How policymakers are confronting antisemitism amid growing verbal and physical attacks on campuses

"We cannot allow any New Yorker to live in fear. The day we are willing to accept that is the day that our moral compass has broken and spun out of control," said New York Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Following the surprise attack by Hamas on Oct. 7 that has left over 1,500 dead, Israel’s counter-bombardment has reportedly claimed the lives of over 8,000 Palestinians. Nearly one month since the attack, college campuses are boiling with tension. The occasional spill of violence and verbal hate crimes has prompted policymakers at the federal and state levels to confront antisemitism on campus.

Antisemitic incidents in the U.S. have increased 388% since Oct. 7, compared to the same time last year, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Much of this activity has occurred at some of the nation’s most well-regarded institutions.

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At George Washington University, one building was inscribed with messages that read, “from the river to the sea,” a quote Israelis believe warns of the genocide of their people. Pro-Palestinian students at Cooper Union College chanted aggressively and banged on doors and windows of building hosting Jewish students.

But the threats extend past words and gestures. One Jewish student at Tulane University suffered a broken nose after attempting to grab an Israeli flag that protestors tried to burn. “I had Jewish blood on my hands,” said a Tulane student who came to her colleague’s aid, according to The Washington Post.

A student at Cornell University now faces federal charges after allegedly threatening that he was “gonna shoot up” a building frequented by Jewish students, AP News reports. Another student in a campus messaging board advised others to follow Israeli students home and slit their throats, CBS News reports.

In response to these outbreaks, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has announced an anti-bias plan to expand protection for Israeli students on campus. The directive will do the following:

  • provide $3 million to help police respond to hate crimes or bias-related threats;
  • appoint a former court of appeals judge to review antisemitism and anti-discrimination policies on city university campuses;
  • expand the state police’s analysis of social media to monitor potential school and campus threats;
  • $75 million in grants for law enforcement agencies to fight hate crimes.

“We cannot allow any New Yorker to live in fear. The day we are willing to accept that is the day that our moral compass has broken and spun out of control,” Hochul said in an announcement.

The Biden administration on Monday announced a slew of directives to streamline punishments against potentially antisemitic actors. For example, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights has streamlined the process of filing discrimination complaints and is helping to coordinate law enforcement responses, NBC News reports.

But violence and discrimination are targeting more than just Israeli students. A student at the University of South Florida said that someone on social media referred to a campus pro-Palestinian gathering as “target practice,” according to The Post. 

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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