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Coverage of Campus Antisemitism Hearing Exposes Media Blind Spot

Harvard University President Dr. Claudine Gay delivers remarks on Dec. 5, 2023, during the House Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing on the recent rise in antisemitism on college campuses. Photo: USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Connect

US and international media outlets have widely covered the backlash sparked by last week’s testimony of American university heads before a House committee, in which they refused to outright condemn calls for genocide against Jews.

But in their immediate coverage of the congressional hearing — i.e., before a storm erupted thanks to those unwilling to let antisemitism slide — the media were blind to what should have led their reporting and only later became a huge story.

A survey of the coverage on the day of the hearing reveals that Reuters, AP, CNN, NPR, The New York Times, and The Washington Post either ignored or buried the specific line of questioning that had pinned down the trio of presidents — Claudine Gay of Harvard, UPenn’s Lizz Magill, and Sally Kornbluth of MIT — who all evaded answering Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY)’s simple “yes” or “no” question about whether calls for genocide against Jews violate their institutions’ codes of conduct. They all said it was dependent on the context.

These media outlets focused on other issues that arose during the hearing, and created the impression that the university presidents had to defend themselves against an attack — as it was also represented later, some might say tastelessly, by US satire show Saturday Night Live.

Reuters’ text did not include any mention of the problematic back-and-forth regarding genocide (although it later added a video clip of it). It dryly conveyed some of the presidents’ talking points in response to various questions, with some necessary background.

The agency’s reportage completely missed what should have been the headline: Heads of Ivy League universities fail to condemn calls for genocide against Jews.

The AP did the same.

So if anyone on December 5 consumed their news solely from the wire services — which are responsible for distributing accurate information to hundreds of media outlets worldwide — he or she would have no idea that America’s elite universities had legitimized calls for the slaughtering of Jews.

Two months after Hamas had carried out a genocidal attack on southern Israel on October 7, triggering the rise in campus antisemitism that the committee set out to investigate, it’s incomprehensible how journalists could have missed the very discussion pertaining to such genocide.

CNN also ignored the exchange. It did quote a similar one, regarding “Intifada” and the slogan “From the River to the Sea,” but that wasn’t nearly as poignant.

Likewise, NPR’s report mentioned the “Intifada” questions but omits the testy debate over genocide. It was also quite supportive of the leaders of the universities, who they said “have long struggled to balance free speech and student safety.”

Burying the Headline

Other media mentioned the genocide issue, but in a way that did more harm than good.

The New York Times started by presenting the universities’ presidents as victims of events, rather than leaders who carry responsibility:

From the beginning of the Israel-Hamas conflict, the presidents have struggled to balance the free speech rights of pro-Palestinian protesters with the competing claims of Jewish students, who say that some of the rhetoric has spilled over into antisemitism. And the presidents have had to handle an increase in bias attacks for both sides.

Then the Times simply glossed over the heated genocide exchange, which is briefly buried at the end of the article as if it doesn’t merit any special attention:

She asked Ms. Magill of the University of Pennsylvania, “Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Penn’s rules or code of conduct, yes or no?”

Ms. Magill replied, “If the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment.”

Representative Stefanik pressed: “I am asking, specifically calling for the genocide of Jews, does that constitute bullying or harassment?”

After some back and forth, Ms. Magill said, “It can be harassment.”

Representative Stefanik responded: “The answer is yes.”

The Washington Post chose to present the exchange in the middle of its piece, between lengthy paragraphs regarding other issues that arose during the hearing:

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) asked the presidents about the limits of free speech. “Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Harvard’s rules on bullying and harassment?” she asked.

“Calling for the genocide of Jews is antisemitic,” Gay replied. “And that is antisemitic speech. And as I have said, when speech crosses into conduct, we take action.”

“So is that a yes?” Stefanik asked.

“When speech crosses into conduct, we take action,” Gay repeated.

Republicans also pushed the university leaders about the role of faculty.

It can be argued that both The New York Times and Washington Post, by reporting on the issue as just another item out of many, have actually contributed to its legitimization.

Apparently, antisemitism doesn’t ring loud enough to make headlines.

After the backlash

Luckily, viewers and decision-makers had more common sense than major media outlets.

The backlash started almost immediately, with heavy criticism from appalled donors, lawmakers, and alumni.

Media quickly jumped on the bandwagon and widely covered subsequent events — the public uproar, the clarifications, and the resignation of UPenn’s president Liz Magill.

But their initial fault should not be forgotten.

To be clear, a short exchange at the end of a five-hour hearing can be easily missed. But the question remains: Why wasn’t it obvious to the media? Why did it become obvious only after Jews and their supporters complained?

Would news outlets be so indifferent if the same question regarding genocide had been posed about any other minority?

Unfortunately, it may imply that antisemitism has become an accepted feature of reality, for academics and media alike. But those aiming to objectively report on that reality should take a very good look at their own blind spot before doing so.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

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Israeli Official: ‘Important Operation’ in Yemen Sends Strong Message to Shiite Axis

Drones are seen at a site at an undisclosed location in Iran, in this handout image obtained on April 20, 2023. Photo: Iranian Army/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS

i24 NewsA senior Israeli security official spoke to i24NEWS on Saturday on condition of the retaliatory strike carried out by the Israel Air Force against the Houthi jihadists in Yemen.

“This is an important operation which signals that there’s room for further escalation, and sends a very strong message to the entire Shiite axis.”

“We understood there is a high probability of counter attacks, but if we do not respond, the meaning is even worse. Israel has updated the US prior to the operation.”

The strike on Hodeida came after long-range Iranian-made drone hit a building in central Tel Aviv, killing one man and wounded several others.

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IDF Confirms Striking ‘Terrorist Houthi Regime’ in Yemen’s Hodeida

Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi addresses followers via a video link at the al-Shaab Mosque, formerly al-Saleh Mosque, in Sanaa, Yemen, Feb. 6, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

i24 NewsThe Israeli military on Saturday confirmed striking a port in Yemen controlled by the Houthi jihadists, a day after the Iranian proxy group perpetrated a deadly drone attack on Tel Aviv.

“A short while ago, IDF fighter jets struck military targets of the Houthi terrorist regime in the area of the Al Hudaydah Port in Yemen in response to the hundreds of attacks carried out against the State of Israel in recent months.”

After Houthi drone attack on Tel Aviv, reports and footage out of Yemen of air strikes hitting Hodeida

— Video used in accordance with clause 27A of Israeli copyright law

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) July 20, 2024

Yoav Gallant, the defense minister, issued a statement saying “The fire that is currently burning in Hodeidah, is seen across the Middle East and the significance is clear. The Houthis attacked us over 200 times. The first time that they harmed an Israeli citizen, we struck them. And we will do this in any place where it may be required.”

“The blood of Israeli citizens has a price,” Gallant added. “This has been made clear in Lebanon, in Gaza, in Yemen, and in other places – if they will dare to attack us, the result will be identical.”

Gallant: ‘The fire currently burning in Hodeida is seen across the region and the significance is clear… The blood of Israeli citizens has a price, as has been made clear in Lebanon, in Gaza, in Yemen and in other places – if they dare attack us, the result will be identical.’

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) July 20, 2024

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One Part of Cyprus Mourns, the Other Rejoices 50 Years After Split

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan leaves after attending a military parade to mark the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus in response to a short-lived Greek-inspired coup, in the Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus, in the divided city of Nicosia, Cyprus July 20, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou

Greek Cypriots mourned and Turkish Cypriots rejoiced on Saturday, the 50th anniversary of Turkey’s invasion of part of the island after a brief Greek inspired coup, with the chances of reconciliation as elusive as ever.

The ethnically split island is a persistent source of tension between Greece and Turkey, which are both partners in NATO but are at odds over numerous issues.

Their differences were laid bare on Saturday, with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attending a celebratory military parade in north Nicosia to mark the day in 1974 when Turkish forces launched an offensive that they call a “peace operation.”

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was due later on Saturday to attend an event in the south of the Nicosia to commemorate what Greeks commonly refer to as the “barbaric Turkish invasion.” Air raid sirens sounded across the area at dawn.

Mitsotakis posted an image of a blood-stained map of Cyprus on his LinkedIn page with the words “Half a century since the national tragedy of Cyprus.”

There was jubilation in the north.

“The Cyprus Peace Operation saved Turkish Cypriots from cruelty and brought them to freedom,” Erdogan told crowds who gathered to watch the parade despite stifling midday heat, criticizing the south for having a “spoiled mentality” and seeing itself as the sole ruler of Cyprus.

Peace talks are stalled at two seemingly irreconcilable concepts – Greek Cypriots want reunification as a federation. Turkish Cypriots want a two-state settlement.

Erdogan left open a window to dialogue although he said a federal solution, advocated by Greek Cypriots and backed by most in the international community, was “not possible.”

“We are ready for negotiations, to meet, and to establish long-term peace and resolution in Cyprus,” he said.

Cyprus gained independence from Britain in 1960, but a shared administration between Greek and Turkish Cypriots quickly fell apart in violence that saw Turkish Cypriots withdraw into enclaves and led to the dispatch of a U.N. peacekeeping force.

The crisis left Greek Cypriots running the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus, a member of the European Union since 2004 with the potential to derail Turkey’s own decades-long aspirations of joining the bloc.

It also complicates any attempts to unlock energy potential in the eastern Mediterranean because of overlapping claims. The region has seen major discoveries of hydrocarbons in recent years.


Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides, whose office represents the Greek Cypriot community in the reunification dialogue, said the anniversary was a somber occasion for reflection and for remembering the dead.

“Our mission is liberation, reunification and solving the Cyprus problem,” he said. “If we really want to send a message on this tragic anniversary … it is to do anything possible to reunite Cyprus.”

Turkey, he said, continued to be responsible for violating human rights and international law over Cyprus.

Across the south, church services were held to remember the more than 3,000 people who died in the Turkish invasion.

“It was a betrayal of Cyprus and so many kids were lost. It wasn’t just my son, it was many,” said Loukas Alexandrou, 90, as he tended the grave of his son at a military cemetery.

In Turkey, state television focused on violence against Turkish Cypriots prior to the invasion, particularly on bloodshed in 1963-64 and in 1967.

Turkey’s invasion took more than a third of the island and expelled more than 160,000 Greek Cypriots to the south.

Reunification talks collapsed in 2017 and have been at a stalemate since. Northern Cyprus is a breakaway state recognized only by Turkey, and its Turkish Cypriot leadership wants international recognition.

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