POMPEO: Dear University Presidents, Calling for Genocide of Jews Is Wrong in Any “Context”

Institutions of higher education in America – particularly at our once-vaunted universities – have a major antisemitism problem made evident by the reaction on so many campuses following the barbaric attacks on October 7th against the world’s only Jewish state – Israel. Universities such as Harvard, which have in the past been so quick to punish faculty, students, or even guest speakers that step out of line with radical progressive thought, have been disturbingly apathetic in the face of the most alarming swell of antisemitic hate in recent American history.

This week, the presidents of MIT, Harvard, and Penn were asked to testify before Congress to explain their respective school’s approach to the crisis; the broad theme of their testimony can be summarized in their answers to a question posed by Rep. Elise Stefanik: “Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate [your university’s] code of conduct or rules regarding bullying or harassment?”

This simple question apparently stumped the three presidents, who prevaricated, obfuscated, and tied themselves into rhetorical knots to avoid answering, “Yes.”  

MIT President Sally Kornbluth stated that such vitriol could be considered antisemitic, “depending on the context.”  President Kornbluth would have us believe that calls for genocide against the Jewish people require more context than the statement itself. 

Penn President Liz Magill responded that calls for genocide would have to be expressed in action to qualify as bullying or harassment according to Penn’s standards, stating “if speech becomes conduct, it can be harassment.”  President Magill would have us believe that calls for genocide and intifada – calls for violence against Jewish people and fellow Jewish classmates – is not a manner of deplorable conduct in and of itself.  

Saving the worst for last, Harvard President Claudine Gay responded to the question first by parroting the previous respondents – “it can be, depending on the context” – then added her own absurd qualification: Antisemitic rhetoric must be targeted at an individual to qualify as harassment.  President Gay would have us believe that calls for genocide against Jews and intifada are not, in fact, targeting Jewish students, but instead harmlessly directed into the ether.

University administrators have clearly failed to protect and support their Jewish students.  Indeed, this shameful performance confirms the sentiments expressed by Jewish students who shared their experiences dealing with antisemitism on campus with Congress this week, with one young NYU student detailing how she was assaulted by another student simply because she was wearing an American-Israeli flag.  Her attacker, of course, has yet to be disciplined.  

We should be clear: This is not an issue of free speech.  Harvard, MIT, and Penn’s administrators have freely allowed a culture of bullying and harassment to thrive on their campuses so long as the institutions punish faculty, students, or guest speakers for expressing ideas and engaging in speech that conflict with the institutions’ radical progressive ideology.  Indeed, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression’s (FIRE) college free-speech rankings, Harvard currently ranks dead last in protecting free speech, with Penn just ahead of them at second to last.  It is farcical for these schools to now claim their desire to protect free speech compels them to allow their Jewish students to be threatened, attacked, and demeaned.  It is also why I am proud to serve as Distinguished Chair for the Helms School of Government at Liberty University, a Christian school that has roundly condemned antisemitism and showed clear moral support for the State of Israel and our Jewish countrymen.

In truth, the administrators at these schools – starting at the top with their presidents – hold to a worldview that embraces antisemitism, denies the right of the Jewish people to have their own legitimate nation-state, and provides the ideological basis for genocide against the Jewish people.  This same progressive ideology has motivated many feminist organizations – ordinarily the self-proclaimed champions of consent and bodily autonomy – to justify Hamas’ atrocities on Oct. 7th, including sexual assault and rape.  This is not an accident: Hypocrisy and double standards are the defining characteristics of progressive ideology.  The rules only apply to their enemies; and whether they would admit it or not, their hatred of the Jewish nation-state extends to all Jews as well.

This hearing, and the infuriating treatment of so many young Jewish college students since the war in Israel began, should be a wake-up call for U.S. lawmakers and all Americans.  Congress should not allow universities to hide behind claims of protecting free speech as they allow antisemitism and calls for intifada to threaten and harm students.  Instead, congressional leadership should ensure that any university allowing this wicked ideology to fester on its campus should no longer receive government funding.  If these university presidents find dealing with antisemitism to be such a difficult issue, America’s leaders should simplify the matter for them.