American universities are becoming hotbeds of antisemitism. This is happening, in part, because of the expanding number and power of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) offices that, rather than restraining hostility toward Jews, actually foment it. Their focus on political activism against the Jewish state of Israel clearly crosses the line from legitimate concern for human rights into outright antisemitism, providing encouragement and assistance to others on campus to do the same.
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To gauge the extent of university DEI administrators' antipathy toward Israel, we examined public social media posts by hundreds of DEI staff. We identified Twitter accounts for almost 800 such administrators in the "Power 5" athletic conferences, and searched those Twitter feeds for all tweets, retweets and likes that mention Israel or, for comparison purposes, China. Our method captures only a portion of DEI staff activity; nevertheless, it can shine a spotlight on what many DEI staff believe and are willing to promote.
Our study reveals that many DEI staff are far more interested in Israel than China, and are more consistently critical of the Jewish state than of a repressive communist regime. In total, we found three times as many tweets about Israel as about China. Of the 633 tweets regarding Israel, 605 (96 percent) were critical. Of the 216 tweets regarding China, 133 (62 percent) expressed favorable sentiment.
The comparative preoccupation with Israel is noteworthy, since China has figured far more prominently in the news. And, given the reasons China has been in the news—its role in the origin and spread of the coronavirus pandemic, its brutal crackdown on pro-democracy forces in Hong Kong, its mass imprisonment and mistreatment of the Muslim Uyghur population, its increasing belligerence toward with Taiwan and other countries in the Pacific Rim and its severe internal repression of political dissent and private corporations—it certainly seems that anyone genuinely interested in human rights would have many more reasons to pay attention to China than to Israel.
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The severe tone and extreme content of the tweets, retweets and likes critical of Israel are even more illuminating. The word "apartheid" appears 43 times in DEI staff public communications about Israel. Some variant of the word "colonial" appears 39 times. The word "genocide" appears nine times, the term "ethnic cleansing" appears seven times and the accusation that children are specifically targeted appears 27 times.
Some might object that just because individuals express criticism of Israel frequently and forcefully, it does not necessarily mean that they are antisemitic. However, according to the definition of antisemitism endorsed by governmental bodies around the world, including the European Parliament, the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, criticism of Israel constitutes antisemitism when it argues that Zionism is racism, applies a double standard in judging Israel, compares Israeli policy to that of Nazis and holds Jews collectively responsible for Israeli actions. The tweets, retweets and likes of DEI staff we documented in our study provide instances of all of these antisemitic qualities.
Even if the hyperbolic and obsessive criticism of Israel expressed by university DEI staff did not meet the definition of antisemitism (which it clearly does), attacking a central feature of Jewish students' identity would be entirely contrary to the stated purpose of having DEI staff: to welcome students from all backgrounds, make them feel included and prevent or address incidents of hate and bias. But it is clear that DEI staff at universities actually function as political activists, articulating and enforcing a narrow and radical ideological agenda.
We've seen numerous examples of the antisemitic words in DEI staff Twitter accounts translating into antisemitic activity on campus. Yale Law School brought in a diversity trainer who told students that "she didn't recognize there could be antisemitism against white people" and that FBI statistics of hate-crimes against Jews were inflated by people with an "agenda." Antisemitic graffiti was found this fall in the biology building on campus. The DEI Committee of Stanford University's counseling services held trainings in which staff members asserted that because "Jews, unlike other minority groups, possess privilege and power, Jews and victims of Jew-hatred do not merit or necessitate the attention of the DEI committee." Endorsing these kinds of messages on campus certainly deny Jews protection and invite antisemitism.
Truly achieving diversity—especially ideological diversity—and helping all students feel included requires a dramatic change in how universities approach DEI. Existing staff need to be dramatically reduced, and the remaining DEI infrastructure needs to be reoriented toward serving the true purposes of diversity and inclusion.
This piece originally appeared in Newsweek