Report: Campus Anti-Semitism Skyrockets Even as Coronavirus Forces Remote Learning

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee anti-Semitism
An anti-Semitic protester at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2019 / petition
February 4, 2021

Anti-Semitic incidents on American college campuses are rising at "alarming rates" and have migrated to online spaces as students have moved to remote learning due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

At least 2,000 anti-Semitic incidents in total have been recorded since 2017—and include swastikas being spray painted on a Jewish professor's office, a campus performer inviting students to sing a song endorsing anti-Semitism, and scores of students being harassed for being Jewish and having pro-Israel views.

"Although campuses closed when coronavirus erupted, and nearly half of colleges began their fall semesters entirely or primarily online, antisemitism has continued both online and offline," states the new report by Alums for Campus Fairness, an advocacy group that codified 50 of the most flagrant examples of campus anti-Semitism reported in the past three years.

The report comes as colleges, including San Francisco State University, the University of Illinois, and others, grapple with a sharp rise in anti-Semitic incidents. San Francisco University, for instance, was the subject of a civil rights lawsuit alleging "institutionalized anti-Semitism," while the Department of Education launched an investigation last year into University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, citing a string of anti-Semitic incidents. More than half of Jewish students on American college campuses have reported witnessing or being the subject of anti-Jewish harassment. More than 80 percent of American Jews say anti-Semitism in America has increased during the last five years, according to a 2019 study by the American Jewish Committee.

"Anti-Semitic incidents on campuses across the U.S. are on the rise at alarming rates, creating a toxic environment for Jewish students," Avi Gordon, executive director of Alums for Campus Fairness, told the Free Beacon. Gordon is calling on alumni communities to help combat rising Jew hatred on campus, saying their access to school trustees, leadership, and faculty is critical to curbing anti-Semitism.

Anti-Israel activists on campus aligned with Students for Justice in Palestine, a group that has been banned on some campuses for bullying Jewish students, to harass pro-Israel speakers and invite extremists on to campus—activities that continued through 2020 despite the coronavirus pandemic, according to the report.

One of the most startling incidents occurred in March 2019, when a speaker at an anti-Israel conference organized by the University of North Carolina and Duke University asked attendees to join him in singing "his anti-Semitism song."

"I cannot be anti-Semitic alone," the speaker, Tomer Nafar, was quoted as saying.

In 2020, Jewish campus buildings were defiled with anti-Israel graffiti, including at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where a Hillel House was spray panted with "Free Palestine."

In June 2020, Pomona College's student president posted anti-Semitic comments on Instagram and belittled the Holocaust.

Alums for Campus Fairness unearthed several trends in how campus anti-Semitism manifests.

Anti-Zionism, it found, has largely replaced Holocaust denial, as it is viewed by anti-Israel activists as a "socially acceptable view masquerading as a commitment to social justice."

"An indictment of Israel frequently expands to encompass all Jews, and its thin veneer often barely disguises bald antisemitism," the report states.

Anti-Semitic incidents on campus are largely being driven by the student body, "not faculty and administration," the report found. "Antisemitic professors and departments do still exist," however, and several of the documented incidents occurred at university-sponsored events.

Support for the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which wages economic warfare on Israel, is no longer the most pressing concern for pro-Israel students, as it constitutes just 13 percent of the anti-Semitic occurrences recorded during the past four years. "Far more popular are campus activities, such as antizionist events, aggressive protests of Zionist events, and anti-Israel vandalism," according to the report.

The group is pressing alumni organizations to launch petitions, write op-eds and open letters, and hold meetings with university leaders to bring attention to the issue and combat growing anti-Semitism.