Experts urge House committee to go after university pocketbooks over Jew-hatred

The hearing also probed the influence of foreign donations’ impact on American universities, questioning whether the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status intended to permit universities to receive billions of foreign dollars.

By Andrew Bernard, JNS

Experts told the House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday that Congress ought to use its power of the purse to combat antisemitism on college campuses.

“We are seeing a kind of perfect storm of student violent extremism, professorial politicization, undisclosed foreign funding and often feckless and weak administration,” said Kenneth Marcus, founder and chairman of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law.

“Most of these institutions are tax-exempt and need to be held accountable if they do not meet the requirements of their tax-exempt status,” Marcus told the committee. “That’s true of the universities and also some of the organizations that have been fomenting hatred.”

The Ways and Means Committee, which is responsible for taxation, is one of six House committees investigating the wave of antisemitism on college campuses in the aftermath of Oct. 7.

Thursday’s hearing also included testimony from recent Cornell University graduate Talia Dror, Columbia University professor Shai Davidai, American Jewish Committee CEO Ted Deutch and Jonathan Pidluzny, a director at the America First Policy Institute.

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Thursday’s hearing was less explosive than the grillings that university presidents have received in recent months that led to the resignation of the president of Columbia and contributed to the resignation of the president of Harvard University.

The sharpest exchanges Thursday included partisan disagreements about the extent to which “diversity, equity and inclusion” initiatives contribute to Jew-hatred.

“DEI teaches that the world is made up of oppressors and the oppressed, victims and those with privilege,” Pidluzny said. “Jews are coded as the oppressors by virtue of their political and economic success.”

“This is what creates a kind of permission structure for students to join in with the true radicals cheering for Hamas terrorists who deliberately kill children and rape hostages,” he added.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) disagreed with that perspective.

“Such claims not only misconstrue diversity, equity and inclusion but also basically pit one minority group against another,” he said. “DEI responds to decades of systematic exclusion of people of color from higher education in states like mine in Texas.”

“It seeks to create a culture of respect and understanding for all. Both communities of color and Jewish Americans are all too familiar with the very real prejudice that they’ve endured,” he added.

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The hearing also probed the influence of foreign donations to American universities, with some congressmen questioning whether the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charity status was intended to permit universities to receive billions of foreign dollars.

Repeated mentions of Qatar at the hearing—both as the host of the Hamas political leadership and as a multi-billion dollar donor to U.S. higher education institutions—prompted pushback from the Qatari embassy on Friday.

“Qatar has no desire or ability to influence anything that happens on U.S. university campuses,” the embassy stated. “It is flatly untrue, for example, that Qatar is the ‘largest foreign donor to U.S. universities’—a claim made to imply dark motives, and to undermine the strong U.S.- Qatar security and trade partnership.”

Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) welcomed the testimony from Thursday’s panel but questioned the efficacy of congressional hearings in combating bigotry.

“It’s amazing that we think we can have a meeting of the Ways and Means Committee to come together to try to figure out what the heck is wrong with what’s going on in the world today,” he said. “The seeds of hate are sown long before the freshman year.”

“I am amazed that we think there’s a political answer to a human problem,” he added.