Stanford University (Photo/File)
Stanford University (Photo/File)

Our research shows many DEI staff have a blind spot when it comes to Jews

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This piece first appeared in the Forward.

Progressive Jews face a conundrum with respect to university Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts — or DEI. They earnestly support campus initiatives to attract students and faculty from a variety of backgrounds, learn different perspectives, elevate outcomes for the disadvantaged and reduce hate and bias. But it is also becoming painfully clear that many DEI staffers charged with pursuing these laudable goals are betraying their mission, at least when it comes to Jews.

What are progressive Jews supposed to do when their political allies in promoting policies that mostly benefit non-Jews are also their enemies when it comes to protecting the interests of Jews?

The fact that DEI staff are organizing against Jewish interests is painfully clear to Jewish students who have directly experienced it on campus. It is becoming commonplace to hear claims, like those expressed by a DEI committee at Stanford University, that because “Jews, unlike other minority groups, possess privilege and power, Jews and victims of Jew-hatred do not merit or necessitate the attention of the DEI committee.”

DEI staff are not just failing to protect Jews, thereby inviting antisemitic attacks; some are actively organizing and encouraging political campaigns against Jewish interests, especially with respect to Israel. Expressing criticisms of Israel, as many Jews in Israel and America do, does not constitute antisemitism. But according to the widely accepted IHRA definition of antisemitism, such criticism crosses the line when it applies a double-standard to Israel that other countries are not expected to meet, suggests that a Jewish homeland is a racist endeavor or compares Israeli actions to Nazi crimes.

We conducted a systematic analysis of the Twitter accounts of 741 DEI staff members at 65 universities to document whether there was evidence of antisemitism to support anecdotal claims about anti-Israel activity by DEI staff. We searched those accounts for all tweets, retweets or likes that referenced Israel or, for comparison purposes, China.
We found that DEI staff are obsessed with Israel, communicating about the Jewish homeland almost three times as often as about the country that is actively interning their Muslim citizens. Tweets about Israel were also uniformly negative: 96% were expressing criticism. In contrast, 62% of the tweets referencing China were favorable.

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One DEI staff person “liked” this tweet: “Y’all love to add the word liberal in front of the most evil things and it’s unhingedddd. Wtf is a liberal Zionist? What’s next? Liberal Nazi? Liberal colonizer? Liberal murderer? Liberal imperialist? Liberal fascist?”

Another DEI staff person retweeted a classic antisemitic trope of ritual child murder: “israel has a particular loathing for children. they target them with violence specifically and intentionally every single day.” Yet another invoked the Nazi crime of genocide: “what you need to understand is that these are entire BLOODLINES being wiped out. generations upon generations completely GONE. their indigenous history with them.”

We are not sure whether the grossly disproportionate rate at which DEI staff attack Israel or the language with which they do so is more troubling. Regardless, the picture that clearly emerges from reviewing the Twitter accounts of DEI staff is an animus toward Jews that extends well beyond legitimate criticism of Israel or concern for human rights.

Progressive Jews on campus that we’ve spoken to are at a loss as to how to respond. They don’t want to abandon the promotion of diversity and inclusion, but they don’t want to be persecuted as part of that effort. Some attempt to escape this dilemma by prioritizing DEI ideology over their Jewish identity and minimizing their own Jewish attachments. But Jews shouldn’t have to abandon who they are to advance worthy goals.

Diversity and inclusion can never be achieved by a DEI system that fails to recognize Jewish contributions to diversity or that fails to extend inclusion to Jews or any other minority group. Progressive Jewish students have to recognize that substituting one set of hatreds and biases for another that attacks Jews is not progress. Real progress can only be achieved when the same principles are applied equally to all groups.

Jewish students, alums and donors should demand that their support of university DEI initiatives is conditioned on Jewish interests not being subordinated or abandoned by those efforts. Jews don’t deserve worse treatment and should reject any movement that claims to be seeking progress by doing so.

Jay P. Greene

Jay P. Greene is a senior research fellow in the Center for Education Policy at the Heritage Foundation.

James D. Paul

James D. Paul is the director of research at the Educational Freedom Institute.


Content reprinted with permission from the Forward. Sign up here to get the Forward's free email newsletters delivered to your inbox.