The aftermath of last week’s congressional hearing on antisemitism with presidents from three elite universities saw the resignation this week of University of Pennsylvania’s Liz Magill. Although the others, Harvard’s Claudine Gay and Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sally Kornbluth, have survived calls for their ousters, the outcry continues.
I’ve been paying close attention to what’s being discussed during this uproar — and what isn’t.
As a graduate student two decades ago, I was president of the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter at Harvard. Our small group sponsored the occasional lecture or film screening, but for the most part we were ignored.
Now I’m a professor at Northwestern University and am astonished by how much things have changed. Pro-Palestinian student activism is attracting unprecedented scrutiny. That’s largely because, following Hamas’ October 7 attack and Israel’s subsequent bombardment of Gaza, universities have become a frontline in the battle for public opinion over US support for Israel.
Last week’s hearing by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce took place amid worldwide outcry about the colossal scale of death and destruction in Gaza. Antisemitism, like all forms of racism, should be denounced and combatted everywhere, without exception.
But the timing of the hearing suggests to me that something else is going on as well. Accusations of antisemitism are being used to silence criticism of the state of Israel. Lawmakers on the committee blurred the line between Jews and Israel and equated antisemitism and pro-Palestinian dissent. [Continue reading…]