Stopping anti-Semitism at Penn ain’t that hard

There’s been an outbreak of anti-Semitism at the esteemed University of Pennsylvania, and new president Liz Magill is going about combating it in exactly the wrong way.

Penn President Liz Magill (Photo: Penn Today)

Actually, she sort of encouraged it when her first mealy-mouthed statement rebuking the Oct. 7 massacre of Israelis did not use the word terrorism. 

There was a lot of protest, mostly from Jews, many of whom also complained that Penn in September hosted — rented space to — a Palestine Writes program, which featured some anti-Semitic speakers.

Those are separate issues.

If Penn is going to rent space to outside groups, it should be open to all points of views. Palestinians. Jews. Born-again Christians. Anti-Semites. Antifas. Klansmen. Conservatives!

Penn should make it very clear that offering them a safe space to speak is not an endorsement of their views, it is part of creating a community in which, as the Founders wanted, ideas would clash, with the best arising.

On the matter of anti-Semitism, I am no Chicken Little. I have a record of putting anti-Semitism into a broader context, as I did in March, with this column. Jew hatred is ugly, I said, but it is very minor.

Some Jews quarreled with me for diminishing the threat. 

I did, because it is not much of a threat. But it is a threat, and it is rising.

About four years ago, when there was a blip in Jew hatred, my progressive friends blamed it on President Donald J. Trump. He “gave cover” and “encouraged” the anti-Semites with his rhetoric, they said. They even said Trump himself — with his Jewish daughter, son-in-law, grandchildren, and Abraham Accords — was anti-Semitic.

Who do they blame now?

Probably Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, who is very unpopular with left-wing American Jews, which is most of them. 

It is instructive to see just how fast sympathy  — not universal by any means — for Israel in the wake of the greatest Jewish loss of life since the Holocaust, turned against Israel when she started defending herself. The world knows what to do with helpless Jews, less so with Jews who actually practice never again!

That Israeli defense ignited marchers to protest non-existant “genocide” against the Palestinians. Where were the marchers to protest the slaughter of 1,400 Israelis? Where were the marchers to protest Russia’s actual genocide in Ukraine? Was the Penn campus boiling with virtue-signaling then?

Continuing in CYA mode, Penn President Magill has announced a three-point plan to combat anti-Semitism on a campus that has seen its Jewish enrollment fall from about 30% to 16% in a few decades. That almost makes a prima facie case for anti-Semitism, but I won’t go there.

She announced a “task force,” and when I read “task force,” I think “leader can’t decide what to do.”

The three points in Magill’s program are safety/security, engagement, and education. Penn will hire a six-figure “expert” on fighting anti-Semitism. 

Yadda, yadda, yadda.

President Magill, I can save you a lot of money, and a lot of time.

Here is a one point policy: Engage in anti-Semitism, verbal or written, and you are expelled. Period. Ditto Islamophobia, homophobia, etc. 

How can Penn do this? Because if you violate the norms of its campus community, you are diseased, and it will isolate itself from you.

1- Make a rule. 2- Enforce it. 

15 thoughts on “Stopping anti-Semitism at Penn ain’t that hard”

  1. I would see yesterdays protest at 30th Street Station as primarily composed or organized by Penn Students and conducted off campus.

  2. Many Penn Alums have wondered why there had been, maybe still is, so much blind vitriol against the thoughtful, brilliant, contrarian and honest opinions of tenured Professor Amy Wax.
    The always ill informed and naive students, (I include my own classmates from way back when, too), the “who hired them” protesting law faculty and the not so committed to teaching law for the big bad world, former Dean Rugers, in light of this explosion of intolerance and ugliness on our campus, might have been motivated against Professor Wax by more invidious factors than her legal, social and cultural opinions?

    Yet again, we must go back to Penn’s Admissions Department, in the Law School, too, and question whether their standards, since we read that “character” is weighted heavily these days, has a mature enough understanding of character. Who in the Admission Departments is deciding on character? Perhaps those people ought to be dismissed for not selecting the best personal and intellectual qualities from the pool of applicants?

    Other Penn issues for President Mcgill to defuse are the several landmines planted on campus by Amy Gutman, from which she so nimbly skated away.

    The cheating and theft from our Penn Women Swimmers by a man parading as a woman, fully sanctioned by Amy Gutman, who we read threatened anyone who opposed her with serious repercussions; probably the most egregious affront to Free Speech in Penn’s history, not by immature students but by a Penn President.

    Liz, please rescind every award that Gutman allowed to go to a shameless, cheating man, and with the proper ceremony for everyone to see Penn correcting her morals, award those medals to our Penn Women swimmers who won them fairly!

    Then move on to defuse the other landmines Amy Gutman left in her wake before even considering naming that new dormitory at 40th and Locust Street for her.

    1. I don’t want to get into Amy Wax, a few here know that issue, and it requires a long response.
      And while most know Lia Thomas, that subject, too, should be a standalone.
      For those who might have missed it, I oppose biological men competing with biological women in physical sports.

  3. I just discovered your blog, Stu. Keep it up.
    While I agree with the solution to expel bigoted hatred and haters from the school to protect the school and its environs, it seems to me the heads of the university determine the norms. They do so by what they both practice and say. That’s certainly true of Jonathan Falwell at Liberty University, Russell Nelson at Brigham Young, Ari Berman at Yeshiva University, Michael Fitts at Tulane, etc. etc.

    So when Liz Magill makes her statements about the middle east, she is determining the norm.and I think it most unlikely that Point 1 would be implemented as it would violate the current norm

    1. WALLY! I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear from you. After all these yests, how did you find me here? Happy to have you on board, even though we may disagree on some issues. Disagreement, civil, is welcome.
      You are right that the president sets the tone – for colleges, corporations, nations. At Penn, the norm must be changed.

      1. All you have to do these days to find anyone of note is to Google them so it wasn’t hard. Even some people who aren’t of note, like me.
        Good luck with changing the norm. Money talks so perhaps the loss of significant donations might help.
        Having been born when Hitler was still around killing lots of Jews among others, it really grieves me to see the antisemitism that has so easily come to the surface of late. Of course, it never went away but when we had moral leaders in the country, and citizens who listened to them, it at least stayed suppressed.and bigots could be shamed. I think those days are over. Trump and his MAGAs made it okay to express hatred of “others” whomever they may be. The far right and the far left feel free to let it all hang out..
        Ah well, keep writing about this stuff and I’ll keep reading.

  4. At some point we morphed into believing that a free exchange of ideas, even odious ones, translated into an endorsement of them. They are not and should never be construed as such. If universities cease to be those primary forums, where will they come from? Congress? That’s laughable.

  5. Historically Jews are in the staunchly progressive column. I do disagree with you Stu that antisemitism is not a huge problem. It is. Israel has gone from a socialist democracy with many collectives called Kibbutzim to a far right govt in the Knesset. Why? It’s called the New Nazism of “progressive” left. There is nothing progressive about them. They go so far to the left that they meet Adolf Hitler on the other side. Jews are living in fear, record numbers in less than a month, who’ve never touched a gun are purchasing firearms. Then they are Jews on the far left, Jewish Voice for Peace. Basically Pro-Hamas leftist Kapos. Worse than the Jewish collaborators from the death camps, who were coerced by their captors. These people voluntary support terrorism against their own people. Break down the word Islamaphobia, fear of Islam. Those who support Israel stand up to Jihadis. The Islamaphobes are the ones who turn there back on Israel for fear of terrorist repercussions.

    1. Per anti-Semitism: The number of incidents is TINY. Less than 4,000 “incidents,” meaning everything, in a nation of 330 million. That is my definition of minor. The growth is concerning.
      As to the insane Jewish Voice for Peace, my next column takes them on. Later today, or Saturday.

  6. I think this whole thing (Israel, etc.) is pretty damned simple. To wit, Hamas is a terrorist organization. They want Israel gone and all Jews dead. They are evil. They have viciously attacked Israeli citizens for no reason other than pure hatred. They must be destroyed. Innocent lives are going to be lost on the Palestinian side because Hamas insists on hiding behind them like the cowards that they are. Israel is in the right here. Hamas needs to be eliminated because of their pure hatred and evil. War sucks. People die. Hatred causes all this. Stop the hatred and you will stop the wars. But you cannot allow hatred to simply grow unfettered. That’s exactly what happened in Germany in the 1930s, and we know the results.

  7. A lot to process here. As you say, Anti-semitism is growing, here and around the world. The sheer DEPTH of the vitriol, especially among the college students, has also grown. It’s no longer mere disdain or “othering”. It’s absolute hatred. You mentioned somewhere in the piece that the anti-semites cannot stand to see a strong and powerful Jewish state. All the more reason we need a Jewish Homeland! I’m old enough to have had European cousins with numbers tatooted on their arms sit at our dinner table. Though my heart bleeds for the innocent Palestinan citizens, I see no other way that Israel can preserve this Country. The horrendous turn to the right of the current Israel government is concerning, but I believe things may swing to a more moderate government in the future. Since you mentioned the Former Guy, I’ll inject my opinion. Please don’t bother to throw TDS at me. I don’t believe Trump is antisemetic. I do believe that his disgusting lowlife character, “both sides are to blame”, ugly rhetoric, and some of his actual policies, ENCOURAGED White supremicists, and allowed them to become proud, more vocal, and more active. That has nothing to do with the current situation. The rise in antisemitism that has been brewing on College campuses and the world is a different form. Though it has nothing to do with Trump, it does not absolve him of the role he played in the rise of bigotry in other forms.

  8. Thank you so much, Stu, for a smart, concise and nonsensical solution to antisemitism on college campuses.

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