Ex-Labor Secy Says Students Protesting Gaza Slaughter is Not Antisemitic

Robert Reich, a former Clinton administration labor secretary, claims that the widespread anti-Israel protests in American universities are not antisemitic. Writing in the left-wing newspaper The Guardian, Reich addressed the demonstrations that broke out on the campus of New York City’s Columbia University on April 17 and criticized the university’s president, Minouche Shafik, for pledging to Congress that she would take all necessary steps to stamp out antisemitism on campus.

Shafik delivered the pledge during a Congressional hearing on anti-Jewish sentiment at US educational institutions, saying she had suspended 15 students and was willing to suspend more. Reich, however, argued that the demonstrations are entirely legitimate and objecting to the war in Gaza, which Hamas says has killed more than 30,000 people, is not an act of hate but a rejection of a “perceived wrong.”

He furthermore asserted that universities are places of free speech and expression and that it is suitable for students to face intellectual challenges in exchanging ideas. Reich contends that both sides in the Israel – Hamas conflict are guilty of atrocities and should be held to account.

Shafik appeared before a Congressional committee just as students established a “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” on Columbia’s lawns. Despite promises to bring the situation under control, she now faces calls to resign, led by New York’s Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik, who previously challenged Harvard’s former president Claudine Gay to condemn antisemitism in an exchange that went viral online and led to Gay’s departure from the Ivy League school.

Stefanik and other committee Republicans wrote to Shafik saying they had no faith in her commitment to ending the demonstrations, evidenced by her “continued lax enforcement of policy and clear double standards.”

At a campaign event in Virginia, President Biden made his views clear and said, “I condemn the antisemitic protests.” Other senior Democrats agreed, including Senate leader Chuck Schumer, who has previously described Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu as an “obstacle to peace.”