Connect with us

RSS

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona finds campus antisemitism ‘repulsive.’ He told us what he’s doing about it.

(JTA) — A Jewish college student recently told Miguel Cardona that he believed antisemitism has become “normalized” on campuses. For the secretary of education, the comment stuck.

“That, to me, was repulsive,” Cardona told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency Wednesday. “As a father that really got to me, that there’s a student that thinks antisemitism is normalized and treated differently. And that was even before the attacks.”

Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, of course, antisemitism on college campuses has only more forcefully drawn public attention. The heads of three elite universities appeared to downplay the matter during a congressional hearing last month; two have since resigned amid the fallout. The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has opened dozens of investigations into allegations of discrimination at universities and K-12 schools since Oct. 7, and while it does not reveal many public details about them, JTA has confirmed that many involve reports of antisemitism or Islamophobia.

Speaking to JTA Wednesday following a conversation with Jewish and Muslim students at Dartmouth College, Cardona said his department was taking steps to deal with the problem. He also praised the efforts of Dartmouth, which has been celebrated in the media for its attempts to host sessions bridging the gap between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian students — an effort that the school formalized on Thursday with the announcement of “Dartmouth Dialogues.” And he defended oft-criticized Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion offices, saying that Jewish students should be able to think of them as resources.

Here is what Cardona told JTA about how his department is handling the problem.

JTA: You just spoke to Jewish and Muslim students at Dartmouth about antisemitism and Islamophobia on campus. What did you learn from them? 

Cardona: I learned that we’re able to create safe learning environments while also giving students an opportunity to express themselves. I learned that the more you engage students in problem solving, the more likely it’s going to be successful. And what I learned also is that you need a culture and a climate on campus that is willing to engage in problem-solving when conflicts arise. They have that at Dartmouth. It was there before Oct. 7. And clearly it’s part of the reason why they’re finding success.

You have spoken about how antisemitism and Islamophobia on campus have been problems since Oct. 7. How do you understand this problem at this moment, and how can the department address it?

I said that it’s been a problem before Oct. 7. As a matter of fact, it’s been getting increasingly worse even before the Oct. 7 attacks — to the point where I had a student when I visited Towson University, a Jewish student, who told me that he believes that it’s become normalized in our country to kind of brush aside antisemitism, more so than any other form of hate and discrimination. That to me was repulsive. As a father that really got to me, that there’s a student that thinks that antisemitism is normalized and treated differently. And that was even before the attacks.

I think this is an opportunity for colleges to stand up forcefully in protecting the safety of students on campus. I don’t want any Jewish students to feel like they have to hide symbols of their faith because of what’s happening on campus. I don’t want any student to feel that they have to hide their identity to be successful on campus.

We’ve released Dear Colleague letters, which are basically letters of guidance to the field, to make sure that they know their responsibility under Title VI to keep students safe. But even more fundamental than that, I think we’re at a point now where we have to be very direct, that students should not have to hide their identity or be ashamed of who they are or hide who they are on our college campuses. And it’s the responsibility of college presidents to act very clearly and unambiguously that student safety is their priority and that they’re going to listen and make sure that students feel that it’s taken seriously.

You mentioned Title VI investigations. Your department has opened close to 50 such investigations since Oct. 7. Many of them involve antisemitism. How do you choose what to investigate?

The decisions on how to investigate are made by the Office for Civil Rights. When they have the request, they look at them very carefully. A lot of folks don’t know this, but it’s important to note that the investigation requests, when accepted, open up an investigation [that is] very thorough. Students are spoken to and listened to, and it could even uncover something that wasn’t in the original investigation request.

We’ve opened over 45 in three months, which is almost double what was opened in four years in the last administration, which is testament that we take this very seriously. We take these threats and these beliefs of students of being unsafe on campus very seriously, and we’re going to thoroughly investigate them.

In the past, it took patterns of misbehavior before many Title VI investigations would be opened. Now some are being opened over single isolated incidents. Why?

Again, we recognize how important safety is on campus. And while we might open these cases, it doesn’t necessarily assume that the investigation is going to find Title VI violations. But we are committed to ensuring, through our enforcement arm, that we are sending the message and investigating, thoroughly, issues that lead to student safety concerns on campus.

You mentioned how many investigations there are. I imagine that takes a lot of resources. Are you directing more departmental resources to Title VI, or to other ways of combating antisemitism?

Absolutely. First of all, I think it’s really important that I share with you: In November, I asked Speaker of the House [Mike] Johnson for additional funding for the Office for Civil Rights. We had 10,000 complaints in 2019 lodged to the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. We had 90,000 in 2022. So we’re fighting for additional dollars there, instead of cuts, to the Office of Civil Rights.

But, you know, we’re also not going to change culture through memos, or through investigations. We are just as passionate, and just as urgent, on developing resources, guidance, exemplars, technical assistance mechanisms for universities. We’ve visited dozens of universities, members of our team. We’ve met with attorneys, we met with college presidents. You’ll see on our website a list of dozens of resources for campuses. My visit today to Dartmouth was to see for myself and hear from students myself, on what works, so that we could lift up best practices across the country.

So yes, we’re going to enforce and we’re unapologetic about them. But we’re also going to build capacity and give universities tools that we know work in other places to create safe learning environments where students could oppose, have different beliefs, but do so civilly. At the end of the day student safety is our No. 1 priority.

If you look at the Department of Education, what we’ve done since Oct. 7, you won’t find another administration that has come close to the work that we’ve done not only to investigate, but also to build capacity on campuses to create safe learning environments.

An official in your department, Tariq Habash, recently resigned over what he said was your failure to protect students who nonviolently advocate for Palestinians. How do you respond to the charge that doing what you do is actually chilling free speech on campus?

I wish Tariq well. He was a valued member of our team. And what I will tell you is the work that we’ve done at the Biden-Harris administration, and in particular at the Department of Education, around protecting students, including students who are feeling threatened with antisemitism, we’ve done more than any other administration. We’re going to continue to do it. Student safety for me is not something that we go light on, we have to make sure we’re clear on it.

We need to be very clear with college presidents that it’s our expectation that when students are feeling unsafe, they are responding to students right away. And that they’re taking it very seriously.

A lot of university administrators seem to have been slow to acknowledge that there is a problem. What are you actually able to compel administrations to do for Jewish students?

I think you’re right. I think that if there’s a lack of visibility from the leadership, it’s more likely that students are going to find unsafe ways to channel their frustrations. What we saw today at Dartmouth was when students are given an opportunity, because leadership owns the responsibility and acts on it, to create a safe learning environment and to listen to students.

I’ve been very clear from day one, calling out college presidents in terms of their responsibility to address this issue head on. We’ve not only provided accountability, but we’ve provided a lot of resources. I have my team ready to pick up the phone for any leader that is struggling with this and needs guidance and support. We have a technical assistance team that has been assembled. We have done numerous webinars, we’ve traveled to college campuses. We’ve engaged with the Muslim Jewish Advocacy Center in New York City and worked with them to help them serve as almost mentors to colleges and to K-12 district leaders. So we’re really modeling what we want to see from college leaders.

The student that told me that in this country he feels like we’ve normalized antisemitism: that message really resonated with me, and it upset me, to the point where, if that were my child, I would not feel comfortable wanting to send my child to a campus far away. I want for that child what I would want for my own child, and that’s leadership that’s willing to stand up on the values that we have in this country that students should be safe on campus.

A lot of critics of the rise of DEI programs have said that this is actually contributing to a hostile rhetoric for Jews in schools because Jews are not always included as part of the curricula, or they’re painted as oppressors in some of these frameworks. How do you think about the role of DEI in this problem?

I think in so many places across the country, we see DEI efforts reduced to just Black and brown issues. And as a Latino but also as an education leader, I think that’s unfortunate. We need to look at Diversity, Equity, Inclusion as a place where conversations about religious identity or difference of opinions could be handled respectfully and civilly, like what I saw today on Dartmouth’s campus.

I think it’s unfortunate if they’re being viewed as anything but the right place to go when there are issues of inclusion or safety or belonging that plague our universities. I think a well-developed DEI model includes opportunities for students to share the frustrations or concerns that they have on campus, relative to how they might be feeling with regard to antisemitism, Islamophobia or anti-Arab sentiment.

We’ve heard from Jewish parents who are now saying that, since Oct. 7, they’ve become uncomfortable with the idea of sending their children to some of these universities because the climate of antisemitism there has gotten so bad. What would you say to them?

My heart goes out to those parents and it’s frustrating as secretary of education to hear that, in 2024, that is the case. What I would tell those parents is that they have the right to discuss with the leadership of the university their feelings, because, quite frankly, parents can decide where they send their children. And it would be a disservice, not only to the students who are of Jewish descent, but to all students, to have a university whose membership is limited based on feelings of antisemitism by some of the students. Students learn best in a diverse learning environment. Students learn best when they can be on campus, unapologetic of who they are. And I wouldn’t want Jewish students to not feel comfortable expressing who they are, their feelings, even if it’s in disagreement with some other students on campus.

Those parents have the right, and those universities have the responsibility to ensure to those parents, that their students are going to learn in a safe learning environment and that there are resources on campus, not only for the students to go if they feel unsafe, but also where those students could go to express their pride in their culture and their religious background and in their ancestry.


The post Education Secretary Miguel Cardona finds campus antisemitism ‘repulsive.’ He told us what he’s doing about it. appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

RSS

US ‘Strongly Opposes’ China-Brokered Deal to Form Palestinian Unity Government With Terrorist Groups

Mahmoud al-Aloul, Vice Chairman of the Central Committee of Palestinian organization and political party Fatah, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and Mussa Abu Marzuk, senior member of the Palestinian terror movement Hamas, attend an event at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on July 23, 2024. Photo: Pedro Pardo/Pool via REUTERS

The US on Tuesday said it “strongly opposes” a Beijing-brokered declaration signed earlier in the day by the Palestinian Authority’s Fatah movement and the Hamas terror group, aimed at reconciling their longstanding divisions and establishing a unity government to manage Gaza after the war.

The declaration, which was also signed by more than a dozen other Palestinian factions, is seen as a symbolic win for China’s role as a global mediator, with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi describing it as a “historic moment for the cause of Palestine’s liberation.” However, doubts linger about its effectiveness in addressing the years-long rift between the groups.

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller responded to the announcement, saying Hamas had “blood on its hands, of Israelis and of Palestinians,” and could not be in any leadership role.

“When it comes to governance of Gaza at the end of the conflict, there can’t be a role for a terrorist organization,” Miller said.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) — which currently exercises limited self-governance in the West and has long been riddled with allegations of corruption and authoritarianism — should be in control of both the West Bank and Gaza, Miller said, adding that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), unlike Hamas, had renounced terrorism.

The PLO is a coalition of Palestinian factions, including Fatah.

“If you look at the death and destruction that Hamas’ decision to launch the attacks of Oct. 7 has brought on Gaza, they have — there’s no one that has brought more pain and suffering to the people in Gaza than Hamas through their decisions — first to launch the attacks of Oct. 7, and then their ongoing decision, which continues today, to hide among civilian communities and use civilians as human shields.”

Miller also addressed China’s role in the mediation, saying that the US has generally encouraged China to leverage its influence with regional countries, especially those where the US has less sway, to prevent conflict escalation. One example was the Chinese-mediated deal last year restoring ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The US also urged China to discourage both Iran from financing proxies attacking Israel and the Houthis from targeting commercial shipping. “We have asked China to use its influence to try to bring those attacks to an end, and we’ll continue to do that,” Miller said.

Tuvia Gering, a China and Middle East analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies, said the move is part of China’s effort to rival the US by building alliances with developing nations as well as the Arab and Muslim world to prioritize its interests and stifle Western dominance.

China is “challenging America in every space possible as a new type of major power that takes in the considerations of the Global South and the coalitions of those oppressed by imperialism and Western hegemony” to create “a new global order,” he told The Algemeiner.

Gering condemned Beijing’s move, saying it “normalized terrorism” and will embolden the Palestinians into further intransigence in talks for any future peace accord.

“Until today, China failed to criticize [the Palestinians] and put all the onus onto Israel. This means effectively that the Palestinians will only adhere to the most maximalist positions in negotiations for the two state solution [which] will become even more of a distant reality,” Gering told The Algemeiner.

Gering also predicted that the “golden age” of China-Israel relations, which burgeoned over the last decade with the inking of major bilateral deals, was over because of China’s decision to “legitimize terror” since Oct. 7. Gering warned that moving forward, Israeli strategy in the region must also take China into account.

Gering expressed doubts that the declaration signed on Tuesday would lead to any major developments, noting “a large amount of skepticism” in the Arab world.

Indeed, the declaration gave no outline for how or when a new unity Palestinian government would be formed.

The Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, which was also a signatory on the declaration, issued a statement later in the day outlining its demand for all factions in any future unity government to reject recognition of Israel.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz blasted the agreement, saying it underscored Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ embrace of “the murderers and rapists” of Hamas, which rules Gaza.

“In reality, this won’t happen because Hamas’ rule will be crushed, and Abbas will be watching Gaza from afar. Israel’s security will remain solely in Israel’s hands,” Katz said.

In his statement, Wang reiterated China’s commitment to a “comprehensive, lasting, and sustainable ceasefire” in Gaza and advocated for an “international peace conference” aimed at pursuing a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Dina Lisnyansky, an expert in Middle East affairs and Islam, warned that while the deal may not come to fruition, China’s role is of growing concern for Israel. Egypt and Algeria — both mediators in failed past attempts at rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas — were far weaker than China as regional actors. “When China sets its sights on something it usually achieves its goals, so it should worry us greatly,” Lisnyansky told The Algemeiner.

Lisnyansky also said that Israel should sanction the PA for signing the declaration. “Israel should negate any entity that has any ties at all to Hamas, which needs to lose both its authority and legitimacy.”

The post US ‘Strongly Opposes’ China-Brokered Deal to Form Palestinian Unity Government With Terrorist Groups first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

Continue Reading

RSS

Here’s every Jewish athlete competing at the 2024 Paris Olympics

And who has the best chance of medalling in Paris.

The post Here’s every Jewish athlete competing at the 2024 Paris Olympics appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

Continue Reading

RSS

Kamala Harris’s Record on Israel Raises Questions About Support for Jewish State if Elected US President

US Vice President Kamala Harris. Photo: Erin Schaff/Pool via REUTERS

Following US President Joe Biden’s stunning exit from the 2024 presidential race, allies of Israel are looking for clues as to how Vice President Kamala Harris, the new presumptive Democratic nominee, could approach issues affecting the Jewish state if she were to win the White House in November.

Harris’s previous statements reveal a mixed record on Israel, offering signs of both optimism and pessimism to pro-Israel advocates.

Though Harris has voiced support for the Jewish state’s right to existence and self defense, she has also expressed sympathy for far-left narratives that brand Israel as “genocidal.” The vice president has additionally often criticized Israel’s war effort against the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in Gaza.

In 2017, while giving a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), then-Senator Harris delivered a 19-minute speech in which she showered praise on Israel, stating that she supports “the United States’ commitment to provide Israel with $38 billion in military assistance over the next decade.” Harris stated that America has “shared values” with Israel and that the bond between the two nations is “unbreakable.”

In 2020, while giving another speech to AIPAC, Harris emphasized that US support for Israel must remain “rock solid” and noted that Hamas “maintains its control of Gaza and fires rockets.”

Despite such statements of support, however, Harris has previously exhibited a degree of patience for those who make baseless smears against Israel. 

In October 2021, when confronted by a George Mason University student who angrily accused Israel of committing “ethnic genocide” against Palestinians, Harris quietly nodded along and then praised the student. 

“And again, this is about the fact that your voice, your perspective, your experience, your truth cannot be suppressed, and it must be heard,” Harris told the student. 

Following Hamas’ slaughter of 1,200 people and kidnapping of 250 others across southern Israel on Oct. 7, Harris has shown inconsistent support for the Jewish state. Although she initially backed Israel’s right to defend itself from Hamas’ terrorism, she has also levied sharp criticism against the Jewish state’s ensuing war effort in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

During a call with then-Israeli war cabinet leader Benny Gantz earlier this year, Harris suggested that the Jewish state has recklessly imperiled the lives of Palestinian civilians while targeting Hamas terrorists in Gaza.

“Far too many Palestinian civilians, innocent civilians have been killed,” Harris said. 

The same month, while delivering a speech commemorating the 59th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama, Harris called the conditions in Gaza “devastating.”

“And given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate ceasefire for at least the next six weeks,” Harris said.

While speaking with Israeli President Isaac Herzog to mark the Jewish holiday of Passover in April, Harris shared “deep concerns about the humanitarian situation in Gaza and discussed steps to increase the flow of life-saving humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians and ensure its safe distribution.”

Harris also pushed the unsubstantiated narrative that Israel has intentionally withheld aid from the people of Gaza, triggering a famine. 

“People in Gaza are starving. The conditions are inhumane. And our common humanity compels us to act,” Harris said. “The Israeli government must do more to significantly increase the flow of aid.”

The United Nations Famine Review Committee (FRC), a panel of experts in international food security and nutrition, released a report in June arguing that there is not enough “supporting evidence” to suggest that a famine has occurred in Gaza.

Harris has also expressed sympathy for anti-Israel protesters on US university campuses. In an interview published earlier this month, Harris said that college students protesting Israel’s defensive military efforts against Hamas are “showing exactly what the human emotion should be.”

“There are things some of the protesters are saying that I absolutely reject, so I don’t mean to wholesale endorse their points,” she added. “But we have to navigate it. I understand the emotion behind it.”

Some indicators suggest that Harris could adopt a more antagonistic approach to the Jewish state than Biden. For example, Harris urged the White House to be more “sympathetic” toward Palestinians and take a “tougher” stance against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a Politico report in December. In March, White House aides forced Harris to tone down a speech that was too tough on Israel, according to NBC News.

Later, she did not rule out “consequences” for Israel if it launched a large-scale military offensive to root out Hamas battalions in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, citing humanitarian concerns for the civilian population.

Harris initially called for an “immediate ceasefire” before Biden and has often used more pointed language when discussing the war, Israel, and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. However, her advisers have sought to downplay the notion that she may be tougher on the Jewish state.

“The difference is not in substance but probably in tone,” one of Harris’s advisers told The Nation.

Meanwhile, Halie Soifer, who served as national security adviser to Harris during the then-senator’s first two years in Congress, said the current vice president’s support for Israel has been just as strong as Biden’s. “There really has been no daylight to be found” between the two, she told Reuters.

Still, Biden, 81, has a decades-long history of maintaining relationships with Israeli leaders and recently called himself a “Zionist.” Harris, 59, does not have such a connection to the Jewish state and maintains closer ties to Democratic progressives, many of whom have increasingly called for the US to turn away — or at least adopt a tougher approach toward — Israel

Former US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman suggested that Harris would be a far less reliable ally than Biden, pointing to her ideological alignment with the most progressive lawmakers in Congress. 

“Biden made many mistakes regarding Israel, but he is miles ahead of Harris in terms of support for Israel,” Friedman told The Jerusalem Post. “She is on the fringe of the progressive wing of the party, which sympathizes more with the Palestinian cause.”

“This will move Jewish voters to the Republican side,” the former ambassador argued. “Harris lacks any affinity for Israel, and the Democratic Convention will highlight this contrast. This could lead to a historic shift of Jewish voters to the Republican side.”

Meanwhile, J Street, a progressive Zionist organization, eagerly endorsed Harris the day after Biden dropped out of the presidential race, citing her “nuanced, balanced approach” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflictt.

“Kamala Harris has been a powerful advocate for J Street’s values in the White House, from the fight against antisemitism to the need for a nuanced, balanced approach on Israel-Palestine,” J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a statement. “She’s been a steadfast supporter of hostage families and Israel’s security, while also being a leading voice for the protection of Palestinian civilians and the need to secure an urgent ceasefire.”

The post Kamala Harris’s Record on Israel Raises Questions About Support for Jewish State if Elected US President first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

Continue Reading

Copyright © 2017 - 2023 Jewish Post & News