“There is an epidemic of hate facing our country. We’re seeing a rapid rise in antisemitic rhetoric and acts,” said Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff at a roundtable on combatting antisemitism that he convened last month.
While he’s right about the epidemic of antisemitism, he and the Biden administration are entirely wrong about the cause. It’s not coming exclusively from right-wing extremists but also from other minority groups, leftists in higher education, and many openly antisemitic programs and organizations that the federal government is funding with our tax dollars.
A report last year by the Anti-Defamation League found that antisemitic incidents—including assaults, harassment, and vandalism—hit an all-time high since it began tracking in the 1970s: “an average of more than seven incidents per day and a 34 percent increase year over year.”
Some of the highest levels of antisemitic incidents are in solidly blue areas, like New York City. According to the New York Police Department, hate crimes against Jews in New York City in November 2022 were up 125% over the prior year and accounted for 60% of all hate crimes that month. That’s more than all the other hate crimes in the city based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and other religious affiliations combined.
Though some of the roundtable participants preferred to focus on the usual suspects—white supremacists like the murderers who attacked synagogues in Poway, California, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania—threats to Jews are not confined to the far right.
It’s not skinheads who are perpetrating a crime wave against Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn—assaulting children and pregnant women, shooting Jews with BB guns, slashing them with knives, hurling rocks at their heads, and committing other violent acts. Nor is it white nationalists creating a hostile environment for Jews on college campuses.
While the legacy media spent countless hours breathlessly covering a few dozen dweebs with tiki torches chanting, “Jews will not replace us,” outlets like The New York Times couldn’t spare a column inch on the much larger crowds of so-called Black Hebrew Israelites marching in Brooklyn chanting, “We are the real Jews,” even though it was Black Hebrew Israelite cultists who shot up a kosher supermarket in New Jersey in 2019.
The White House roundtable on antisemitism did not produce any specific recommendations, but Congress could have an important role to play. Since neither the Biden administration nor the legacy media are interested in investigating politically inconvenient sources of antisemitism, Congress should step in. A fruitful place to begin would be investigating federal spending that bolsters individuals and organizations spreading antisemitism.
What Is Antisemitism?
First, it’s important to understand what antisemitism is and is not. Criticism of Israel or of public figures who happen to be Jewish is not necessarily antisemitic. According to the working definition adopted by the U.S. State Department and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, antisemitism is “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.”
Post-Holocaust, most antisemites are not as open about their hatred as, say, the ayatollah of Iran or the artist formerly known as Kanye West. Since hatred against Jews is more often thinly veiled as mere “anti-Zionism,” or being opposed to a Jewish nation-state, it is helpful to be familiar with the three-pronged test developed by refusenik Natan Sharansky to determine when criticism of Israel crosses the line from legitimate to antisemitic.
The three prongs are demonization, double standards, and delegitimization. Is the criticism “blown out of all sensible proportion,” such as comparing Israel to Nazi Germany (demonization)? Is the criticism applied selectively, holding Israel to a standard that is not applied to other nations (double standards)? Is the criticism of particular policies, or is it aimed at denying Israel’s fundamental right to exist (delegitimization)?
Congress Should Investigate the U.N. Funding Antisemitism With U.S. Tax Dollars
Applying these tests, we can identify several categories of federal spending that are likely to be promoting antisemitism. The most obviously problematic area of federal spending can be found in U.S. support for the United Nations and related entities that unfairly single out Israel for international condemnation and are also responsible for indoctrinating children to hate Jews.
During 2022, the U.N. General Assembly passed more resolutions condemning Israel than all other nations combined—even as Russia engaged in war crimes in Ukraine, North Korea engaged in mass human rights violations and ramped up nuclear weapons production, and China was imprisoning 1 million Uyghurs in concentration camps. Nevertheless, the United States remains the largest financial supporter of the United Nations.
Although the Trump administration had appropriately withdrawn from and cut funding to the Orwellian-named U.N. Human Rights Council, the Biden administration rejoined it even while criticizing its “disproportionate focus on Israel.” Likewise, Biden has expressed a desire to rejoin UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, despite its ongoing campaign to deny the historical Jewish connection to the land of Israel.
Perhaps worst of all is the Biden administration’s restoration of $150 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees—a supposedly “temporary” initiative that has, for the past 60-plus years, been used more as a cudgel against Israel than a means of helping real refugees.
The Trump administration had cut U.S. funding of UNRWA over evidence that it had contributed to anti-Jewish extremism, including employing individuals affiliated with the terrorist organization Hamas, using textbooks that indoctrinate Palestinian children to hate Jews and that incite violence, allowing Hamas to use UNRWA facilities to store weapons and build terror tunnels to attack Israeli civilians, and diverting UNRWA funds—including U.S. tax dollars—to Hamas.
UNRWA is rotten to the core. Whereas other refugee programs seek to help refugees resettle, UNRWA creates a multi-generational refugee status intended to destabilize and delegitimize the Jewish state. It uses a definition of “refugee” that includes all “descendants of Palestine refugee males, including legally adopted children,” which is why the number of supposed refugees has grown from about 600,000 initially to more than 5.7 million individuals today.
Defining all descendants of refugees as refugees no matter how many generations and years have passed is obviously absurd, as it would likewise define all current descendants of those who sailed on the Mayflower as refugees from religious persecution in 17th-century England.
Tellingly, the UNRWA definition of refugees differs markedly from the one used by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which handles every refugee issue in the world other than the Palestinians.
Congress should hold hearings to investigate how U.S. tax dollars are being used to fund these antisemitic activities at the United Nations and its related entities.
Congress Should Investigate the Funding of Antisemitism in American Higher Education
The other most problematic area in which federal funding is promoting antisemitism can be found in federal subsidies for higher education. Congress should also turn its attention to investigate how federal funds might be fueling the disturbing rise of antisemitism on college campuses here at home.
Higher education in America has become a hotbed of antisemitism. According to the Anti-Defamation League, incidents of antisemitic vandalism, threats, and slurs on college campuses nationwide have tripled since 2014. As The Wall Street Journal recently reported:
Jewish students on campuses around the country said they are responding to incidents by avoiding parts of campus and hiding or removing personal items such as jewelry and water bottles with Hebrew script. Some said they keep any hint of their support of Israel off social media.
More than 1,000 Jewish students from 550 colleges and universities mostly in the U.S. and Canada have shared 2,208 experiences with bias over the past 2 ½ years with an organization called Jewish on Campus. Many include allegations of being expelled from study groups and academic clubs over public support for Israel. In response to incidents, hundreds of students expressed their reluctance to publicly acknowledge their Judaism or support for Israel.
At the University of California, Berkeley, a public university, nine law student groups—including Women of Berkeley Law, the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, Law Students of African Descent, and the Queer Caucus—amended their bylaws to ban any speakers who support Israel or Zionism—a policy which, observed Berkeley Law’s dean, would ban him along with 90% of his Jewish students. None of them ban speakers who support China, North Korea, or Iran, nor do they impose an ideological litmus test that would exclude the vast majority of any other ethnic or religious group.
It would be bad enough if the students were acting alone, but too often, the noxious ideology they espouse is emanating from taxpayer-funded institutions within the university system.
Many Middle East and Near East studies programs—often funded with U.S. tax dollars via Title VI of the Higher Education Act—have become centers of antisemitic indoctrination, thinly veiled as “anti-Zionism.”
To take just one example, the AMCHA Initiative—an organization dedicated to investigating and combating antisemitism on American campuses—has documented that UCLA’s Center for Near East Studies, which receives federal Title VI funding, disproportionately focuses on Israel and presents it in an almost uniformly negative light despite Title VI requirements that the programs it funds must “reflect diverse perspectives and a wide range of views.” Over just a four-year period of the center’s activities:
- Of 149 public events sponsored in full or in part by the center that were related to 14 Middle Eastern countries, more than one-quarter of the events (40) focused on Israel.
- Of 49 public events relating to significant Middle East political conflicts, 30 focused on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
- Of 28 Israel-related public events for which audio or video was publicly available, 93% exhibited bias against Israel.
Likewise, in 2019, the U.S. Department of Education issued a written reprimand to a joint Middle Eastern studies program between Duke University and the University of North Carolina, warning that its “lack of balance of perspectives is troubling” and “strongly suggests” that the Duke-UNC program “is not meeting legal requirement[s]” under Title VI.
The problem is not restricted to Middle East and Near East studies programs. A report from AMCHA last year concluded that anti-Israel faculty across numerous departments “are the ones instigating, inspiring, encouraging and modeling the playbook for students to follow.”
According to the report, “160 academic departments at 120 U.S. colleges and universities issued or endorsed wholly one-sided, anti-Israel statements containing rhetoric that meets the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.”
Colleges and universities with at least five faculty members who had expressed support for an academic boycott of Israel were significantly more likely to have departments and student governments that issued or endorsed anti-Zionist statements and were six times more likely to have acts targeting Jewish and pro-Israel students for harm.
Congress should investigate the magnitude of the antisemitism problem on college campuses and determine the extent to which federal funds are being used for antisemitic activities, directly or indirectly.
We need to know how many public universities have become hostile environments for Jewish students. How many encourage anti-Jewish attitudes through ethnic studies or anti-Israel programs? How much money do colleges spend on “honoraria” to extremist anti-Jewish speakers, such as convicted terrorist Jalil Muntaqim, blood libeler Mohammed el-Kurd (who has falsely accused Israelis of eating the organs of Palestinians), or former FBI’s “Most Wanted” listee Angela Davis?
We need to know if programs and departments receiving Title VI funding are in compliance with rules requiring diverse perspectives or if they are pushing a radical, antisemitic agenda. Are courses offering highly biased syllabi or even antisemitic textbooks and curricular materials? Are public institutions paying membership dues to organizations dedicated to the destruction of Israel?
American taxpayers deserve to know whether their hard-earned money is being siphoned by antisemites to further their radical agenda. Congress might be facing legislative gridlock, but a single committee can do a great deal of good just by shining a spotlight as to how federal funds are being used.
Ultimately, Congress must force a comprehensive review, to include Department of Justice investigations, of how U.S. tax dollars are being used to fund antisemitic activities at the United Nations and at America’s institutions of higher education.
This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal