By Jason Smith, member of Congress
WASHINGTON, D.C. — In the aftermath of the October 7 terror attack in Israel, antisemitic incidents in the U.S. have skyrocketed by 316% compared to the same time last year. We’ve seen massive hate-filled rallies in cities and on college campuses across the nation with people celebrating Hamas and calling for the elimination of Israel. Jewish students don’t feel safe walking to class, studying in the library, or going to sleep at night because of the dangerous rhetoric and antisemitic actions of pro-Hamas student groups.
While Congress can’t single-handedly defeat antisemitism, it must do its part to fight back. That’s why, as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, I recently held a hearing to look into ways we can use the tax code to address some of the issues that have been laid bare in the aftermath of October 7.
Colleges enjoy lucrative tax advantages – including on their endowments – because of their educational mission. But these institutions have shifted from free speech to preferred speech, creating a double standard that has led to Jewish students getting physically harassed, having their dorm room door set on fire, and being forced to walk by slogans posted on campus calling for the genocide of the Jewish people.
Too many college presidents have sought to appease the most radical voices on their campuses. When they fail to act, they claim it’s about free speech rights. But this is laughable. Time and again, these institutions have protected speech preferred by left-wing administrators and professors rather than the actual principles of free speech.
While there are numerous examples of colleges failing to show moral clarity and leadership after Hamas’s terror attack, one that stands out is Cornell – the very same college where a professor called Hamas’s slaughter of innocent people “exhilarating.”
At our hearing, Talia Dror, a Jewish Cornell student, shared her story of fearing for her life from violent death threats the same day college administrators falsely claimed students were safe.
“That night I sat in my locked house pondering my mortality. I knew that with my roommates and I being openly Jewish community leaders, our apartment would be one of the first targets for someone looking to actualize the threats,” she said.
While the eruption of hatred toward Jewish students on college campuses after the October 7 attack has been disturbing to watch, the organization around it is not some organic movement – it has been carefully built over years, in part, by groups that have ties to terrorists.
One of the radical groups pushing Hamas propaganda and organizing hate-filled rallies on college campuses is Students for Justice in Palestine. It’s the student wing of American Muslims for Palestine, which has been sued in federal court for operating as an alter ego of an organization that funneled $12.4 million from Americans to fund Hamas before it was shut down by the U.S. government back in the early 2000s.
At the hearing, Dr. Jonathan Schanzer, a terrorism financing expert, told us that bipartisan legislation led by my colleagues on the Ways and Means Committee that would take away the tax-exempt status for any organization that provides financial support or resources to designated terrorist groups would be “a very valuable tool.”
No person should fear for their safety because of their religion, background, or beliefs. Sadly, acts of antisemitism will likely continue to rise as Israel continues its fight to defeat the Hamas terrorists who slaughtered over a thousand innocent people. As Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, I will continue doing my part to combat antisemitism, whether it’s going after tax-exempt groups that support terrorists or looking into ways to hold colleges accountable for failing to protect Jewish students.