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Why the Most Educated People in America Fall for Anti-Semitic Lies

The Atlantic [read free] “By now, December’s congressional hearing about anti-Semitism at universities, during which the presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and MIT all claimed that calls for the genocide of Jews would violate their university’s policies only “depending on the context,” is already a well-worn meme. Surely there is nothing left to say about this higher-education train wreck, after the fallout brought down two of those university presidents and spawned a thousand op-eds—except that all of the punditry about diversity and free speech and criticism of Israel has extravagantly missed the point. The problem was not that Jewish students on American university campuses didn’t want free speech, or that they didn’t want to hear criticism of Israel. Instead, they didn’t want people vandalizing Jewish student organizations’ buildings, or breaking or urinating on the buildings’ windows. They didn’t want people tearing their mezuzahs down from their dorm-room doors. They didn’t want their college instructors spouting anti-Semitic lies and humiliating them in class. They didn’t want their posters defaced with Hitler caricatures, or their dorm windows plastered with F##k Jews. They didn’t want people punching them in the face, or beating them with a stick, or threatening them with death for being Jewish. At world-class American colleges and universities, all of this happened and more. I was not merely an observer of this spectacle. I’d been serving on now–former Harvard President Claudine Gay’s anti-Semitism advisory committee, convened after the October 7 Hamas massacre in Israel and amid student responses to it. I was asked to participate because I am a Harvard alumna who wrote a book about anti-Semitism called People Love Dead Jews. As soon as my participation became public, I was inundated with messages from Jewish students seeking help. They approached me with their stories after having already tried many other avenues—bewildered not only by what they’d experienced, but also by how many people dismissed or denied those experiences…”

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