Recent Op-Eds

Antisemitism Has No Place on College Campuses

By Sen. John Thune

May 3, 2024

Over the last few weeks, we have witnessed a disturbing wave of antisemitism sweep college campuses across the country. Anti-Israel protesters have taken over campuses. They have intimidated Jewish students, identified with terrorist groups, and called for violence against fellow Americans. And, too often, these protesters have been abetted by the actions and inactions of campus faculty and administrators.

Jewish students walking around their university campuses have heard things like, “Hamas, we love you,” “Burn Tel Aviv to the ground,” “Go back to Poland,” and “We are Hamas.” At Columbia University in New York City, a protester held a sign near a group of Jewish students that read “Al-Qassam’s next targets” (Al-Qassam is the military wing of Hamas).

Jewish students have been victims of harassment, intimidation, and violence. In some instances, Jewish students have been blocked from entering campus buildings. A student at the University of Washington said she had been called names, spit at, and told to “go back to the gas chambers.” And a Jewish student at Columbia University reported being attacked with sticks outside the library in February.

You could be forgiven for thinking these are scenes from 1930s Germany, not American college campuses in 2024. It’s unconscionable that Jewish students can’t feel safe walking across their college campuses or that anyone would engage in this type of hate. While the recent uptick in protests has rightly drawn national attention, there has been a 700 percent increase in antisemitic incidents on college campuses since Hamas attacked Israel last October. And too often, it seems university leadership has been unwilling to confront this hate, and lately some universities have chosen to negotiate with protesters and even cancel classes and graduation ceremonies due to the protests.

What’s happening at many campuses is sickening, and the fact that it is widespread should prompt some serious soul-searching. Something has gone seriously wrong when students at some of the country’s top schools are embracing the actions of and identifying with terrorists who killed 1,200 innocent Israelis last October and still hold several American hostages to this day. Why are a substantial number of young people willing to join these protests and engage in hateful actions toward Jewish students? And what will make university administrators finally say “enough is enough?”

The right to protest is one thing, and colleges should be forums for debate and discussion. Every American has a right to free speech and to peacefully protest. But we are a long way past lawful protests. We are talking about harassment and violence against Jewish students. So it’s time for immediate action, including from law enforcement where warranted, to protect Jewish students and ensure they can attend school safely.

There is no place for antisemitism in America or on college campuses. I hope we will see stronger action from more universities, and stronger leadership from the Biden administration. It’s time to close this disgraceful chapter and restore order and respect at America’s institutions of higher learning.