CLEVELAND (WJW) – College and university campuses across the country openly support free speech, but with reports of antisemitism acts growing nationwide, the White House, the Anti-Defamation League and others believe a line needs to be drawn between what is and what is not protected.
The ADL says, across the country, it has tracked a nearly 400% increase of antisemitic incidents in the United States since the Oct. 7 attacks in Israel, versus the same time last year.
On campuses across Ohio and the U.S., rallies, marches and demonstrations have been taking place among supporters of Israel and Palestine.
At Case Western Reserve University, Palestinian sympathizers sprayed graffiti over a flag of Israel that was painted on a ‘spirit wall’ on campus.
At Cornell University, Jewish students were being protected by campus as well as federal authorities after threats directed at them were posted to social media.
At Kent State University, students supporting Palestine marched within hours of a planned pro-Israel rally on campus.
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators echoed a sentiment often quoted by Hamas, which waged war on Israel, holding signs and chanting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”
Later, a speaker at the pro-Israel rally told the group of about 100 people who were gathered outside of the campus Hillel center, “Our Jewish friends are scared to walk on this campus, our Jewish friends are being ridiculed for being who they are and for believing what they believe.”
After a University of Akron student was accused of posting antisemitic threats online last year, the American Jewish Committee in Cleveland urged the school to conduct an investigation and expel the student to make it clear that such activity will not be tolerated.
“At a time when campus antisemitism nationwide has risen to alarming levels, schools must re-double their effort to ensure that Jewish students are safe and free from intimidation and they must unequivocally condemn antisemitic incidents,” said Lee Shapiro
The White House on Monday called on administrators of schools and colleges to do more to protect those who are being threatened.
“There is no place for hate in America, and we condemn any antisemitic threat or incident in the strongest terms. We’re also closely monitoring and concerned by the reports of antisemitic threats at Cornell University,” said White House Press Secretary Karie Jean-Pierre.
“To the students at Cornell and on campuses across the country: We’re tracking these threats closely, we’re thinking of you and we’re going to do everything we can on both — at Cornell and across the country — to counter terrorism — antisemitism,” said Jean-Pierre.
The White House on Monday announced measures to counter the growing number of antisemitic incidents involving the Department of Education, Homeland Security and the Department of Justice.
Sue Borison, the chairperson of the Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, is also concerned about the growing number of incidents reported on college campuses.
“I think it’s happening at a scale that we haven’t even begun to address,” Borison told FOX 8. “It’s prevalent at so many universities right now.”
The ADL believes some college administrators are doing their part to try and counter any hate on their campuses, but a greater number of them are not doing enough.
Borison says those who have long had policies in place to counter hate language and acts are the best suited to counter the current surge in antisemitic and anti-Palestinian acts.
“I would say at this moment we believe in the First Amendment, but we also know that it is not protected if it is hate speech and if it incites violence and we are there,” said Borison.
“There are no protests going on that aren’t fomenting hate and violence and so that’s the way to shut it down. I don’t think it’s protected. I think you just say no more protests, they can’t happen on a campus. That’s terrorizing a community that we have promised parents we will keep safe,” she added.
Of their efforts to counter antisemitism and hate in any form, and particularly on college campuses, the White House on Monday said this is just the beginning.
“Look, the announcement that we made, we’re going to have DOJ and other agencies certainly be part of this, have conversations with the campuses and universities. This is the beginning. Maybe there will be other things that are needed.”