ADL CEO Testifies to House Committee Regarding Anti-Semitism on College Campuses

Remarks from ADL CEO and National Director Jonathan Greenblatt to the House Judiciary Committee
  • November 6, 2017

To read the full testimony of Jonathan Greenblatt, click here.

Good Morning Chairman Goodlatte, Ranking Member Conyers, and members of the Committee,

I am Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and National Director of the Anti-Defamation League.  We deeply appreciate the opportunity to participate in this timely hearing to examine anti-Semitism on college campuses. 

I want to use my time this morning to highlight trends we are seeing — including the rise of anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses and the impact of unprecedented outreach and recruitment by organized hate groups on campus, and then provide some suggested responses for Congress and campus administrators.

ADL has been tracking anti-Semitic incidents in America and compiling an Audit of these incidents since 1979.  Our Audit provides snapshot of this national problem and helps professionals in our national office in New York and our 26 Regional Offices identify trends – and craft responses. 

Data drives policy.  Our Audit led us to draft the first model hate crime law in the United States. Today the federal government, 45 states and District of Columbia all have hate crime laws.  And the federal Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990 is also based on the idea that we must count each and every bias-motivated crime – and teach police and communities how best to respond to them. 

New Audit data released last week, documented a 67 percent increase in the first three quarters of this year over the same time period in 2016.  In fact, we have already recorded more incidents in 2017 than in all of 2016.  I am talking about incidents of harassment, vandalism and violence directed against Jewish individuals and/or institutions.  These numbers are compiled by ADL professionals with each reported incident verified before we log it, therefore this is hard data and deeply troubling.

Anti-Semitic incidents especially spiked around the Charlottesville white supremacist march in August.  Of the 306 incidents reported in the third quarter, 221 took place on or after the August 11 rally.

The Charlottesville rally was one of almost three dozen public white supremacist events in the U.S. so far this year, which were supplemented by almost 200 incidents nationwide where white supremacists used fliers to spread their message, including on college campuses.

Until late 2016, white supremacist activity on college campuses was infrequent. But starting in fall 2016, white supremacists began a much more open effort to spread their message and recruit at colleges and universities.  Now, white supremacists are engaged in unprecedented outreach efforts on American college campuses – another sign that these hate groups feel emboldened by the current political climate

But anti-Semitism cannot be attributed solely to extreme right wing forces. Neither side of the political spectrum is exempt from intolerance. In fact, we see a rise in anti-Semitic rhetoric coming from a radical left-wing  viewpoint, one often rooted in extremely hostile views on Israel that can cross the line into anti-Semitism.  

Now, there is nothing wrong with criticizing particular policies of a particular elected government in Israel. That happens all the time and its not anti-Semitism just as criticizing policies of the Trump Administration does not make you anti-American.

However, when detractors routinely delegitimize Israel and those who advocate for its existence; when they viciously demonize the country, its citizens and its sympathizers; and when they hold the Jewish state to double standards that are not applied to other countries – these are not policy criticisms, these are manifestations of hateful prejudice that, unsurprisingly, often ensnare all Jewish people regardless of their political positions or levels of observance.

Whether originating on the fringes of the left or right, we have seen a rise in reported cases of anti-Semitism at colleges and universities in the past year. Our Audit documented a total of 118 anti-Semitic incidents in the first three quarters of 2017, compared to 74 in the same period of 2016 – an increase of nearly 60 percent.

Our written statement outlines a number of anti-Semitic incidents on campuses across the country – many involving swastika vandalism like a recent rash of graffiti that appeared down the street at Georgetown University or hateful political cartoons like a recent incident at the University of California at Berkeley that targeted Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz or threats of violence as we saw at Princeton University.  All these incidents involved a degree of hostile anti-Israel activity using classic anti-Semitic stereotyping.

So I have shared some examples, but I also believe that when we identify a problem, we also have a responsibility to help propose solutions. 

Our statement highlights an effective response to anti-Semitism on campus from the University of California system.  And we believe that enactment of the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, legislation that was approved unanimously by the Senate in the last Congress, would be an important step forward to address discrimination against Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and members of other religious groups when the discrimination is based on the group's actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics. 

This legislation would provide guidance to the Department of Education and the Department of Justice on whether to investigate anti-Jewish discrimination, and instances in which anti-Israel activity – including anti-Semitic stereotypes and anti-Israel or anti-Zionist expressions coded as political discourse – cross the line to targeted, intentional, unlawful, discriminatory intimidation and harassment of Jewish students. 


     Our statement also provides several policy recommendations. 


  • First, we recommend training and outreach programs for administrators, faculty, staff, and students on best practices and protocols to respond to hate speech, extremism, anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry.  Each of these campus actors must have the resources, tools, and intervention strategies to address the issue


  • Second, we recommend education on the parameters of First Amendment free speech rights. Hate speech may be protected, but administrators and student leaders have a moral responsibility to address the accompanying impact. And while the first amendment protects hateful speech, it does not allow for harmful speech intended to incite violence and we should ensure administrators are counseled to understand the difference. 


  • Third, we have to recognize that there are no simple, complete solutions to this problem – and, importantly, that the issue of anti-Semitism, racism, and bigotry of all forms must be addressed long before college years.  The federal government has a responsibility to provide funding for anti-bias, bullying prevention, and prejudice reduction initiatives for K-12 schools and the community. Education is the antidote to ignorance and we must invest now to inoculate our children and our communities from the virus of intolerance.


     Thank you again for your leadership in holding these important hearings.  We look forward to continuing to work with members of the Committee and hope to be a continuing resource in addressing this important issue.