Antisemitism on Campus
Social movements come in many forms and have different purposes. Some serve to advance the collective welfare of humanity by bringing us together. Others dehumanize their opposition to advance their own ideologies. In the wake of the recent Hamas terror attack, a movement of the second type began to dominate life on MIT’s campus.
On October 7th, Hamas terrorists slaughtered over 1,200 people in Israel – Jews, Muslims, Arabs, and others alike. Hamas raped teenagers, burned babies, and took more than 240 people hostage. Some of the victims of the October 7th attack are directly related to members of our community here at MIT.
In the wake of the largest killing of Jews since the Holocaust and one of the worst terrorist attacks in modern history, Jews and Israelis on campus desperately needed time and space to mourn. Instead, we were met immediately with victim blaming and callous epithets. On October 8th, every undergraduate student at MIT received an email claiming the “Israeli regime” was “responsible for all unfolding violence.” One student group helped organize a “Victory is Ours” rally, where protestors from around Cambridge and Boston celebrated the murder and terror carried out in Israel.
This celebration of Hamas, a US government-designated terror organization sworn to eradicating the state of Israel, marked the establishment of a narrative characterizing Israelis and Jews as scapegoats, and paved the way for an increasingly antisemitic dynamic on MIT’s campus. When Hamas declared a “Global Day of Jihad”, Israelis and Jews were scared to come to campus. We were scared to wear our Star of David necklaces and our kippahs. We were scared to tell people that we were going to Shabbat dinners. We felt it was unsafe to be publicly Jewish and to speak freely about our support for the continued existence and safety of the State of Israel. As Jewish students were kicked out of study groups, called “Nazis” for supporting Israel, and bombarded with hateful dormspam, MIT faculty and IDHR and DEI Officers dismissed Jewish students’ fears and even told some Israeli students to go back to Israel. The MIT administration repeatedly allowed anti-Israel hate groups on campus in violation of MIT policies, who invited outside protestors to espouse violent rhetoric on campus.
Day by day, Jews and Israelis have been academically and socially isolated on campus. Students were kicked out of study groups, classes were interrupted, Jewish and Israeli staff members’ offices were stormed, and students were bullied into leaving their departmental lounges. Suspected supporters of Israel were intimidated and targeted (privately and publicly) by members of the MIT community. Unfortunately, it is not just students who are bullying and ostracizing Jews and Israelis on campus. At a public campus event, the MIT Interfaith Chaplain reportedly diverted the group discussion four times to assert that Palestinians are “wrongfully subjugated and oppressed by racist white European colonizers,” and then made any student who keeps kosher raise their hand so they could get a kosher meal. The DEI chair of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) publicly endorsed statements calling Israel a genocidal apartheid state. A Brain and Cognitive Sciences (BCS) postdoc repeatedly and publicly called Zionism (belief in the right of Jews to self-determination in their ancestral homeland of Israel, a tenet at the core of our religious and ethnic identity for 3,000 years) a “mental illness”; made the slanderous false claim that Jewish Israelis want to “enslave the world in a global apartheid system”; called the “average Israeli” a Nazi; and spread a dangerous libel that Israelis use Palestinians for organ harvesting. When this was reported to the BCS DEI Officer and MIT Administrators, the DEI officer called the organ harvesting conspiracy theory a “confirmed report,” and dismissed the complaint.
With this context, it is easy to understand why many Jewish and Israeli students do not feel safe on campus. We express our fears to those who are tasked with keeping us safe and providing us with a healthy learning environment, and are met with gaslighting and lip service. As shown by their actions and words (such as violent calls to “raise up your two fists and sacrifice everything for Palestine” on the steps of Lobby 7), radicalized student groups and the outsiders they invite to campus pose a real threat to all students’ safety, especially Jews and Israelis. Jews and Israelis on campus don’t just ‘feel’ unsafe, we are unsafe.
This is unbearable. As the MIT community, we need to begin constructive dialogue and ensure the safety of all our community members. We must not let the hate and tokenization spreading around the world infect our campus. MIT should be a place for open-mindedness, open dialogue, free speech, and free expression. It should not be a place for hate or discrimination. Nobody should feel unsafe because they wear a hijab or a yarmulke, or because they speak their mother tongue in the hallways.
Therefore, we call on faculty and all members of the MIT community to cease sowing hate and division on campus, and begin instead to work towards healing for all parties.
With love and respect,
The Executive Board of the MIT Israel Alliance
The MIT Israel Alliance can be reached at email@example.com.