In 2020, I ghostwrote a book to help families get their overachieving high schoolers into the Ivy League or other elite U.S. universities. I’m very proud of this project and even had two strangers mention how they were familiar with it from the library or bookstore. Lately, though, I’ve been questioning whether something that started out as a valuable public service will actually put Jewish students – potentially my two teenage children – in harm’s way.
The irony is that it has become a breeding ground for misinformation, propaganda Let me explain further: I’m disgusted by what’s happening on many of these college campuses. Higher education is supposed to offer young minds an opportunity for learning critical thinking and allowing students to make up their own minds about hot topics.
and conspiracy theories about Israel, as well as hostile to Jewish youth. Professors and administrators are beholden to indoctrination and dogma under the guise of diversity, equity and inclusion programs – not necessarily truth and fairness. The Thought Police are busy patrolling and imposing their small-minded world view on all of us – an Orwellian prospect that I find terrifying.
They also are perpetuating a double standard by tolerating antisemitic expression while condemning other hateful speech. Exhibit A: recent congressional testimony from three top university presidents who were asked a basic question about whether calling for the genocide of Jews violated their moral code and policy for student harassment. Their responses, all predicated upon how it depended on the “context” of those comments, were beyond outrageous. They were lame and spineless, and it was a national disgrace. Condemning this nonsense was an easy layup for those so-called leaders. Instead, they all shot embarrassing air balls.
Pershing Square CEO Bill Ackman, who has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Harvard, recently voiced several concerns about his alma mater in a post on X. He was deeply disturbed that 34 student organizations a day after the October 7 surprise attack on Israel – before the Jewish nation even took any military action in Gaza – lent their support to Hamas, who he rightly described as “a globally recognized terrorist organization. Instead, they held Israel “solely responsible” for these barbaric and heinous acts, which constituted the worst mass murder of Jewish life since the Holocaust.
Ackman believes diversity, equity and inclusion programs known as DEI are a driving force behind this collegiate hate machine. His fear is that the DEI movement has taken control of speech, serving as the new McCarthyism. Those who dare challenge any of these well-intentioned, albeit misguided, programs run the risk of being ostracized or finding themselves unemployed – another Cancel Culture casualty.
DEI seeks to protect marginalized communities. The trouble is that Jews are almost always left out of this equation, perceived as part of a linear world view as white “oppressors.” Never mind that there are varying degrees of physical traits, religious observance and socioeconomic status among Jews not only in Israel but also across the diaspora. Young minds are fed this information without meaningful knowledge of Jewish history or culture and prejudice is perpetuated for posterity.
Sadly, the seeds of hate are actually sowed in K-12 grades – germinated in schoolyards and from behind closed doors in homes everywhere. My son, who is a high school freshman, recently told me about several antisemitism incidents that started with fellow students questioning Israel’s right to defend itself after the Hamas attacks and a joke one student made during a PE class about gassing Jews.
Thankfully, the principal of his school reacted with sincere outrage, shock and empathy. He was saddened to learn about these comments, expressing that “there is no place in our school/society for any type of hate speech” and pledging to launch an investigation. The heads of Harvard, MIT and the University of Pennsylvania – two of whom have been forced to resign in disgrace – could have learned a career-saving lesson from this man.
Since the Oct. 7 massacre in Israel, U.S. antisemitic incidents have risen nearly 400% – reaching the highest number during any two-month period since ADL began tracking this metric in 1979.
As ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt recently noted, “the lid to the sewers is off, and Jewish communities all across the country are being inundated with hate. Public officials and college leaders must turn down the temperature and take clear action to show this behavior is unacceptable to prevent more violence.”
A dear old friend of mine who was living in Israel at the time of the attack and managed to later escape to Italy about a week later referenced having some PTSD from encountering sirens and rocket booms. She also expressed “fear and anger over the lies, distortions and hate directed toward Jews.”
In perceiving the disturbing emergence of a second Kristallnacht, a night of broken glass from Jewish-owned shops that ignited Hitler’s Final Solution, columnist Bret Stephens recently wrote that “we are now witnessing, on a daily and even hourly basis, and on a scale only a few of us thought possible just a few years ago, the same kind of moral and logical inversions; the same ‘heads-I-win, tails-you-lose’ sleight-of-hand reasoning; the same denying to Jews the feelings and rights granted to everyone else; the same preparing of the public mind for another open season on the Jews.”
What transpired on Oct. 7 was easily Israel’s 9/11 – a date that will now live in infamy. The irony is that scores of peace-loving citizens at a music festival who were sympathetic to the plight of impoverished Palestinians were raped, burned and slaughtered. Any Jewish apologists who have criticized the Israeli government’s policies and military action must recognize that this was a bridge too far. The sheer brutality of that surprise attack and atrocities that followed cut like a knife through my heart and soul. I can only hope that most of my fellow Jews feel the same.
Israel is a sovereign nation that has a right to defend itself. We cannot ever lose sight of the fact that it serves as a safe haven for Jews around the world and is a beacon of hope at a time of rising antisemitism. The 1948 founding came just three years after the end of World War II, a time when six million Jews perished in concentration camps across Europe. It’s morally reprehensible for people to defend what Hamas did or imply that these terrorists were justified in their savagery.
There’s a reason the Israeli Defense Forces are named as such: defense is the operative word. Israel doesn’t initiate attacks; only responds to them. Some countries may think the firepower has been excessive, but how else do you respond to terrorists who literally and figuratively want to drive you from the Jordan River into the Mediterranean Sea?
Meanwhile, antisemitism is also masquerading as international policy with mounting public opinion equating Zionism with racism. The United Nations General Assembly passed more resolutions critical of Israel than against all other nations combined in 2022, contributing to what observers call an ongoing lopsided focus on the Jewish state at the world body. However, the Zionism movement, which dates back to 1897, is about self-determination and statehood for Jews in their ancestral homeland. There is no moral equivalent here to apartheid.
Many of Israel’s critics do not realize, or conveniently forget, that it has offered the Palestinians a two-state solution on five separate occasions – all of them rejected. The first was in 1937 when the Peel Commission which would have given Jews just 20% of the land and the rest to Arab neighbors. Then in 1947, the U.N. voted to create two states, which sparked a war. In 1967 following the Six Day War when the Gaza strip and West Bank were captured by the Israeli Defense Forces, two different peace proposals were floated. Then in 2000 Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak met with Palestinian Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat, which sparked scores of suicide bombings. Finally in 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expanded the peace offer to sweeten the deal in talks with Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
It’s also worth noting that in 2005 the Israeli government unilaterally left Gaza, giving the Palestinians complete control of the territory, which Hamas has since governed, and began dismantling Jewish settlements on the West Bank in the absence of a peace agreement in recognition that occupying these territories was proving to be more of a security liability than an asset.
Israel is held to an unrealistically high double standard that is not fair or reasonable when there’s a true axis of evil all over the world, with the worst offenders including Iran, North Korea and China or Russia (take your pick). Hamas leaders make it a point of burrowing their presence into homes and hospitals in Gaza, using innocent civilians as human shields. They have zero regard for the life of Gazans. Jews and Israeli’s are viewed in overly simplistic terms as oppressors and Palestinians as the oppressed when the conflict is obviously nuanced and solutions are nearly unattainable.
Too many citizens of the world are on the wrong side of history. As a proud Jew who began wearing a star of David necklace daily for several months, I believe we’ve reached a tipping point in the history of Israel and Israeli-Palestinian relations. We all need to speak out against antisemitism now more than ever. Silence in the face of a worsening of this scourge will only make people complicit in not stopping the hate dead in its tracks.