Imagine a high school or college student who—in this climate of heightened awareness of bullying, violence, even school shooters—posted on his social media something like: “I’m so fed up with all the crap people talk. When I get back to campus, I’ll physically fight anyone who spouts bullsh*t! I’ll abolish your a**.”
If you were a school administrator, would you take that seriously? Consider disciplinary action? Be concerned about liability?
Not really a tough call, right? Not in this day and age.
Let’s say the threat comes from a student leader – one specifically tasked by the school to welcome new students and look after the welfare of others.
It hardly seems too much to expect students elevated as exemplars to refrain from threatening to instigate violence. You might generously reason that we all lose it sometimes; perhaps a stern warning will discourage such lapses of discretion in the future. Yet, as an administrator responsible for the safety of students as well as the general campus atmosphere, you couldn’t possibly retain such a student in a position of authority. Right? It’s not just the impact of inaction on others; imagine the liability if he did make good on his threat.
Shall we make the hypothetical still more interesting? Instead of general references to crap “people” talk, or a threat to fight “anyone,” suppose the posting were more specific. What if it targeted black students or Mexicans or women? Oh, and what if the threatening student has a long history of engagement with organizations known to encourage discrimination and violence against the group he’s threatened?
Targeted threats are a heightened problem—particularly when hurled against vulnerable groups with a history of being victims of discrimination and violence. At this point, there’s simply no way you’d allow such a student to represent the university or oversee the welfare of others. You’d seriously consider expulsion and potential criminal charges. And you’d take immediate and unequivocal steps to distance your school from this student and condemn his odious threats.
What if the group he threatened is Jews?
Somehow the decision just got blurred. Certainly, the situation deserves careful attention and…some kind of nuancing? Perhaps the threat was understandable—under the circumstances, and all. It would be a shame to let one ill-advised post undermine a fine student leader.
That appears to be the case at Stanford University. Because the only “hypothetical” part of the story to this point is the actual quote.
Stanford’s Hamzeh Daoud, a former student senator and an incoming resident assistant, posted on Facebook:
I’m gonna physically fight Zionists on campus next year if someone comes at me with their ‘Israel is a democracy’ bullsh*t. And after I abolish your a** I’ll go ahead and work every day for the rest of my life to abolish your petty a** ethno-supremacist, settler-colonial state.
Daoud reportedly is a longstanding member of the rabidly anti-Semitic Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a group directly involved in campus anti-Semitism and violence and with well-established ties to terror-funding groups.
A week later, and only after students demanded action, what has Stanford’s response been? “The author of the post will receive fair and thoughtful consideration, as our work with students demands.” This, from an institution whose Human Resources department organized counseling programs and circulated a campus-wide letter “to reaffirm the university’s commitment to support every member of our community” when Hillary Clinton lost an election. Perhaps they should simply have reaffirmed their commitment to support every member of the community except “Zionists.”
That’s not to say, of course, that all Jews at Stanford have lined up against Daoud. In a culture where Jews are targeted exponentially more than any other group, “Battered Jew Syndrome” is a recognized phenomenon. The hard-left Jewish Voice for Peace – an anti-Israel organization of Jews who prove their progressive creds by feting murderous anti-Jewish terrorists and slandering Israel with the same inciteful blood libels as Daoud and SJP - rallied to his support. After all, they contend, only Islamophobes and off-campus agitators would oppose Daoud.
It would be nice to think that Stanford’s administration would act forcefully to prove them wrong. It seems obvious that the university should stand up unequivocally and without hesitation to defend any of its students against bigoted hatred and threats of violence. So far, however, it appears that the Israel-haters may be correct that off-campus agitation may prove necessary. Because left to its own devices, Stanford just doesn’t seem to give a damn when the target is Israel or Jews.
This incident and the university’s appalling passivity resonate well beyond the Stanford campus. Anti-Semitism is on the rise. It’s being mainstreamed. Daoud and his defenders are merely ugly symptoms; the climate established by Stanford is the problem.
Bruce Abramson is a Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and a Contributor to the news and public policy group Haym Solomon Center. Jeff Ballabon is CEO of B2 Strategic and a Senior Fellow at the American Conservative Union's Center for Statesmanship and Diplomacy.