Sat. May 18th, 2024

Biden faces pressure to step up response to antisemitic incidents on college campuses

By 37ci3 Apr28,2024



New York, NY – As anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses rise, some Jewish leaders and lawmakers in both parties accuse President Joe Biden’s administration of neglecting to enforce civil rights laws by subjecting Jewish students to ongoing harassment.

They point to a backlog of pending complaints to the Education Department amid protests over the Israel-Hamas war, which has effectively eased pressure on school leaders to take the necessary steps to protect Jewish students.

New Jersey Democrat Josh Gottheimer sent a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on Thursday protesting “the speed of these investigations, the delayed results and the lack of adequate resources devoted to these investigations.”

Congressman Cardona asked about pending investigations into anti-Semitism on college campuses, noting that “an eruption of anti-Semitism … has created a particularly hostile environment for Jewish students” at Columbia University in New York.

Neither the D.C. nor the New York Police Department has released data on the number of anti-Semitic incidents at the school.

The turmoil on college campuses is especially difficult for Biden as he tries to rebuild his voting coalition from the 2020 presidential race. Many of the students protesting the war in Gaza say they are unhappy with the lack of a ceasefire.

At the same time, some Jewish students and their advocates are frustrated by the Biden administration’s lack of determination to address anti-Semitic harassment on campus.

The breakdown of support isn’t quite as neat, though. Many Jewish-Americans across the country oppose Israel’s conduct of the war and join protesters in demanding a cease-fire and an end to US military aid to Israel. Last week, a Jewish student in Columbia stood near the encampment that had sprung up in the shadow of Butler Library and told NBC News that he was quietly celebrating Passover in tents with other protesters.

In this volatile climate, any position Biden takes is bound to alienate someone – and it has.

Michael Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, said of Biden’s team: “They want to be re-elected and they are afraid of what will happen in swing states.” “The joke is that the two-state solution is Michigan and Pennsylvania.”

Herbie Ziskend, deputy director of communications at the White House, said that election considerations do not drive the president’s actions.

“He doesn’t get into politics,” he said.

Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel on October 7, followed by an Israeli counterattack, touched off a wave of anti-Semitic incidents across the country and turned college campuses into hotbeds of anger. In the two and a half months between the start of the war and the end of 2023, the Anti-Defamation League recorded more than 5,200 incidents of anti-Semitism across the country, more than the total for 2022. the group said this figure includes 1,317 rallies marked with “anti-Semitic rhetoric, expressions of support for terrorism against the State of Israel and/or anti-Zionism,” which were not considered “definite” in earlier polls.

That was followed by a flurry of complaints filed with the Education Department’s office for civil rights — an arm of the Biden administration that enforces Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in programs receiving federal aid.

Since the start of the war, the office has opened 93 investigations into cases of discrimination against members of ethnic-religious groups, nearly seven times the number launched in the comparable period before the Hamas attack. The complaints involve both high schools and some of the nation’s most prestigious universities, including Columbia, Harvard, Princeton and Yale.

“While the evidence is often clear and compelling, many Title VI investigations have remained unresolved for months or even years,” Gottheimer wrote.

“The increase in attacks and threats against Jewish and pro-Israel students calls for immediate action,” he added.

Others say it’s pointless to launch an investigation unless the department moves quickly to resolve the complaint and hold the schools accountable.

“Something’s got to give,” said Brian Cohen of the Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life at Columbia/Barnard Hillel. “Universities are not moving fast enough. I don’t think the Education Department is working fast enough. “Universities across the country are spiraling out of control, and that’s not good for anyone in higher education.”

The Department of Education did not make Cardona available for comment. In a prepared statement, he said: “As the nation’s education secretary, I am deeply troubled by the reports we are hearing about anti-Semitic hate towards students. The Department’s Office for Civil Rights is committed to actively investigating complaints from individuals who believe their agencies are failing to protect their civil rights.”

Ziskend said: “The president has forcefully condemned anti-Semitism and hatred. He spoke with moral clarity about the need to condemn anti-Semitism. The entire management has done it and continues to do it.”

Vice President Kamala Harris’ husband, Douglas Emhoff, spoke to Cohen by phone last week.

Emhoff, who is Jewish, “wanted to check on and support me and our Jewish students,” she said. “He ended the call by reminding me that the work we do is incredibly important and not to forget about Jewish joy.”

A longtime supporter of Israeli statehood, Biden is close to the Jewish community and has taken countless steps to combat anti-Semitism, aides said. He was released in May last year a 60-page national strategy to combat anti-Semitismpresents as the first of its kind.

“This blatant anti-Semitism is reprehensible and dangerous and has absolutely no place on college campuses or anywhere in our country,” Biden said in a recent statement.

A month after the war, he was sent to the civil rights office of the Directorate of Education in Gaza letter to schools reminds students that they are legally obligated to prevent discrimination against students, whether they are Jewish, Israeli, Muslim, or Palestinian.

But such gestures do not keep students safe as pro-Palestinian protests spread to other campuses. say lawmakers and Jewish rights groups.

Kenneth Marcus, who led the Education Department’s office for civil rights in the George W. Bush and Donald Trump administrations, said: “The department’s office for civil rights needs to seize the moment and take responsibility for this situation. It is not enough to just passively wait for the complaints to come in and register them and announce the initiation of investigations.

“They should proactively open investigations instead of waiting,” added Marcus, who directs the Brandeis Center, which promotes civil and human rights for Jews.

During a visit to Columbia on Wednesday, House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., met privately with Jewish students, who he said showed them fliers on campus that “looked like Nazi propaganda from the 1930s.” Johnson’s staff showed one to NBC News: an image of a skunk with a Jewish star on its side. “A skunk on campus,” read the sign.

Some Jewish students in Columbia said they felt threatened walking on school grounds. After meeting with Johnson, one told NBC News that he saw Hamas flags on campus. Another said he heard chants of “return to Europe”.

“It’s time to say ‘enough,'” said Ben Solomon, 22, an economics and political science major. “This is not a speech. This is a violation. This is a threat.”

As he left the university, Johnson told NBC News he planned to call Cardon with a message: “I’m going to tell him what I saw here and encourage him to come and visit for himself.”



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By 37ci3

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