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Emhoff condemns university presidents for 'lack of moral clarity' in antisemitism hearing

Second gentleman Doug Emhoff marked the beginning of Hanukkah on Thursday in part by chastising a group of prominent university presidents for what he called an “unacceptable” lack of moral clarity after they declined to say if a call for the genocide of Jewish people would be considered harassment under their campus policies.

Emhoff, speaking at the National Menorah lighting on the Ellipse near the White House, acknowledged the contradiction of celebrating Hanukkah amid the fighting between Israel and Hamas and a recent surge in antisemitism.

“I know you’re in pain. I’m in pain. I know a lot of us are feeling unmoored and afraid. We’ve not seen anything like this moment, and I know it’s scary” said Emhoff, who is Jewish.

“Just look at the news the past couple of days. What have we seen? We’ve seen the presidents of some of our most elite universities literally unable to denounce calling for the genocide of Jews as antisemitic,” Emhoff continued. “That lack of moral clarity is simply unacceptable.”

The presidents of Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have drawn widespread criticism from both sides of the aisle in recent days after their appearance at a congressional hearing.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) asked the presidents if a call for the genocide of Jewish people would be considered harassment under their campus policies.

None of the trio directly answered the question, saying it would need to be investigated by the school or depended on the context and how pervasive the calls were.

Emhoff described college students afraid to go to class, people afraid to go to synagogues and being attacked in the street because they are Jewish. He referenced a protest outside a restaurant in Philadelphia whose owner is Jewish.

“Let me be clear: When Jews are targeted because of their beliefs or identity, and when Israel is singled out because of anti-Jewish hatred, that is antisemitism, and it must be condemned,” Emhoff said.

Instances of antisemitism have sharply risen in the aftermath of Hamas’s Oct. 7 terrorist attacks against Israel that left roughly 1,200 people dead. President Biden and the White House have repeatedly condemned antisemitism, as well as cases of Islamophobia in recent weeks.

John Kirby, a White House spokesperson on national security issues, told reporters Thursday there are no specific, credible threats against Jewish communities as Hanukkah begins, but he stressed the federal government is monitoring intelligence to track any potential problems.

Source: The Hill

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