Senator Lankford Working To Combat Rising Antisemitism On College Campuses

Pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel demonstrations are growing in number and volatility on college campuses, as the war in Gaza drags on. At the same time, a bipartisan group of Senators, including Oklahoma’s James Lankford, is working to make sure anti-Israel sentiment doesn’t cross the line to antisemitism.

Tuesday, April 23rd 2024, 5:55 pm

By: News 9, News On 6, Alex Cameron


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Pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel demonstrations are growing in number and volatility on college campuses, as the war in Gaza drags on. At the same time, a bipartisan group of Senators, including Oklahoma’s James Lankford, is working to make sure anti-Israel sentiment doesn’t cross the line to antisemitism.

As a man who professes strong Christian faith, Senator Lankford (R-Okla.) believes all people of faith — Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews — should be able to freely live their faith without fear. But he says that is not the case right now for Jewish students at some universities in the U.S.

"For whatever reason," Lankford said in an interview Tuesday, "[these universities] are allowing students to be able to chant, scream, yell at Jewish students, 'Go back to Poland'...all kinds of things--to yell at them, 'river to the sea', which is a blunt statement [meaning] we’re going to kill every Jew."

Columbia University in upper Manhattan has been a hotbed for protests. "We don't feel safe on campus," said a Jewish student attending Columbia, 'we don't feel comfortable walking around."

Protests and encampments have also popped up at Yale, NYU, schools in the Midwest, and California. For the most part, protesters are calling on Israel to agree to a cease-fire and allow the creation of a Palestinian state, but some, Lankford says, have crossed the line. "Everyone has a right to free speech," Lankford stated, "but you can’t yell 'Fire!' in a crowded theater and you can’t challenge someone their very existence."

Lankford, along with Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), introduced the Antisemitism Awareness Act this week. The bill would require the US Department of Education to consider the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism when enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws.

"So, if a university president wants to recognize what is antisemitism, there’s a practical example that’s accepted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on the criminal side, but also by the Education Department on the education side.

Lankford believes that will force university leaders to deal more directly with these incidents and the offenders, something he says many have not been doing. "What other group would the leadership of a university go to and say, 'You probably shouldn’t go on campus, it isn’t safe for you'? There is no other group they would do that to," Lankford said, "but for some reason, they feel like they can do that with a Jewish group,"

The uptick in antisemitic rhetoric has not gone unnoticed by President Biden. In a statement Sunday marking the start of Passover, Biden said, "This blatant Antisemitism is reprehensible and dangerous – and it has absolutely no place on college campuses, or anywhere in our country."

In a letter sent Tuesday to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, Lankford, and Senate Republicans called on the administration to put its money where its mouth is by prosecuting those responsible for threats and violence and restoring order at these schools.

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