Antisemitism as Official Policy

The Department of Education’s investigation of campus hate will go nowhere.

American Jews are in a strange predicament. On the one hand, following Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, radical-left partisans learned that antisemitism is an increasingly important and effective part of their racialist ideology. On the other hand, holdovers from the Left’s tolerant but distant past are not prepared to abandon the party that has abandoned them. They still feel the need to distract the public from the inroads made by antisemitism deep within the Democratic party. They do this by pointing to the so-called epidemic of white supremacy on the right—an epidemic that is more imagined than real.

This is ironic since antisemitism is attractive to the radical Left precisely because it sees Jews as white. Growing hatred of whites by BIPOC leftists and self-loathing by white leftists form, by now, about the only shared political principle around which the Left can congregate. The only debate among the Left is whether Jews are “white.” In other words, the Left can’t decide whether to embrace antisemitism as a specific form of its now-habitual anti-whiteness or to use antisemitism to cudgel its opponents for their putative white supremacy. It can’t decide whether to reject the Jews because they are white or to embrace them because they aren’t.

Antisemitism is attractive to the radical Left precisely because it sees Jews as “white.”This is not merely an abstract ideological tension. It is currently playing out in all sorts of real-world circumstances, from Hollywood to city council meetings, from workplaces to professional sports, and of course from secondary schools to the nation’s universities.

In general, this is a battle to define the central principles of modern liberalism. More specifically, it is a battle for control of the Democratic party. In either case, the fundamental question is whether the Left will be able (or even seriously attempt) to restore universal tolerance as its defining ethos. If prior to the Hamas attack the answer was “maybe,” now the answer is almost certainly “no.” And since the nation’s universities are dominated by leftist partisans, it is not surprising that much of this struggle has been unfolding on campuses around the country.

Antisemitism on Campus

Everybody knows that most universities receive federal funds. These funds arrive in the form of loans, grants, student aid, scholarships, work-study, and other handouts. In 2018, they exceeded one trillion dollars. They are essential to the continued functioning of all but a small handful of schools. Without these funds, most universities would close or shrink. “Schools that receive federal financial assistance” have corresponding legal obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Those obligations are enforced by the Department of Education (ED) in the case of “discrimination based on race, color, or national origin,” to include “shared ancestry,” and by the Department of Justice in the case of “discrimination based solely on religion.”

In another recent article, I explained how the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice prosecutes inane offenses while spreading false hate-crime statistics to advance its political agenda. As such, it has taken no noteworthy actions to prosecute actual antisemitic offenses on university campuses despite their meteoric rise since October. ED is the same. Though ED has opened no fewer than 89 campus antisemitism investigations since October, including one involving UNC-Chapel Hill, it appears to have advanced none of them. This is despite the fact that ED regulations require “schools [to] take immediate and appropriate action to respond to harassment that creates a hostile environment” (emphasis added). Immediate, as in “right away.”

ED’s own immediate response was promising. In November, in the middle of prolific news coverage only weeks after Hamas attacked Israel, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona promised a gathering of Jewish students at Towson University that he was “appalled and horrified about what [he was] hearing across the country” and that “we’ve got your back.” Once the news coverage died down, however, ED’s enthusiasm waned.

The Civil Rights Act prohibits the very type of antisemitism that the Left now advocates.Since then, it hasn’t taken any material actions to resolve any of those 89 cases because it can’t. In confronting the tension between the Democratic party’s growing antisemitism and ED’s statutory obligation to enforce existing federal law, ED finds itself between the proverbial rock and hard place. This tension is extreme because the Civil Rights Act prohibits the very type of antisemitism that the Left now advocates. Instead of redressing that tension in favor of enforcing federal law, ED busies itself with diversions ranging from the offensive to the idiotic.

For example, in February, Cardona couldn’t even bring himself to condemn the explicitly antisemitic and genocidal rallying call “from the river to the sea.” This was not merely some misguided attempt at neutrality. A quick review of ED’s press releases reveals no further action to combat antisemitism at the university level since Cardona’s November grandstanding.

Instead, ED announced in February its “new commitments to advance equity,” by which it continues to pretend that racial disparities in educational attainment are a consequence of “unequal access to education.” Then, in March, ED reminded universities of their obligation to “address discrimination against Muslim, Arab, Sikh, South Asian, Hindu, and Palestinian students.” This obscene announcement was born from the “Biden-Harris Administration’s National Strategy to Counter Islamophobia,” launched, you will recall, three weeks after the militantly Islamic attack on Israel. Jews, take note: The Left will not tolerate Islamophobia arising from the Islamic attack on Israel, whether on campus or elsewhere.

And, of course, there are more pressing matters than preventing genocide, such as, for example, ensuring that students with “asthma, diabetes, food allergies, and GERD” are not subject to discrimination. These priorities would be laughable were they not so pernicious.

UNC-Chapel Hill

In the case of UNC-Chapel Hill, the matter is particularly straightforward. In December, a Jewish student complained that the university had failed to comply with an earlier ED resolution agreement dating to 2019. Among other things, UNC had already agreed with ED promptly “to respond to allegations of antisemitic harassment” and to “ensure that students … are not subject to a hostile environment.” The new allegations describe a medley of trite, education-interrupting charades promulgated by leftist professors and students who are overconfident in their own intelligence to the point of hubris. They include numerous antisemitic and profane statements by Assistant Professor E. Chebrolu; comments by Dr. Rania Masri, a guest of the university, that Israel is a “cancer” and that the October attack was “a beautiful day”; and other by-now-yawn-inducing tropes of the kind repeated endlessly on campuses throughout the United States. It’s all so offensive and, unfortunately, routine.

Given the ease with which the case could be proved against UNC, the education department’s inaction is the message.At any rate, not only had UNC allegedly violated Title VI again via the various on-campus antisemitic activities since the October attack, but it had also allegedly breached its 2019 resolution agreement with ED. The department dutifully responded that it was taking the matter seriously. It has done nothing.

Given the ease with which the case could be proved against UNC-Chapel Hill (on both fronts), ED’s inaction is the message: When it comes to resolving the tension between the Left’s antisemitism and the rule of law, ED and the Biden Administration choose antisemitism. They will not risk offending the growing power bloc within their base that fully embraces its antisemitism. That bloc, embodied by people like Representatives Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Pramila Jayapal, is now simply too powerful. As Senator Tim Scott said, “Nobody is making Joe Biden put up with all this [antisemitism]. […] Nothing’s preventing Chuck Schumer from denouncing these [antisemites]. […] Nothing [is] stopping Hakeem Jeffries from kicking [the antisemites] off their committees.”

Defund the Universities

Nearly 15 years ago, Norman Podhoretz, former editor-in-chief of Commentary magazine, wrote his critical analysis Why Are Jews Liberals?. In it, he argued that American Jews haven’t had an ideological home on the left since at least the Six Day War of 1967. Today, almost six decades later, Jews still haven’t awakened to this harsh reality. That is the bad news.

The good news is that if Jews haven’t recognized the threat from leftist politics generally, they have recognized the threat from leftists on American campuses specifically. And they’re starting to act accordingly. Bill Ackman’s public statements were an auspicious start. Subsequent decisions to pull financial support continued that trend and encouraged others. And now, one of the few big law firms courageous enough to stand up for unpopular causes—Kasowitz Benson Torres—has started to punch back, filing suits against Harvard, Columbia, Barnard, the University of Pennsylvania, and New York University.

This is not enough. Jews need to condition their support for these universities not only on the prevention of antisemitism but on universities’ return to the canons of Western Civilization. They must exert enormous pressure, the absence of which will result in little change. For example, despite overwhelming public pressure to terminate former Harvard president Claudine Gay following her equivocation about campus antisemitism, the Left could not bring itself to terminate her. Instead, they “demoted” Gay to a $900,000-a-year gig as a faculty member, despite her lack of any relevant qualifications. They couldn’t fire her because her equivocation perfectly encapsulates the Left’s current predicament: Is antisemitism good because Jews are white or bad because they aren’t?

Similarly, ED, DOJ, and the Biden Administration cannot take material action to combat antisemitism because anti-whiteness is the only coherent, if repugnant, ethos of the Left, and Jews are increasingly seen as “white.” ED would no sooner act against antisemitism than sabotage the administration’s own political aspirations. American Jews have no home in the Democratic party. If they don’t act soon, they may have no home on American campuses.

T.J. Harker is the general counsel of a Knoxville, Tennessee, company. Until recently, he was an assistant United States attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, where he investigated and tried national white-collar fraud and espionage matters. He recently launched Amicus Republicae on Substack.