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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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Treasure Trove: David Matlow explains how this stag became the symbol for the Israeli mail system

Isadore Schalit(1871-1953) was one of Theodor Herzl’s first assistants and a main organizer of the First Zionist Congress in Basel in 1897. He opened all of the Zionist Congresses through to the 23rd Congress in Jerusalem in 1951 by knocking a hammer on the chairman’s table. Schalit moved to Palestine in 1938 This is Schalit’s mailbox which […]

The post Treasure Trove: David Matlow explains how this stag became the symbol for the Israeli mail system appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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IDF Announces Major Eyal Shuminov Killed by Anti-Tank Missile in Gaza

Eyal Shuminov. Photo: IDF Spokesperson


i24 NewsDuring a raid on Gaza’s Zeytun neighborhood, Major Eyal Shuminov of the Givati Brigade was tragically killed by an anti-tank missile.

The incident occurred when IDF forces identified a Hamas terrorist on the roof of a building and subsequently eliminated him.

Major Shuminov, a company commander in the Shaked Battalion (424) of the Givati Brigade, hailed from Karmiel and was just 24 years old at the time of his death. The IDF announced that he fell in battle on the 24th of Adar HaSphad (February 24, 2024).

His death marks the loss of 238 IDF soldiers since the start of the ground invasion in Gaza.

Following his death, Major Shuminov was posthumously promoted from the rank of captain to the rank of major. The IDF has extended its condolences to Major Shuminov’s family and pledged to continue supporting them during this difficult time.

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Netanyahu: Cabinet Will Vote on Rafah Operation Next Week

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a press conference with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, Oct. 28, 2023. Photo: ABIR SULTAN POOL/Pool via REUTERS

i24 NewsPrime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has revealed plans for a cabinet meeting next week to finalize the Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) strategy for an operation in Rafah, including the evacuation of civilians from the area.

The decision comes amid ongoing negotiations with Hamas regarding the release of hostages held by the militant group.

In a statement posted on social media platform X on Saturday, Netanyahu emphasized the importance of reaching a new framework for the release of hostages and the completion of the elimination of Hamas battalions in Rafah. He underscored the necessity of a combination of military pressure and diplomatic negotiations to achieve these objectives.

“We are working to obtain another outline for the release of our hostages, as well as the completion of the elimination of the Hamas battalions in Rafah. That is why I sent a delegation to Paris, and tonight, we will discuss the next steps in the negotiations,” Netanyahu stated in his post.

אנו פועלים להשיג מתווה נוסף לשחרור חטופינו, וכן את השלמת חיסול גדודי החמאס ברפיח.

לכן שלחתי משלחת לפריז ונדון הערב בצעדים הבאים במו״מ,

ולכן בתחילת השבוע אכנס את הקבינט לאישור התוכניות המבצעיות לפעולה ברפיח, כולל פינוי האוכלוסייה האזרחית משם.

רק שילוב של לחץ צבאי ומשא ומתן תקיף…

— Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו (@netanyahu) February 24, 2024

The prime minister’s announcement signals a significant escalation in Israel’s approach to the ongoing conflict, with plans for a potential military operation in Rafah gaining momentum.

Netanyahu concluded his statement by reaffirming the government’s determination to achieve its goals in the war, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive strategy that combines military action with diplomatic efforts.

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