With nudge from SJP, college campuses stoking old fire of antisemitism

With nudge from SJP, college campuses stoking old fire of antisemitism

In 1941, in Berlin, Adolf Hitler welcomes a visit by Arab leader Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. 

With nudge from SJP, college campuses stoking old fire of antisemitism

Chris Gacek grew up with the secure feeling of numbers in a large Jewish community in Miami but knew others did not have the same experience.

That tugged at him, and he risked his comfort to gain awareness and knowledge. This led him to research antisemitism on college campuses, and he wrote about his findings in 2018.

Even with that background of knowledge, the level of hatred for Jews displayed at American colleges and universities since the horrific Oct. 7 Hamas attack in Israel has caught him off guard.

Gacek recently told the Washington Watch program his research began a story in The Algemeiner, an online Orthodox Jewish paper published in Brooklyn. It listed the top 20 antisemitic schools and colleges in America, a topic that prompted Gacek to write about the topic.  

"There were a number of things about it, but it was obvious going back five years ago that this was going to become a bigger problem," he said. "I think anybody could have guessed that it would go thermonuclear like it did on October 7th and afterwards, but it’s something that was definitely foreseeable." 

The dangerous common denominator

Antisemitism was present on many campuses beyond the 20 listed by The Algemeiner. The common denominator among all of them was Students for Justice in Palestine.

The pro-Palestinian group is on campuses in the U.S., Canada and New Zealand. It has campaigned for boycotts against corporations that deal with Israel and has railed against what it calls Israel’s human rights violations.

Gacek, Chris Gacek

“They are essentially, in my way of thinking, the equivalent of a Klan group on basically 200 college campuses," Gracek said. "No one would tolerate this kind of behavior on a college campus if the Klan were actually there." 

Students for Justice in Palestine, or SJP, thrives because antisemitism is rooted in Middle Eastern Studies programs on many college campuses, Gacek said.

“It is essentially a sometimes violent but always rhetorically aggressive and attack-filled organization going after Jewish students," he warns. "There was a term in Germany ‘Judenfrei,’ that meant to make Germany free of Jews. That’s essentially what their goal and mission is on campus.”

Immediately after the murderous Hamas attacks on Oct. 7, college campuses were the first places to pivot from feelings of sympathy for Israel to justifying the killing of an estimated 1,200 Jews, most of them civilians. 

“Before Israel even started to respond there were these protests and a letter that was drafted immediately at Harvard with over 30 student groups supporting the Hamas terrorists. The response just gathered steam,” Gacek said.

For years SJP pushed the envelope with its rhetoric. The group might organize a protest on Holocaust Remembrance Day, for example. Now it’s progressed to a different level of violence and intimidation.

“It was really grotesque stuff, but it was a sort of thing you could tolerate and get around. It was at the margins, but it’s gone to the next level, and you’re seeing actual violence. It’s absolutely horrifying,” Gacek said.

'This is where we are'

Rabbi Moshe Hauer told the House subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development in a hearing last week that a college campus – almost any campus – is a dangerous place for Jewish students.

“Today, the entire community of Jews on campus do not need a home, they need a fortress. The notion of being able to be there, to build, to grow, where the campus is a nurturing environment for all of its students is unfortunately not their reality,” Hauer said.

Hauer spoke for only four minutes but his comments carried great weight, Gacek said.

“He said, ‘the Jewish people know their history, and their history is one in which we go to countries, we prosper, we help these countries, we become a part of the society, and then they spit us out, they reject us, they throw us out.’ This a reference to Jews being thrown out of England, France and Spain, all these European countries,” Gacek said. “Then he said, ‘We thought this would never happen in America. Now we have to wonder.’ He’s correct. This is where we are.”

A group of pastors and Christian leaders gathered at the Israeli embassy in Washington last week where they were shown graphic video footage of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks. The video has so far been withheld from the public out of respect for the victims’ families.

The scenes lay bare the brutality of the attacks.

“It was very difficult to sit through,” David Closson, director for the FRC’s Center for Biblical Worldview, told show host Jody Hice.

That was the point, he said, in an effort to elicit support from the Christian community.

“The video was actually taken from the body cameras of Hamas terrorists,” Closson said. “Other footage came from home security systems of Israeli families. There were times that I looked away. It was callous, it was depraved, watching children having to watch their parents get shot in front of them. Some of this is I don't even feel comfortable speaking about.”

The images that have circulated through social media or traditional newscasts have been shocking enough.

They’ve left many Americans wanting to turn the page and move on. Many have replaced their sympathy for Israel with sympathy for the casualties of war in Gaza that are coming from Israel’s response.

'Jew hatred' is spiritual issue

According to Closson, the history of antisemitism can be traced far back into world history, which he calls one of the "longest-running scourges" on the Earth. The underbelly of that hate, he says, has surfaced in recent anti-Israel rallies where people are openly celebrating what Hamas did to innocent Israelis. 

"Jew hatred is the only thing I can think of. There’s a spiritual component to this," he observed. "It's not just opposition to the current Israeli government. There’s a deep bedded antisemitism that's been living amongst us. This critical theory that sees the world through the lens of oppressor and oppressed contributes to this." 

For that reason, it’s necessary that Christian leaders and other be reminded of the brutality inflicted upon Jews on Oct. 7, Closson said.

A populace that is grossly under-educated on the subject matter needs to be informed.

“We live in a biblically illiterate age and a historically illiterate age,” he said. “We shouldn’t be surprised when our schools are doubling down on teaching queer theory and LGBTQ issues and ideologies. The chickens are coming home to roost when a whole generation doesn’t understand basic issues related to our own history including what led to 9-11.”

In 1941, in Berlin, Adolf Hitler welcomes a visit by Arab leader Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.