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The DEI industry has an antisemitism problem

Columbia students participate in a vigil for the Israelis killed on 7 October. Credit: Getty

October 31, 2023 - 4:35pm

The diversity, equity and inclusion industry has been dented by several recent antisemitism disputes. George Washington University postponed a diversity summit last week over concerns about the “current climate”, after a student group projected messages onto a campus building reading “glory to our martyrs”, “free Palestine from the river to the sea” and “GWU is complicit in genocide in Gaza”. The university wrote that the postponement was related to campus safety as well as the “pain” felt by students. 

Institutions across the country — and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) departments in particular — appear to be reckoning with the same problem. The advocacy group StopAntisemitism found in its 2022 report that the majority of universities it evaluated did not include Jews in their DEI programs.

Speaking to UnHerd, Cornell law professor William A. Jacobson claimed that at his university “opponents of Israel seek to racialise what is a religious and national conflict to put together coalitions of students ‘of colour’ versus ‘white’ Israel and Jews”. He suggested that this process has accelerated since the university announced an anti-racism initiative in early June 2020, following the killing of George Floyd.

Cornell came under scrutiny after history professor Russell Rickford said he was “exhilarated” by the 7 October Hamas attacks, and the FBI is currently investigating recent antisemitic threats made against its Jewish student centre. 

“I’ve not seen any response from feminist and women’s rights groups, which overlap significantly with the pro-Palestinian groups, to the use of rape and sexual abuse by Hamas, including rape of dead Israeli women,” Jacobson said. “It may be old fashioned Jew-hatred, but I think more likely it is because campus ‘social justice’ movements, including at Cornell, have been conditioned by the DEI obsession with race to view Israeli Jews as so uniquely evil that resistance ‘by any means necessary’ is promoted, embraced, and excused.”

In March, Tabia Lee found out the extent of the DEI industry’s targeting of certain viewpoints. A former faculty director for the Office of Equity, Social Justice, and Multicultural Education at De Anza Community College in Cupertino, California, she was fired from her position after hosting Jewish speakers on campus to discuss antisemitism and the Holocaust, and attempting to host a multifaith heritage event. 

“I saw antisemitism on a weekly basis in my two years as a faculty ‘diversity, equity and inclusion’ director,” she wrote in the New York Post this month. “Toxic DEI ideology deliberately stokes hatred toward Israel and the Jewish people.” Lee characterised the industry as “built on the unshakeable belief that the world is divided into two groups of people: the oppressors and the oppressed.” Within this, “Jews are categorically placed in the oppressor category, while Israel is branded a ‘genocidal, settler, colonialist state’”, and  “criticizing Israel and the Jewish people is not only acceptable but praiseworthy.”

Last week, Sophia Hasenfus — a diversity, equity and belonging officer at MIT — came under fire for liking a tweet which claimed that Israel is guilty of genocide and does not have a right to exist. Meanwhile, City University of New York (CUNY), which has been subject to several Title VI complaints for alleged antisemitic discrimination, hired Saly Abd Alla, a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) supporter and former civil rights director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), as its chief diversity officer in 2021. 

The problem isn’t limited to academia: former head of diversity at Google Kamau Bobb was moved to a different department at the company in 2021 after a blog post in which he wrote that Jews have an “insatiable appetite for war” and an “insensitivity to the suffering [of] others” resurfaced. 

In the same year, a report from the conservative Heritage Foundation found widespread and inordinate hostility towards Israel in the Twitter activities of university DEI staffers. Tweets they wrote, shared or liked about Israel included numerous mentions of apartheid, colonialism, genocide and the targeting of children, the report found. While Israel was referenced three times as often as China, 96% of the tweets about Israel were deemed negative. The corresponding figure for tweets about China was 38%.


is UnHerd’s US correspondent.

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Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
8 months ago

DEI programs are, as a simple matter of definition, inherently racist.
So colour me surprised that they turn out to be anti-Semitic as well.
These oh-so compassionate student groups call for a ceasefire – little noticing that there had been a ceasefire in place already, until the 7th of October. And that it was not the Israelis who broke that ceasefire.
They weep at pictures of children in Gaza that they share online, yet claim the atrocities committed by Hamas have been exaggerated or even fabricated.
3 weeks ago we saw a massacre, a pogrom, a crime against humanity. A literal act of genocide perpetrated against Israel, against Jews. Anyone who cannot see that, or tries to claim equivalence with Israel’s response, has entirely lost their moral bearings. 
Many “Pro-Palestinian” students are goiung on demo’s because it is a fashionable cause. They have been fed propaganda – much of it false – throughout their education, and so fail to recognise that the cause they think is ‘Pro-Palestine’, it is just as much ‘Anti-Israel’, and a tissue-thin cover for “Anti-Jew”.
Anyone who shouts “From the River to the Sea” ought to understand the implication, that they are directly calling for Jews to be driven out of their homes and killed. Chanting that should receive the same approbrium as appearing in public with a swastika tattooed on your forehead – but of course it doesn’t because the modern left has lost all sense of perspective.
Most of these “Liberal” useful-idiots would claim that their sympathy lies with the oppressed – somehow ignoring the centuries-long oppression of Jews.
Noticeably, the students other favourite Cause is that of Anti-Capitalism. A belief-system which, on the Left, is tellingly shot-through with anti-Semitic tropes of Rothschild puppet-masters and Jews controlling global finance.
When looking at the state of the world, when set against all the people suffering in wars all around the globe, I wonder if “Liberal” students ever stop to wonder why they are so easily herded into caring so much more about this specific conflict, and the fate of the Palestinian people on a tiny piece of scrubby land, than any other? Do they ask themselves what sets this conflict apart from any other, beyond the fact that this one involves those dastardly Jews?
Many students would claim they’re only demonstrating because they care so deeply about the plight of innocent muslims caught up in sectarian violence, attacked by a well-equipped modern military. If that comforting myth were true, then do they ask themselves where were all the marches against Saudi Arabia bombing Yemen that they might have attended? If the targeted bombing of Hamas in Gaza will bring hundreds of thousands to the street to protest, where were these same people when Saudi’s airforce were deliberately targeting Yemeni civilians in airstrikes?
After the crushing of Syrian protests, or Iranian protests by their own authoritarian Govts – who routinely beat, torture and kill dissidents – where were these useful idiots with their keffiyehs and flags then?
Across the liberal media, where have been the demands for Ukraine to call a ceasefire? Or to only answer Russian attacks “proportionately”. Why was Zelensky not being criticised from the front pages of every liberal paper for the death of civilians caused by his retaliatory strikes against the aggressor?
If the activist Left genuinely had the welfare of Gazans at heart then they’d condemn Hamas, but they don’t. They call Gaza an “Open Air Prison” – but never stop to realise that Hamas are the jailers.
If they want peace, where are the placards denouncing Hamas? Where are the calls for the safe return of hostages? These are not protests for peace, these are not demonstrations ‘For Palestine’. These are protests against Israel. Against Jews.
Presumably these students have heard of the Holocaust? They have some inkling of how it began? Having seen the demonstrations against Israel, having taken part in them, can these students really pretend what happens next will be a surprise that they couldn’t see coming? All the while claiming it was something they were powerless to prevent? 
SHAME on them

Last edited 8 months ago by Paddy Taylor
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
8 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Well written!

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
8 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Couldn’t have said it better myself. People wonder how the Holocaust happened. ‘Never again’, they used to say. Never turned out to only be about seven decades. SMH

Paul Castle
Paul Castle
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

And the propaganda has all come from the anti Semitic Arab and anti Semitic westerners . They make real fools of themselves !

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
8 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

You forgot to mention how well Israel treats the other favourite oppressed minority of the moment – LGBT compared to the Arab states. Otherwise an excellent exposee of the “progressive” left’s double standards. Just sit back and watch how these issues tear apart the Labour party and see what vile hatred starts flowing from the fissures it creates.

Paul Castle
Paul Castle
8 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

The trans nonsense has gone way too far it is nonsense making constant big waves for a tiny tiny percentage of the population and I’m not talking about all those straight people who have jumped on the bandwagon .

Paul Devlin
Paul Devlin
8 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Most of your points are very good, Paddy, but do you believe that Israeli official policy, documents, maps etc that show Israel (and nothing else) ‘from the river to the sea’ are also racist? Is their erasure of Palestinians and Syrians (in Golan) not just as bad?

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
8 months ago
Reply to  Paul Devlin

Paul,
Rather than try to rehash their argument I’ll link to a clip from Nikos Sotirakopoulos as he debunks the maps that the Pro-Palestinian lobby and their willing advocates at the BBC and elsewhere use to depict the stages of land “Ownership” across the region.
It cuts through a lot of the inaccuracy and dishonesty of the narrative
Did Israel Steal Palestinian Land? – YouTube

Paul Castle
Paul Castle
8 months ago
Reply to  Paul Devlin

Is Israel to be the only country that is not allowed to defend itself ? Currently even the BBC is anti Israel but we own the corporation and those at the top must be made to resign , that or preferably sack them contract or not . They have obviously broken their contracts !

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
8 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Bravo!

Paul Castle
Paul Castle
8 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

There are some of the anti Semitic students these days who even deny the holocaust , they believe the propaganda they’ve been fed . Gullible children does not describe them !

Arthur G
Arthur G
8 months ago

No, the “progressive” left has an anti-semitism problem. Since the DEI industry draws 100% from that group, of course they have one too.
Everyone with a brain figured out 3-5 years ago that “anti-racism” = racism. It’s just racism against white people and Western culture, which is every bit as deplorable as any other kind of racism.

Last edited 8 months ago by Arthur G
Richard Craven
Richard Craven
8 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

Thank you.

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
8 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

Everybody agrees: racism is bad. (Except when it’s the good sort of racism.) Isn’t it interesting that the very term “racism” has been shamed for everyone, such that even those who embrace racism actively (the good sort of racism, of course) feel compelled to describe their racism as “anti-racism”? (Rather like the most totalitarian states insist on describing themselves as “the People’s Republic of North Korea” or “the German Democratic Republic.” They won’t come outright with “the Dictatorship of North Korea” or “the German Surveillance State.”) It is as if racism really is morally good but only if 1) you don’t use the title “racism” and 2) it’s directed only toward the appropriate targets.

R M
R M
8 months ago

“The DEI industry has an antisemitism problem”

It’s not really a bug. Its better described as a feature.

And this is why:

“the industry as “built on the unshakeable belief that the world is divided into two groups of people: the oppressors and the oppressed.” Within this, “Jews are categorically placed in the oppressor category”

Peter D
Peter D
8 months ago
Reply to  R M

And as the oppressed, you can can do anything you like to an oppressor and the left will still cede you the moral high ground.
With a permission like this, it is only going to get much worse

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago
Reply to  Peter D

Depends on who you define as the oppressor.
I was watching a programme on PBS earlier this week about the Armenian genocide. It included a section on a memorial and museum established by Turkey to commemorate Turkish victims of a genocide perpetrate by Armenians. You have to hand it to them.

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
8 months ago

Arendt tells the story of Clemenceau asking a Weimar politician what future historians might say about blame for starting WWI. The reply was: “This I don’t know. But I know for certain that they will not say Belgium invaded Germany.”

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
8 months ago

The DEI industry has an antisemitism problem
To claim that it has a “problem” is to implicitly claim that there is something functional about it.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
8 months ago

This is the apotheosis of Critical Race Theory as is devised by racist scholars in many university departments across the US. While the hatred toward Jews on US campuses may seem very sudden it’s actually been percolating for years. Jews are situated at the very apex of the Whiteness oppression pyramid that CRT scholars would like to see eradicated. We underestimate the toxic ideology of CRT and DEI departments at our peril. For years, I have tried to explain to people that CRT is fascism masquerading as a civil rights movement. Hopefully, many university officials are waking up to this ugly branch of academia and will begin the necessary work of pulling it out by the roots.

Daniel P
Daniel P
8 months ago

DEI needs to be purged.

It is just a cover for hate groups.

It is kinda like when congress names a bill the Inflation Reduction Act because it sounds good but in fact it increases inflation.

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
8 months ago

The DEI industry is a problem, full stop.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
8 months ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

Am I hopelessly naive in thinking DEI is utterly unnecessary (I’m not even going for the divisive argument).
Were I to be offended by anti-welsh remarks by a colleague, I could go to the boss who could either agree or not. Whoever lost out could potentially go to law.

A department dedicated to resolving this problems seems excessive.

In addition, they seem to be made up of those useless in proper jobs and incapable of critical thinking.

Amelia Melkinthorpe
Amelia Melkinthorpe
8 months ago

It’s DIE – Division Inequality Exclusion

Samantha Stevens
Samantha Stevens
8 months ago

THIS: “Speaking to UnHerd, Cornell law professor William A. Jacobson claimed that at his university “opponents of Israel seek to racialise what is a religious and national conflict to put together coalitions of students ‘of colour’ versus ‘white’ Israel and Jews”. He suggested that this process has accelerated since the university announced an anti-racism initiative in early June 2020, following the killing of George Floyd.”
I have been following BLM closing since the horrific George Floyd murder. It seems to me they are following the edicts of Malcolm X, a rabid Anti-Semite, not the wise words of Rev. Martin Luther King who stood by Israel throughout his life.
To think that Jews, who were never considered “white” in Europe, who were blamed from everything from the Plague (for drinking from the same water) to disappearing children, are now seen as European white colonists, is insane.
To think that Jews, victims of the worst genocide in the history of humanity, the Holocaust, are now called perpetrators of one for defending themselves, is also insane.
I think jealousy is the route of much of this. Despite all the horrific persecution, Jewish people continue to rise, to accomplish, to contribute to science, the arts, the world.
Sorting the world into arbitrary races based on skin tone is about the stupidest thing I have ever heard of. Yes, there is racism. But the difficulty of anyone’s life is based on a myriad of factors and race is just one. Poverty, abuse, disability all factor in. My daughter is autistic. She is white, but her life is harder than most of my students, no matter what race or religion they are.

Erik Hildinger
Erik Hildinger
8 months ago

“The advocacy group StopAntisemitism found in its 2022 report that the majority of universities it evaluated did not include Jews in their DEI programs.”
What do you expect? DEI can’t work if you don’t have an out-group or two to blame for everything.

Last edited 8 months ago by Erik Hildinger
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago

So DEI now has a problem with anti-Semitism but it was fine and dandy when it was only anti-white

D Walsh
D Walsh
8 months ago

Every cloud

Ardath Blauvelt
Ardath Blauvelt
8 months ago

It’s so simple: success equals oppression, failure equals oppressed.
The successful are rivals, the failures are useful.

Paul Castle
Paul Castle
8 months ago

It was nothing to do with “student safety” it was plain ill disguised anti Semitism by college heads .Do they really think people can’t see right through them ?

David Barnett
David Barnett
8 months ago

There is nothing wrong with DEI departments that abolition wouldn’t fix

Paul Devlin
Paul Devlin
8 months ago

What right does Israel have to exist? What right does the UK? The ever expanding definition of anti-semitism is ridiculous

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
8 months ago
Reply to  Paul Devlin

You’re right, no state or country has a ‘right’ to exist. However, a people have a right to defend themselves from existential danger. If you were to chop up my friends and family, I wouldn’t care about your right to exist either.

Russell Sharpe
Russell Sharpe
8 months ago
Reply to  Paul Devlin

Jews, like everyone else, have the right to organise collectively to defend themselves effectively against those who have sworn to exterminate them and are attempting to do just that. To dispute this right is self-evidently antisemitism.
In 2023 this right can be guaranteed politically only in and through the state of Israel. It follows that to deny the right of this state to exist or to defend itself against those sworn to its destruction is itself also antisemitism.
None of this means that any criticism – even very robust criticism – of Israeli policies can automatically be equated to antisemitism. The Israeli government faces such criticism in the Knesset every day after all. But anti-Zionism – the view that Israel should not exist – is ipso facto just a rebranded antisemitism, a rebrand which was once thought necessary since during the 1930s and ’40s the term ‘antisemitism’ had somehow picked up unsavoury connotations. It still possesses these connotations among anyone with a functioning moral compass, but since we now have the spectacle of self-styled progressives going on the streets to praise Hamas’ butchery of children and even to chant “Gas the Jews”, maybe there is no need for the euphemistic and disingenuous facade of ‘anti-Zionism’ any more.
In 1847 Marx famously wrote “The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims”. In 2023 this seems to be equally true of the Anti-Semites.

David Lindsay
David Lindsay
8 months ago

And now, the Greek Orthodox Cultural Centre in Gaza. No one could have mistaken it for anything else. That particular Patriarch of Jerusalem is always a Greek. The present one is also a Castleman; if you know, you know. But like those of all the other bearers of that and similar titles, his flock of hundreds of thousands is Palestinian. Go on. Ask how long there have been Christians in Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, the BBC may refer to a mere “explosion”, as if the Jabalia refugee camp had blown itself up, but the IDF admits on television, in a Glaswegian accent, that it has killed more than 500 people in the hope that one of them might have been a particular Hamas commander. The view of the neoconservative media is that Glaswegians cannot possibly understand such matters. Clearly, it depends which ones.

He encouraged this war crime, so Keir Starmer is also a war criminal. If this utterly inexperienced politician really is just an opportunist, then who is advising him? Three quarters of people want a ceasefire. Israel has never, ever been a popular cause in Britain, from the circumstances of its creation onwards. Menachem Begin, anyone? A Conservative Government refused to arm it during the Yom Kippur War, while Begin’s Government armed Argentina during the Falklands War.

Its base in Britain is the majority, but by no means the whole, of a tiny ethnic minority, half of one per cent of the population, few of whom had an ancestor in these Islands 150 years ago, and almost none of whom had one 50 years before that. This evening’s demonstration at Liverpool Street station was organised by Jews. The ones who now denounce immigration, “multiculturalism”, identity politics, and allegiance to foreign states or transnational communities, are unwittingly hilarious in their lack of self-awareness.

By alienating the unions and by greatly reducing the membership, Starmer has brought the Labour Party to the brink of bankruptcy, so its policy is now probably for sale on the open market. Here we are.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
8 months ago
Reply to  David Lindsay

I can’t figure out what you’re trying to say.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
8 months ago
Reply to  David Lindsay

The explosion in the refugee camp was mainly to destroy some of the Hamas tunnels.

Frank Freeman
Frank Freeman
8 months ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

And that’s worth killing a load of innocent civilians including children? Besides, Hamas would not put tunnels under hospitals and densely populated areas because those are the first places Israel bombs!

Last edited 8 months ago by Frank Freeman
Frank Freeman
Frank Freeman
8 months ago
Reply to  David Lindsay

Thank you, the first sensible comment yet. But remember, there are lots of Jews who support the rights of Palestinians to a free Palestine, and are horrified by Israel’s war crimes.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
8 months ago

The New York Post and the Heritage Foundation? Don’t make me laugh!
Garbage article with zero facts – just an opportunity for the gammons to howl at the moon about DEI and give an outlet to the seething racism that is just below the surface.
I don’t know why you bother to try to hide your bigotry. A child can see through it. Be proud of who you are! Your kids already hate you, this won’t make any difference.

Arthur G
Arthur G
8 months ago

DEI is by definition racist. It’s racial essentialism. Being against that is a good thing.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
8 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

Artie, just come out and tell us how proud you are to be a bigot and a racist. You don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, do you, and you should be able to be proud of it.
Go for it – we all know anyway!

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
8 months ago

You’re projecting your own racism onto your opponents.

Emre S
Emre S
8 months ago

Do you think Israel is an apartheid state?

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
8 months ago

The type of person that can casually throw terms around like ‘gammon’ and ‘bigot’ to insult others is also the type of person who would have had no problem using the ‘n’ word during that particular period of time when it was socially acceptable to do so. It’s a mindset thing, not a left/right thing.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
8 months ago

You really let yourself down there. Did you even realise?
People who are comfortable in an echo chamber assume that, even when they venture outside, everyone else shares the same prejudices.
A word of warning: We don’t. But now we can see you for who you really are.

Last edited 8 months ago by Paddy Taylor
Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
8 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

I haven’t been hiding who I really am, old boy. I’m the guy who is here to make sure that this echo chamber is just a wee bit less comfortable for you racists and bigots.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
8 months ago

What a silly little man you are. Don’t give up the day job.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
8 months ago

Projection.