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2023 was the year campus antisemitism finally got its reckoning after college students cheer for terrorism
December 26 2023, 08:00

The year 2023, particularly the months after the Oct. 7 terror attacks, featured lawsuits, congressional investigations, and threats to cut federal funding from elite universities. It was the year that campus antisemitism, long bubbling under the radar on college campuses, finally got its reckoning. 

Jonah Cohen, a communications director at the Committee for Accuracy of Middle East Reporting in America, told Fox News Digital, "Americans are beginning to awaken to the presence of extremist and antisemitic ideologies prevailing in our universities." 

Israel declared war against Hamas after the terrorist group infiltrated the country on Oct. 7, firing thousands of rockets at residential areas and butchering, raping and torturing its civilians. At least 1,200 Israelis and 32 Americans were killed; over 240 people were taken as hostages into the Gaza Strip. 

"The Oct. 7th terrorist attacks by Hamas exposed [systemic Jew-hatred on college campuses] reality like never before," Brooke Goldstein of the Lawfare Project told Fox News. 


Following these events, protests broke out on college campuses – and pro-Palestinian demonstrations frightened Jewish students for, in many cases, sympathizing with Hamas' crimes and justifying them.

"The barbarity and pure evil of the unspeakable acts committed by these terrorists against civilians - men, women, and children - shocked the world. But what was just as shocking was what we saw next: college students and faculty cheering these attacks," Goldstein said. 

At Cornell University, students told Fox News Digital they felt unsafe when a professor, Russell Rickford, said he was "exhilarated" after the Hamas terrorist attack. Students at Cornell, and around the country, also faced hostile rhetoric and chants from their peers such as calls for the elimination of Israel "From the river to the sea" and for "Intifada" – the Arabic word for "uprising" that also refers to violent Palestinian resistance efforts. 


"How can Jewish students feel safe on this campus when this abhorrent hate speech is occurring near our campus? This institution cannot allow an antisemite and justifier of terror to use Cornell to give his viewpoint legitimacy," Cornell Student Netanel Shapira said. 

The hostilities from the anti-Israel crowd – and their disruptions – led Brandeis University, Rutgers, Columbia University and George Washington University to suspend its Students for Justice in Palestine chapters. The SJP's national chapter called the Hamas terrorist attack a "historic win" for Palestinian resistance.

SJP was contacted for comment. 

Brandeis cited concerns about whether the group's rhetoric was supportive of Hamas. It reminded students that such behavior "will be considered to be in violation of the University’s student code of conduct." 

In the most extreme case, GWU students projected Palestinian phrases on a school building stating, "Glory to our martyrs." 

The State of Florida, under the DeSantis administration, directed its colleges to terminate student chapters that support "Hamas terrorism." The directive warned that it was a "felony under Florida law to knowingly provide material support … to a designated foreign terrorist organization." 

"Students for Justice in Palestine and its related groups have not only repeatedly cheered antisemitic terrorism, they have advocated importing it to America," said Liora Rez from StopAntisemitism, referring to chants for "Intifada."

"Their presence on campus inarguably leads to more hostility towards Jews, and their unrepentant embrace of violence should disqualify them from every campus in the country," she continued. 

Roz Rothstein of the pro-Israel group StandWithUs told Fox News she believed SJP chapters have feigned concern for social justice in order to gain supporters, and then laid the groundwork for "extreme campus antisemitism." 

Jewish students had, for years, complained about campus antisemitism at universities. But it came to a boiling point when the nation heard the leaders of the most elite universities in the country voluntarily showed up to a congressional hearing and then refused to state that calls for genocide against Jews violated its policy. Donors pulled their money, firms threatened to strip recruitments, and now some students are questioning their interests in elite institutions such as Harvard. 

"For over two decades, we’ve raised concerns about this issue… and it appears that now, finally, our warnings are resonating with the wider public," Cohen said. 

Following the shocking testimony, the House Committee on Education & the Workforce announced an investigation into Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and MIT over "rampant antisemitism." Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., promised a "reckoning" for Jew-hatred. 

At the same time, the U.S. Department of Education is launching investigations into universities such as Cooper Union, Columbia University, Cornell, UPenn, and Lafayette, to name a few. 

Law firms are also taking notice and are launching civil action over accusations that college campuses may be violating students' Title VI civil rights by creating a hostile environment and failing to take reasonable action against antisemitism. 

A major NYC law firm, Kasowitz Benson Torres, said it was focusing on legal action against Harvard, Cornell, Columbia, New York University, MIT, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania and UC-Berkeley – but that their scope will likely expand as students' complaints continue to pour in. 

"The appalling Congressional testimony of the university presidents earlier this month demonstrated why it’s so necessary for us to seek relief in court. They exposed themselves before the entire country as not only clueless but dangerous, unable to admit that students should not be permitted to call for the genocide of Jewish people," said a partner at the firm, Mark Ressler, in a statement to Fox News.

He added that he is looking forward to publicly sharing "revealing the full extent of the… hypocrisy" as discovery unfolds. 

The testimony from the elite presidents also led to increased scrutiny of the presidents, with critics calling for their resignations. The University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill subsequently resigned. 

"Their failure… represents a systemic crisis in higher education, under which Jews are targeted with impunity," said Rez from StopAntisemitism. 

Harvard's Claudine Gay's academic work was given a fresh look, and she now faces 40 accusations of academic dishonesty – plagiarism. Republican members of Congress expanded their probe into Harvard to include these allegations, stating that refusing to take action against President Gay "cheapens its mission and the value of its education." 

In fact, some students are rejecting offers to top-tier schools because of the "stigma" associated with the institutions.

"Virtually every student I've ever worked with who got into Harvard early pretty much stopped [looking elsewhere]," Christopher Rim, CEO of New York and Miami-based Command Education, said Wednesday on "FOX & Friends First."

"This is the first time this has happened," he continued. "Normally, my student will get into Harvard or a top-tier school, and then that'll be it. We're done. So congratulations. We've finished the process, but now we're seeing students say, ‘You know what? Let me double think this. Let me think about other options.’"

In November, over two dozen Wall Street law firms warned colleges that if they didn't address the pro-Hamas sentiment on campuses, it would affect their incentive to hire their students. 

The letter said, "As employers who recruit from each of your law schools, we look to you to ensure your students who hope to join our firms after graduation are prepared to be an active part of workplace communities that have zero tolerance policies for any form of discrimination or harassment, much less the kind that has been taking place on some law school campuses."

Other law firms such as Edelson PC announced they would no longer participate in recruiting opportunities because of how Harvard and President Gay handled the aftermath of her disastrous testimony before Congress on antisemitism at the school.

"We have no intention of returning to on-campus recruiting unless there is a sea change. The easiest solution would be for Harvard to simply remove Dr. Gay," the law firm's founder, Jay Edelson, said. 

Additionally, the financial penalties for antisemitism have been brutal – they're bleeding by hundreds of millions of dollars

Billionaires are pulling back on donations to leading Ivy League colleges amid allegations of antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment that have become more visible in the wake of Hamas’ terror attack on Israel, Fox Business reported.

For example, Columbia alum and billionaire Leon Cooperman, chairman and CEO of Omega Advisors who started Goldman Sachs’s asset management division, is also halting donations after having given $50 million to the institution over the years. 

The Wexner Foundation, named for billionaire and former Victoria’s Secret CEO Les Wexner, informed Harvard that it is "no longer compatible partners" with the prestigious university it has worked with for over three decades.

Billionaire investor and influential Harvard alum Bill Ackman claimed the Harvard president's handling of antisemitism on campus since the Oct. 7 terrorist attack by Hamas on Israel has cost the university more than a billion dollars in donations.

In addition to pressure from donors, the universities also face calls to have federal funding stripped over antisemitism from the GOP.

Less than two weeks after the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel, a group of GOP senators, led by Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., introduced legislation that would rescind federal education funding for colleges and universities that allow "violent antisemitism," pointing directly to Harvard's silence at the time after more than 30 student organizations at the school blamed Israel for Hamas' attack on its civilians.

"We must defund the rot in America’s higher education," Stefanik said. "It is unacceptable and unAmerican that any taxpayer dollars are going to universities propping up their promulgation of antisemitism by supporting professors, students and staff many who have openly called for the genocide of Jews."

"We will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that schools that protect and encourage antisemitism are cut off from any and all federal funds," she added.


Goldstein from the Lawfare Project said, "The haters have come out of their holes. There is no more pretending that anti-Zionism isn’t antisemitism. No more pretending these are innocent grassroots student groups or mere activists expressing controversial speech on campus. They are radicals hell-bent not just on terrorizing the Jewish community, but all of America, as we see in city after city, some of whom are connected with foreign terrorist organizations." 

Fox News' Lindsay Kornick and Fox Business' Eric Revell and Breck Dumas contributed to this report.