A bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced a resolution Wednesday to condemn antisemitism on college campuses as part of a growing chorus of criticism on Capitol Hill about how students have responded to the Hamas-Israel war.
Tennessee senator Marsha Blackburn, a Republican, and Nevada senator Jacky Rosen, a Democrat, co-sponsored the resolution along with Republican Oklahoma senator James Lankford and Democratic Maryland senator Chris Van Hollen. The resolution calls on higher education leaders to engage with Jewish students and to condemn speech that incites or celebrates violence against any people based on their religious beliefs, national origin or ancestry.
“In the aftermath of the terrorist attack on Israel by Hamas on October 7, 2023, there has been a rise in incidents of antisemitism, including hate speech and intimidation, on college campuses and universities in the United States, creating an atmosphere of fear for Jewish students and faculty,” the resolution states. “Acts of hate, discrimination, and violence based on religion or ethnicity have no place at institutions that exist to further education and understanding between diverse student bodies.”
A similar resolution from House Republicans criticizes higher education administrators who, they say, have failed to speak out against student protests in support of Palestinians. University presidents’ responses to the conflict have drawn criticism from supporters of both Israel and Palestinians.
The House resolution also condemns “the support of Hamas, Hezbollah, and other terrorist organizations at institutions of higher education, which may lead to the creation of a hostile environment for Jewish students, faculty, and staff.” The GOP lawmakers want the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights to investigate and take action immediately.
Meanwhile, a protest at George Washington University—where messages such as “Glory to Our Martyrs” and “Your Tuition is Funding Genocide in Gaza” were projected on the university’s library Tuesday evening—sparked condemnation on the Senate floor Wednesday. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said in a statement that in the wake of the Hamas attacks on Israel, college administrators have tied “themselves in grotesque moral knots to avoid acknowledging reality, even in the face of alumni revolts.”
“Last night, at George Washington University here in the nation’s capital, student activists projected anti-Semitic messages on the side of a campus building named for a pair of Jewish benefactors,” McConnell said. “They issued a call to ‘free Palestine from the river to the sea.’ For anyone unfamiliar with Israel’s geography, that is a call for the destruction of the Jewish state.”
GWU officials said in their own statement Wednesday that the projections violated university policy and they were reviewing the incident.