Campus Free Speech – Skewing the Debate

Students Gaza Protest

Some violent expressions against Jews occurred during the campus demonstrations that criticized U.S. policy of fortifying Israel’s post-October 7 attacks in Gaza. A poster appeared on a Cornell University message board prompting the school’s president to alert the FBI. “If you see a Jewish ‘person’ on campus follow them home and slit their throats.” Another threatened to “bring an assault rifle to campus and shoot all you pig Jews.”

These expressions of hate came from persons who identified Jews with Israel’s violent attacks; after all, Israel claims to be a Jewish state and a great number of Jews in the United States support what credible observers consider genocide of the Palestinian people. Compared to the numbers protesting U.S. policy, the few people who originated violent messages against Jews did not determine the nature of the protests and their activities did not reflect the protests.

The impact of the protests ─ increased sympathy with the Palestinian cause ─ propelled pro-Israel groups to solicit the U.S. Congress to skew the debate from the U.S. support of genocide of the Palestinian people to campus activity of anti-Semitism ─ diminish the importance that several hundred innocent Palestinians are murdered each day by Israeli forces; more important is that reckless persons voiced severely hostile opinions of Jewish students.

Demanding an end to U.S. foreign policy that militarily and morally aids Israel in its destruction of the Palestinian people was the issue of the campus protest. Protests of U.S. foreign policy proceeded from a logical view that the U.S. has no reason to be involved in the battle between Israel and Hamas and gains no benefit from aiding and abetting an Israeli response that many certify as an excuse for genocide. An opposite policy is requested — a democratic U.S. that claims to be the protector of human rights should be prominent in obtaining a cease-fire and protecting Gazan civilians.

The counter-protestors, who wrapped themselves in Israeli flags and walked around tagging posts with #standwithIsrael, exhibited a lack of citizenship and a convoluted attitude toward genocide. They did not offer a rebuttal to the protestors’ arguments with U.S. foreign policy, which defies contention; their thrust arbitrarily supported a foreign nation before the interests of their nation and defended Israel’s genocidal tactics. They were not attacked because they were Jews; they were attacked as dubious Americans who had an uncalled-for presence in the campus protests. Their behavior was not different than a speculative case of Americans walking around with the Myanmar flag and placing posters that say #standwithMyanmmar as a counter to those who would undoubtedly protest a U.S. policy that aided and abetted the Myanmar government in its genocide of the Rohingya people.

The campus protestors had one mission ─ change a U.S. foreign policy that credible commentators observe as aiding and abetting Israel in its destruction of the Palestinian people. The counter-protestors acted more by formula than thought and created an intra-campus debate between those who want to prevent genocide and those who support it. Israel’s supporters steered the debate from an examination of the role of U.S. foreign policy in causing the destruction to an example of latent anti-Semitism that provides opposition to Israel’s actions. They hoped this diversion could stifle the protests.

The congressional inquiry into campus anti-Semitism showed its understanding of anti-Semitism when Congresswoman, Elise Stefanik, mentioned that conspirators were urging another Intifada, implying that Intifada meant the extermination of all Jews. The congressional pawns to the Israel Lobby got what they wanted with one loaded question, “Would calls on campus for the genocide of Jews violate the school’s conduct policy?”

Indeed, the university presidents did not answer the question properly. However, it is not believable they would condone the words ‘genocide of Jews’ and not seek action. Never having faced the violation, each was unaware of the procedures. Perfectly logical. Why torment them for an acceptable confusion?

This led to wealthy alumni, who had made huge donations to the universities, showing they learned that when you have financial power use it for your personal interests, even if it harms those who helped you gain it. A Penn University donor threatened to rescind a $100 million gift if the university did not discharge the current president, whose testimony before a congressional committee he did not approve. The Penn U. president resigned.

All those watching and participating should have asked, “Why is there a congressional committee investigating a hypothetical; why aren’t there congressional committees investigating the actual?”

From my knowledge, and I invite correction, the actual is that no serious physical violence against Jews in America has occurred after October 7. There may have been unplanned altercations between demonstrators but no Jewish person has suffered a planned physical violence. In contrast, several Muslims have been deliberately attacked and two have been killed. Why is there no congressional committee investigating the severe attacks on the Muslim community?

As mentioned previously, the campus protests highlighted the appearance of a group favoring genocide, not genocide of Jews but genocide of the Palestinians. Why didn’t the congressional committee ask the university presidents if they were taking action against that group?


The few instances of anti-Jewish sentiment that occurred during the protests should be investigated but were superfluous to the protests. Driven by purposeful exaggerations, the anomalies should not have led to curbs on protest organizations.

Those against the protests did not exhibit reasons for their attitude. They placed themselves in support of the potential genocide of the Palestinian people, a position that has no place in normal discourse. That discourse should not be influenced by donors who use their wealth to dictate university policy. Universities should listen to suggestions from alumni and trustees and reject threats that tie donations to policies.

Dan Lieberman publishes commentaries on foreign policy, economics, and politics at  He is author of the non-fiction books A Third Party Can Succeed in America, Not Until They Were Gone, Think Tanks of DC, The Artistry of a Dog, and a novel: The Victory (under a pen name, David L. McWellan)

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