“Something is very strange about what’s going on at Cornell” as to Anti-Israel Activism

2024-04-05 17:34:34

I appeared on the Brian Kilmeade radio show on April 4, 2024, to talk about the situation on campuses, and whether the antisemitism situation has improved since the fall. Most of the focus was on Cornell. Towards the end of the interview, we also touched on the upcoming Trump “hush money” criminal trial in New York City.

Listen below:

Partial Transcript (auto-generated, may contain transcription errors)

Announcer (00:08):

The talk show that’s getting you talking, you are with Brian Kilmeade. Do

Audio Interviews of Students (00:13):

You feel safe walking across campus by yourself?

I, I think I’m fearful. I mean, I’m gonna have to go to classes that there’s always gonna be, at least right now, that elements of fear in the back of my mind.

We’ve always been a proponent of, you know, open and peaceful discourse. But we’ve also noticed that some of these demonstrations, there’s kind of tiptoeing the lines between anti-Israel and antisemitism.

Kilmeade (00:32):

That is Jeremy Sart Ori Bear. And there are two students talking about what it is like at Cornell for them, being Jewish, at this point. Have things settled down? Have things gotten worse? If you see on the national stage, protests never stopped. They even interrupted, these pro-Palestinian / Hamas protestors, Easter Sunday Mass.

Joining us now is William Jacobson Cornell University, law professor, founder of EqualProtect.org, and joins us now. William, welcome.

WAJ (01:01):

Thanks for having me on.

Kilmeade (01:03):

What do you think about the thoughts of those two students speaking up as they were on CBS just now?

WAJ (01:07):

Well, I don’t think much has changed, from what I observe and what students tell me, it’s still a very tense atmosphere. The anti-Israel students and faculty on campus are still very aggressive. If anything, they’re getting more aggressive. They are disrupting the library, disrupting students studying, the administration has attempted to put some restrictions on the use of bullhorns, electronic bullhorns, that can’t use them in the buildings, but they’re doing that anyway. So I’d say things are maybe not as bad as in the fall where there were actual threats that the FBI got involved with, and arrested somebody, a student. But it’s still a tense situation. It’s not a good situation.

Kilmeade (01:53):

When you say protestors, are these outside people or are they fellow students?

WAJ (01:58):

The best I can tell these are students and faculty. Some faculty are participating and there’s a lot of faculty support for these students. And so I think it’s mostly students. I can’t guarantee that. I know that in past years there have been outsiders involved. I can’t say that they’re involved right now. I’ve documented many times in the past decade or more how outside activists came onto campus to foment trouble. But I can’t say for sure that that’s happening right now.

I would be very surprised, though, if these student groups are not receiving outside guidance. That’s not the same thing as physically being on campus, but it’s too organized. It’s too manipulative. I think they’re getting outside help

Kilmeade (02:47):

From who?

WAJ (02:49):

Well, Students for Justice in Palestine is a national organization. They have been organizing these things around the country. They have questionable contacts with, you know, they praise Palestinian terrorists. So I think they’re probably getting help from National SJP. American Muslims for Palestine is very active. Again, I don’t have the evidence they are doing it here, but I would be surprised based on what I’ve seen in the past, if they’re not consulting with these people.

The group that is operating at Cornell is called the Coalition for Mutual Liberation. That’s something they formed in order to conceal really who’s behind it. So that’s not actually a registered student group, yet they’re operating on campus. And so something is very strange about what’s going on at Cornell. It’s too highly organized, too seemingly manipulated to be purely organic student protests on campus.

Kilmeade (03:50):

So, interesting. Professor, if I came up to you before the October 7th attacks, and I would say, what is the level of antisemitism on campus? What is the level of organization for the Palestinian cause? What would you have told me?

WAJ (04:03):

I would’ve told you a lot of the things that I’m telling you now. [Kilmeade: Really?] The dif the difference is now it’s out in the open.

So I’m somebody who has followed the anti-Israel movement on campuses, really for almost 15 years, written extensively about Students for Justice in Palestine and these other groups. I’ve covered events at Cornell, which were highly aggressive in the past, so I always knew it was there, but it was a lid was kept on it. I think October 7th really opened it up.

And what I like to tell people is, October 8th is the day we need to be looking at for campuses because how is it that on our elite campuses, the day after, in some cases the day of the October 7th attack, student groups organized to support it? At Harvard, I think there were over 50 student groups that immediately signed a letter saying that Israel is exclusively to blame for Hamas invading Israel, killing over a thousand people, torturing sexually mutilating, raping, beheading, kidnapping babies, that Israel is exclusively to blame for that.

At the Cornell, we had the infamous professor who gave a speech to a large crowd about how he felt ‘exhilarated’ when he heard of the attacks. Now, he tried to say, well, he’s of of course, against targeting civilians, but I think he really was exhilarated. And so how did we get to the point on our campuses that the day after and in the days after an attack like this, they are already making excuses for it, justifying it, and in some cases outright praising it.

So I’ve known that the rot in our campuses has been going on for multiple decades. This really emboldened them to bring it forward.


WAJ (07:33):

You know, on a lot of these campuses, it is reduced to a simple formula, which is that Israel is a white colonial state. And we know that that’s not true.

In fact, Israel is the single best example of decolonization. The indigenous people reclaimed their land from the colonizers, but that’s not how it’s presented on campuses. Everything has been racialized on campuses. They want to view Israel as the white oppressor. They organize based on race at Cornell. They form coalitions of groups of students of color against Israel. The faculty feed into that. And for at least two decades, I’ve been at Cornell for 16 years and for my, the entirety of my time, there is a nonstop simplistic propaganda effort against Israel, not just by students – because students come and go, they’re only there for a few years – but by faculty.

There’s a core group of faculty. I can’t give you a precise count, but I’d say it’s probably 30 to 40, who are relentlessly exploiting their power to demonize and dehumanize Israel. And this is the result you get

Kilmeade (08:41):

Talking to Professor Jacobson at Cornell. Professor, what does the president of Cornell think about what you just said. If that’s in fact true, is he going to put on a striped shirt and at least referee this disagreement? Or is they just sitting back and letting this play out?

WAJ (08:55):

The president I think, has been very weak on this. It’s a woman who’s the president. And right after October 7th, the university issued a statement, but it was a wishy-washy both sides sort of statement, which didn’t even condemn the Hamas attack. It said, you know, basically we mourn for the loss of life on both sides in, Israel and Palestine. I’m paraphrasing it. There was such a fury from alumni that a couple of days later she finally issued a statement saying, oh, by not condemning the attack by Hamas, I didn’t mean to not condemn it.

So the administration, like many administrations, doesn’t take a moral stand. It wants to both sides everything. And look, if they were staying out of it completely as a consistent matter, maybe you could justify that. I mean, I’m not thrilled with administration telling people what to think, but the fact of the matter is, at Cornell, they frequently issue statements on matters of public importance. And if you’re going to take that position that you’re going to chime in on public controversies, then how did you not do it here? And how when you finally did do it, did you do it in such a wishy-washy way? So the administration is not great.

Kilmeade (10:07):

It’s, it’s, it sounds horrible. Here’s Rabbi Ari Weiss [of Cornell Hillel] talking about what is it like on campus and the threat, cut 43,

[Audio played] (10:15):

It is legitimate to be scared. The post that we saw, which called for Jewish people to be murdered, right? That is not about Israel at all. Right? That is a specific threat that is incitement, that is hate speech.

Kilmeade (10:30):

So I wanted him to weigh in. You can you understand that, right?

WAJ (10:34):

Yeah. Well, the issue is the administration at Cornell, like most colleges historically, has very carefully regulated speech. We have bias and response teams. We have anonymous bias reporting. We have all these mechanisms to quash speak speech that people don’t like on campus.

All of a sudden when we have student groups with bullhorns going around, calling for another Intifada, calling for the elimination of Israel, calling for from ‘the river to the sea’, marching through campus like that, all of the sudden the administration discovers the First Amendment and says, oh, well, they’re entitled to say that. Well, I’m sorry. If any other group had done something similar prior to October 7th, the administration would not have discovered the wisdom of the First Amendment. They would’ve said it violates this campus code and that campus code, and they would’ve cracked down and students would’ve been punished.

So there’s a very inconsistent, and I think what the Rabbi was referring to is there was a student on Cornell who posted threats to stab and shoot up the kosher dining hall on campus. And that was, I think, a reaction to the hostility from the professors and from others. As far as I can tell that student was not a Jew hater and was not an Israel hater prior to these protests on campus demonizing Israel.

So Cornell has a very deep problem. It’s got a very deep problem that it has been one of the most aggressive in enforcing and imposing on the campus a DEI, diversity, equity, and inclusion agenda, which racializes everything. I think that that is a major source of the problem. And they’re doubling down. They are defending DEI at Cornell, regardless. It’s their top priority.


Kilmeade (14:18):

Professor Jacobson. Thank you. Listen, people can relate to that. I don’t care if you’re Jewish or not. There’s going to be situations where you hear about a murmuring of biasness against you, but this isn’t a murmuring. These are massive demonstrations and a pledge to kill Jews on the elite college campuses in our country. How could that not be alarming and worthy of discussion back in a moment?


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