On September 14th, 2022, a banner was hung across from Cornell’s Center for Jewish Life with the message “Burn Prisons. Free Them All. From Attica to Palestine.” This attempt to conflate prison reform in the US with the detainment and imprisonment of terrorists by Israel is the latest ploy by anti-Zionist extremists to prey upon the sensibilities of socially conscious college students.

Someone also drew an image in the dirt not far from the banner that equated the Star of David with a Nazi swastika, further demonstrating their actions as a deliberate effort to target the Jewish community.

In light of these incidents, Cornell President Martha Pollack released a statement that fails to adequately identify and address increased hostility toward Jewish students. “Over the past couple of months, there have been a small handful of incidents on our campus that are completely at odds with [one of Cornell’s] core value[s]: specifically, incidents that have involved racial targeting and that have involved antisemitism.”

President Pollack downplays the history of antisemitic events at Cornell. According to the AMCHA Initiative, there have been 59 documented incidents of antisemitism since 2015.

For instance, a September 23rd, 2021 event sponsored by Cornell’s Institute For Comparative Modernities featured Noura Erakat, a Rutgers University Professor and anti-Zionist activist. Erakat has alleged that “Zionism, like colonialism, like apartheid, should be considered an abomination,” claimed that “all Israelis are settlers,” and professed that “Israeli rule, wherever it exists, is equal to apartheid.”

On November 18th, 2021, another event held by the Institute and moderated by Cornell Professor Natalie Melas featured speakers Virginia Tilley and Loubna Qutami, who demonized Israel throughout their talk. Tilley stated, “you can’t endorse Jewish statehood, just as you can’t endorse Aryan statehood.”

Cornell SJP and the Department of Near Eastern Studies hosted an event on March 25th, 2022, where inflammatory speaker Mohammed El-Kurd continued his long history of bigoted statements against Jews. El-Kurd referred to students who tried to cancel the event as “whiny pro-occupation settler-enthusiasts” on social media.

In September 2021, El-Kurd praised the attacks of the second intifada, lionizing terrorists by calling them “martyrs.” During this period between 2000-2005, attacks carried out by Palestinian terrorists killed more than a thousand Israeli civilians.

El-Kurd frequently speaks grotesquely about Israelis, claiming that they have an “unquenchable thirst for Palestinian blood” and that “[Israelis] harvest organs of the martyred [Palestinians, feeding] their warriors our own.”

President Pollack should issue a more robust statement clearly identifying and condemning these incidents for what they are: brazen acts of antisemitism meant to intimidate and frighten Cornell’s Jewish community.

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