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Columbia University President Refuses to Acknowledge Antisemitism

Columbia University President Minouche Shafik said before Congress that "from the river to sea" was hurtful but not Antisemitic.

At Columbia University, President Minouche Shafik’s evasion when pressed by lawmakers on whether the slogan “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is Antisemitic, merely dubbing it “hurtful,” is a striking example of academic leadership’s failure to confront Antisemitism head-on. This phrase, historically used by groups intent on the destruction of Israel, is not merely “hurtful”; it’s a call against the existence of a sovereign nation and its people. Shafik’s reluctance to categorize it firmly as Antisemitic reflects a worrying trend of moral ambiguity at the highest levels of educational institutions.

This concerning episode unfolded during a hearing with the House Education and Workforce Committee, where Shafik, along with other Columbia representatives, was grilled about the university’s response to anti-Jewish demonstrations and violence in the wake of the horrific Hamas attack on Israel on October 7th. Despite claiming to have taken “immediate action” post-attack, Shafik’s and Columbia’s measures—outlined in student communications and designated protest zones—fall glaringly short of addressing the core issue: a deep-seated campus Antisemitism that emboldens slogans supporting terrorist organizations and violence against Jews.

The university’s struggle to navigate between free speech and the protection of Jewish students from discrimination and harassment underscores a broader crisis in academia, where the espousal of radical ideologies often gets a free pass under the guise of political dissent. When academic leaders like Shafik cannot unequivocally condemn statements that implicitly call for genocide, they not only fail their Jewish students but also betray the very principles of academic integrity and moral leadership.

Moreover, the incident reveals a disturbing institutional reluctance to decisively act against faculty members who openly support terrorist acts or express Antisemitic views. Columbia professor Joseph Massad’s characterizing of Hamas’s barbaric acts as “awesome” and the university’s tepid response is a case in point. It’s an abdication of responsibility that allows hate and extremism to fester in educational environments supposed to champion truth and enlightenment.

This episode at Columbia University is a symptom of a larger, more insidious problem plaguing American academia: a growing tolerance for Antisemitism masquerading as political critique. It’s high time for academic institutions to reaffirm their commitment to combating all forms of hatred, including Antisemitism, with clarity and conviction. Anything less is complicity in the very ideologies they ought to stand against.

Robert Chernin

Robert Chernin

Robert B. Chernin has brought his years of political consulting and commentary back to radio. As a longtime entrepreneur, business leader, fundraiser and political confidant, Robert has a unique perspective with insights not heard anyway else. Robert has consulted on federal and statewide campaigns at the gubernatorial, congressional, senatorial, and presidential level. He served in leadership roles in the presidential campaigns of President George W. Bush as well as McCain for President. He led Florida’s Victory 2004’s national Jewish outreach operations as Executive Director. In addition, he served on the President’s Committee of the Republican Jewish Coalition. Robert co-founded and served as president of the Electoral Science Institute, a non-profit organization that utilizes behavioral science to increase voter participation and awareness. Robert can be heard on multiple radio stations and viewed on the “Of the People” podcast where you get your podcasts.