gaza have continued to widely share information about the reality on the ground, where dozens of Palestinians were killed Thursday in Israeli air raids on a home in Gaza City.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) escalated attacks on the city of Khan Younis in the south — previously a relatively safe refuge for people who fled northern Gaza — with “multiple residential buildings and units… flattened,” according to Al Jazeera. 

“The occupation is trying to destroy all residential buildings in the eastern areas of Khan Younis,” reported the outlet on Thursday. 

Gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases as well as hepatitis have also begun spreading due to blockades on medical supplies, fuel, and safe drinking water, leading the World Health Organization to warn last month that disease could ultimately kill more civilians in Gaza than the bombs the U.S. has helped to provide for Israel. 

“Congress should be working towards a lasting cease-fire to end Israel’s deadly assault on Gaza, a hostage exchange, and a path to equality, justice, and safety for all Palestinians and Israelis,” said the Jewish-led Palestinian rights group IfNotNow on Wednesday, responding to a House resolution that claimed anti-Zionism and antisemitism are one and the same. “Not wasting precious time using antisemitism as an excuse to shut down free speech.”

Julia Conley is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

This article is from Common Dreams.

Views expressed in this article and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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25 comments for “Outrage as US Congress Slams University Chiefs Over Supposed ‘Anti-Semitism’ on Campuses

  1. December 10, 2023 at 11:02

    Reading the general press coverage of the hearings the impression is given (actually dishonestly stated) that the university presidents refused to condemn the genocide of Jews. If the testimony is read, rather than the press descriptions of it, it is clear that it is the reporting (and Republican propaganda) that is generating the firestorm, not the reasoned and restrained statements that would be expected from the women university presidents—- a misogyny insufficiently covered; getting a women to do the attacking doesn’t excuse that misogyny.

  2. Em
    December 10, 2023 at 10:29

    Christian Parenti & Norman Finkelstein in conversation; questions by longtime activist and former broadcast journalist Jeanne McGuire.
    Recorded at Toronto Public Library Dec. 8th.
    NF @ minute 25 for those with shorter attention span
    I’ll Burn that Bridge When I Get To It: How Academic Freedom Works


  3. Realist
    December 9, 2023 at 23:42

    Anyone who is intelligent (or simply honest) should be able to discern that the actual perpetrators of genocide (the faction killing Palestinians in vast numbers–guess who?) are trying to transfer the blame to the victims, or the supporters of the victims. I believe the process of accusing one’s opponents with one’s own faults is called “projection” by psychologists. Stop being absurd. The call to stop the unrestrained mass killings by the major aggressor with most of the available weapons, the most sophisticated technology of war provided in unlimited quantity by its American ally, and by far the highest body count resulting from its actions is NOT the equivalent of saying that anyone should be out killing as many Jews as possible rather than Arabs. That is most definitely NOT what the great bulk of the student protestors are saying. In an increasingly rare occurrence, university administrators are finally getting something right in response to the constant Congressional lunacy. What could possibly be their motive to facilitate any organised movement to encourage genocide against Jews? I should think the opposite to be more likely.
    Protecting the right to free speech under the first amendment is not an attempt to stifle a mass movement to promote genocide against any identity group, which, heretofore, is not happening in this country. Where it is happening is in the Middle East where the US constitution has no force whatsoever, and against the Palestinians, not the Jews. Strict logic would dictate that there should be genocide against no one, ever. Whatever you might care to call the highly lethal actions being levied against the Palestinians, most notably against the non-combatant women and children, they must be stopped. By virtue of the formal Geneva Conventions enacted after WWII, they must immediately cease. Else Israel and its enabler the US government must be charged with war crimes.

  4. robert e williamson jr
    December 9, 2023 at 19:25

    Everyone please remember that we have one James Jesus Angleton to blame for this predicament we find ourselves in here. The CIA Counter Intelligence Chief who never caught a spy and sold out to Israel.

    Now we have a congress that believes they , much like JJ Angleton, know what is best for us to believe about Israel and to question them is wrong.

    The people , those who make up our congress, who were elected by our votes, tell us now what to believe and threaten retaliation against those who call them on their bullshit. All as a response to AIPAC’s having paid for their vote or other wise having them compromised.

    Thanks CN

  5. J Anthony
    December 9, 2023 at 05:28

    History will not be kind to the likes of Elise Stefanik, or any of these politicians and their attempt to project their s*** onto everyone else. Now they’re scapegoating the college administrators, as someone noted, tones of McCarthyism. Having caught a few minutes of the hearing, where Stefanik attempted to berate and verbally bash one of these administrators into submission, had me so upset at the nerve of the sheer hypocrisy I couldn’t watch. How sick is it that they’re trying to accuse anti-war protestors of what they themselves are turning a blind eye to, funding, and supporting? “Intifada” means resistance. They know that. What spineless tools they are in the faces of AIPAC and the military. Let them eat s***.

    • Tim N
      December 11, 2023 at 10:07

      Predictably, one of those Presidents (McGill) resigned–what cowardice! That makes it look like those idiots in Congress are on to something.

  6. teri
    December 9, 2023 at 02:33

    Why is Congress involving itself in how private universities run themselves in the first place? That’s one of the things that disturbs me so much. I couldn’t believe it when I read they were holding hearings on this matter and forcing the administrators to “explain” themselves.

  7. December 8, 2023 at 22:44

    Welcome to the witch hunt. Reminiscent of the MacCarthy Hearings

    • Sharley Azen fisher
      December 10, 2023 at 10:46

      If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and talks like a duck ….nothing is learned from history in the U.S.
      It is a stupid country, one in which the same actions are repeated ad nauseum expecting a different result.

  8. TDillon
    December 8, 2023 at 21:02

    Rep. Elise Stefanik used indignation and name-calling in place of evidence and reasoning. This is a standard Zionist tactic. More generally, it is a standard intimidation tactic.

    This is a Congress that just voted to declare that anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism. That claim is Alice In Wonderland level absurdity. It is false on both logical and factual grounds. Any 10 year old can understand why.

    So every member of Congress who voted for that absurdity has plainly been corrupted by Zionist billionaires. There is no other rational explanation. They are selling out the US to a foreign entity. They should all be removed from office at the next election, and then, in my view, tried for treason.

    • Bob Martin
      December 9, 2023 at 01:32

      Exactly right.

    • Susan Siens
      December 10, 2023 at 14:38

      I am very grateful for reading Whitney Webb’s One Nation Under Blackmail prior to the genocidal gangsters in Congress and their “hearings.” I’m watching the goyim bend over backwards to prove what Zionism lovers they are, and it is clear they know nothing about Judaism or Zionism. It is rather reminiscent of the whole transgender nonsense as we now have people who are clearly non-Jews calling Jews antisemites just as we have been told to tolerate men calling women misogynists for not accepting men as women.

      Webb’s book outlined Jeffrey Epstein’s work for both the U.S. and Israeli intelligence [sic] establishments through blackmail, UNIVERSITY DONATIONS, control of U.S. politicians and academics, etc. She provides an excellent understanding of who runs the U.S. and Israel.

      • robert e williamson jr
        December 10, 2023 at 17:54

        Susan Siens great to hear form someone who has read Webb’s One Nation Under Blackmail. These two volumes are full of facts and notes. The notes are located at the end of each chapter for conveniency ana it does not take long to appreciate this fact.

        On page thirty she discloses that the names of two of the Pritzker family are listed in Jeffery Epstein’s little black appoint books. And that sister Penny worked for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign, beofre reaching an agreement between Clinton and Obama.

        Anyone who is interested in the 60 or 70 years if U.S. , Israeli history will love this stuff.

        Another example of her abilities is found on page 2119 of Chapter 6, A Private CIA and the notorious Safari Club. Notes reveal that none other than Turki bin Faisal, who in 1976 gave a speech at Georgetown U. and who in 1979 became head of Saudi General Intelligence Presidency, only to resign 10 days ahead of 911.

        Things are not as they appear to be!

        on Page 221 we find that William Holden, Ronald Reagan and Rat Ryan acquired the properties around 1960.

        Wake up folks and read these two volumes, the notes for this chapter alone number 10 pages.

        Everyone needs to support CN and people like Whitney Webb for working very hard to educate the rest of us.

        This bullshit happening at our universities will finish off our nation.

        Thanks CN

  9. Vincent Amato
    December 8, 2023 at 17:13

    Rep. Elise Stefanik could barely control her emotions as she tried to get a university president to subscribe to her own indiosyncratic definition of the term “intifada,” building the case that calls for resistance to Israel’s behavior in the occupied territories was the equivalent of anti-semitism. Those who make this argument seem completely ignorant of the dangerous premise upon which it is made, namely, that if you disagree with the Israeli government, you are a Jew-hater. In the modern world, a governing body is not the equivalent of a race or a religion. It is obvious though, that for some individuals, if you hate Israeli policy or even its most prominent spokesman of the moment, you have crossed some moral red line. The fact is that those who make those arguments have crossed a red line themselves–from reason to blind adherence to religious fanaticism. All Americans should be concerned that making our governing bodies serve as stages from which to blur reality rather than to employ logic is a betrayal of their appointed role.

    • Susan Siens
      December 10, 2023 at 14:40

      Believe me, Stefanik is not motivated by religious anything. She is motivated just as all the gangsters in DC are motivated: $$$$$$$$$$$$$$.

  10. Wally Jasper
    December 8, 2023 at 16:58

    Democrat Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says presidents of Harvard, MIT, and UPenn should resign: “Their statements were abhorrent.” pic.twitter.com/baRTYByQ1R

    — TheBlaze (@theblaze) December 7, 2023

    I hope all the conscientious people of NY respond to their Senator and let her know that being a so-called progressive Democrat means more than supporting gun control and LGBTQ. It means knowing that all people regardless of race, religion, ethnicity anywhere in the world deserve their rights to stay on their land, to have adequate access to food, water, fuel, medicines and safe shelter, and to not be ethnically cleansed and genocided and forced to live under occupation without legal recourse or equal representation. Please tell your Senator that actually it is her statements which are abhorrent.

    • Susan Siens
      December 10, 2023 at 14:43

      I’m sure saying anything to Gillibrand is the same as saying anything to my two abysmal senators, Collins and King. It will have no effect because our entire government has made it clear they don’t give a rat’s ass for what the public thinks. They’re in Congress to enrich themselves as our expense, to wield power to glorify themselves, and they don’t care that they are rushing our country to its oblivion.

  11. anaisanesse
    December 8, 2023 at 16:08

    Speaking out against genocide, ethnic cleansing, censorship by Israel is antisemitic? It sounds laudable to me.
    What does antisemitic mean then??

    • Susan Siens
      December 10, 2023 at 14:44

      Just ordered Weaponizing Antisemitism from OR Books. Antisemitism has now joined the list of words such as transphobic that mean NOTHING. They exist only to beat other people over the head, and what provokes their use changes from minute to minute.

  12. Susan Siens
    December 8, 2023 at 15:21

    I am glad to see that Naomi Klein still has a brain. I listened to Democracy Now one day (only because I was driving) and heard Goodman talking to her, and Klein seemed to be utterly demented. Goodman is a terrible interviewer and Klein did not get any pushback, just the usual drooling star-fucking. I strongly suggest reading Naomi Wolf’s substack essay on Klein’s book.

  13. Rob Rozanski
    December 8, 2023 at 15:10

    My advice to Israel after October 7:
    Marcus Tullius Cicero

    106 B.C.

    “There exists a law, not written down anywhere, but inborn in our hearts…. I refer to the law which lays it down that, if our lives are endangered by plots or violence or armed robbers or enemies, any and every method of protecting ourselves is morally right. When weapons reduce them to silence, the laws no longer expect one to await their pronouncements.

    For people who decide to wait for these will have to wait for justice, too – and meanwhile they must suffer injustice first.”

  14. Vera Gottlieb
    December 8, 2023 at 15:03

    The REAL OUTRAGE should be that the Lobby holds such sway over those having the guts to speak up .

  15. Drew Hunkins
    December 8, 2023 at 14:19

    Such obvious gaslighting.

  16. JonnyJames
    December 8, 2023 at 14:04

    In true Orwellian fashion, you must support racism, Apartheid, ethnic cleansing and genocide. If you don’t, then you are a self-hating American, anti-Semite, self-hating Jew, holocaust denier, blah blah blah. The only argument the murderers have is childish name-calling – pathetic. Just make sh*t up and throw it, hope it sticks. How intellectual and sophisticated eh. The Dumbed-Down-Discourse is either a sign of moral bankruptcy, or the lack of cognitive ability – or both?

    In a formal debate, you will be disqualified and lose if you use ad hominem attack.

    The Bipartisan Consensus and Duopoly D/R Dictatorship is clear for all to see. Free speech, Free press, democracy and the rule of law? Yeah, right…

    • Susan Siens
      December 8, 2023 at 15:18

      Smearing anyone and everyone seems to be the politicians’ only response to anything that does not bend the knee to their lies (which always involve enriching themselves).

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