Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen on Wednesday criticized the refusal of elite American university presidents to say that calling for the genocide of Jews is against the rules of their institutions.
JNS reached out to Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Haiat, who referred us to Cohen’s tweet calling the statements “alarming.”
“This is a dangerous and sad moment. Absurd that places that are supposed to be a moral beacon have become a breeding ground for hatred.”
“They failed a basic test of moral clarity,” Dr. Ophir Falk, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s foreign policy adviser, told JNS.
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) asked the presidents of Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts Institute of Technology if calling for genocide against Jews would violate the codes of conduct at their schools. All three said it would depend on whether the speech constituted harassment or bullying.
Harvard President Claudine Gay, Penn President Liz Magill and MIT President Sally Kornbluth were grilled on Tuesday during a nearly four-hour-long U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing on campus antisemitism after Hamas’s Oct. 7 terrorist attacks.
“So the answer is ‘yes’—that calling for the genocide of Jews violates Harvard’s code of conduct, correct?” Stefanik asked. (Stefanik, who has a 2006 bachelor’s degree from Harvard, has called for Gay to resign. In 2021, the Harvard Institute of Politics removed Stefanik from its senior advisory committee.)
“It depends on the context,” Gay said.
“It does not depend on the context. The answer is ‘yes,’ and this is why you should resign,” Stefanik said. “These are unacceptable answers across the board.”
Yad Vashem issued a statement on Wednesday saying that Israel’s official Holocaust memorial and museum in Jerusalem is “extremely alarmed” by the refusal of the university presidents to say that calls for genocide against Jews constitute a violation of their school’s code of conduct.
“Yad Vashem is appalled that leaders of elite academic institutions would use misleading contextualization to minimize and excuse calls for genocide of the Jews.
“The positions taken by the three university presidents in their testimonies highlight a basic ignorance of history, including the fact that the Holocaust did not start with ghettos or gas chambers, but with hateful antisemitic rhetoric, decrees and actions by senior academics, among other leaders of society,” the institution stated.
Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan said, “Any university, institution or society that can ‘contextualize’ and excuse calls for genocide is doomed.”
Cohen thanked Stefanik for taking a stand and echoed her stance that the university presidents should resign.
“Every American who believes in the values upon which the USA was founded should shrug off the alarming statements, and I thank Congresswoman Elise Stefanik who clearly stands against these things. Whoever gives place to antisemitism must not stay one day in his position!”