A Columbia task force set to combat antisemitism won’t define antisemitism – Washington Examiner

A Columbia University task force created to combat antisemitism on campus is having trouble defining antisemitism. 

Members of the group have refused to define what antisemitism is, with two competing groups pushing different definitions. The task force was created to address “the harmful impact of rising antisemitism on Columbia’s Jewish community and to ensure that protection, respect, and belonging extends to everyone” in the wake of Hamas’s attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

The first definition being discussed is what the State Department prefers and what supporters of Israel refer to, which says targeting Israel could be seen as antisemitic. The second definition is more narrowly defined, creating a difference between anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish sentiments. 

“If you don’t diagnose the problem, you don’t have to deal with it,” said Shai Davidai, a Columbia professor who prefers the first definition. “Saying we don’t want to define it so we don’t have a problem, that’s copping out.”

Left-wing Jews often support the second definition, or the Jerusalem Declaration, which is more tolerant of criticism of Israel. Similar task forces at Harvard and Stanford have faced criticism for not supporting a more broad definition.

The task force chose three Jewish professors for their expertise among the 15-member force. However, some members said it’s not their job to define antisemitism. 

“Our job is not to define antisemitism,” said Nicholas Lemann, former dean of the journalism school. “Our job is to listen to [students], make them feel that somebody at Columbia cares about them, and to try to figure out what is causing this great discomfort and distress, and whether anything can be done to ameliorate it that’s consistent with the values of the university.”

This month, the task force released its first report. It called for a limit on protests and better enforcement of existing rules on campus about where protests can be held. 


Professor Ester Fuchs, a member of the force, said protests were the focus of the report because they are the “most overtly disruptive to life on campus and make people feel like they’re unsafe, like they’re unwelcome and they should find another place to go to school.”

However, the report said phrases commonly used in protests, such as “Death to the Zionist State,” that some see as discriminatory should be handled by lawyers to determine if they are discriminatory.