In a resolute communique to American academic institutions, Israel’s President Isaac Herzog voiced his concerns over the escalating antisemitism that has blemished the prestigious image of these “bastions of learning.”
“Never would I have imagined the scenes and voices that have reached my ears following the harrowing events of October 7,” he commented. Herzog, since his ascension to the presidential role in Israel, has spent the preceding month consoling bereaved Israeli communities, over 1,400 mourning families, and relatives of more than 240 hostages.
Herzog recalled his tenure at Cornell University and New York University, where he had been “immersed in the epitome of scholarly debate and investigation” and “the uniquely American ambiance of intellectual liberty.” However, his memories have been tainted by the alarming rise in antisemitism and radical left-wing fervor that has plagued campuses recently. He has devoted the past month to providing solace to the survivors of the terror attack on October 7, an event he marks as “the most horrific massacre of Jews since the Holocaust.”
Herzog expressed his deep concern over reports of Jewish students being persecuted at Harvard University, physically attacked at Tulane, and trapped in a library at the Cooper Union while a hostile crowd rallied outside. He pointed out signs that accused Israel of genocide, swastikas daubed on dormitory doors, and numerous instances of hateful and threatening demonstrations.
“All of these incidents occur not at the outskirts of civilization but within the very bastions of learning, in corridors intended to illuminate humanism, progress, and meticulous investigation,” he emphasized. “And this transpires not in Europe a hundred years ago, but in the United States in 2023.”
He clarified that while debate, including on Israel’s actions in Gaza, is welcomed, the occurrences on American college campuses constitute not a debate but “a desecration of the university and its founding principles.”
Herzog questioned the place in civilized society for those condoning or celebrating the horrific acts of Hamas. He emphasized the distinction between free speech and speech that incites violence. Herzog also pointed out that calls for Israel’s elimination on campus should not be tolerated. He urged each institution to pioneer the fight against antisemitism by establishing a task force to devise an action plan for the campus and the broader community.
Herzog underlined that this conflict transcends the discord between Israel and Hamas; it touches upon the question of whether the enlightened world will uphold or potentially endorse the violation of fundamental human norms. He called on the citizens of free nations to take a stand, particularly those who serve as guardians of knowledge and culture, as their decisions will inevitably shape history.
Herzog, who has served as Israel’s president since 2021, is the son of previous Israeli President Chaim Herzog.