Rhetoric from professors and students has turned ugly in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 sneak attack on Israeli civilians and foreign nationals that left 1,200 dead and 240 more taken hostage. Soon after, 34 student groups from Harvard University issued a statement condemning Israel for provoking Hamas to commit the massacre. Groups at other higher education institutions followed. Worse, a Cornell University student was charged with making online threats against Jewish students, promising to shoot up their kosher dining hall and slit student's throats,

Assemblyman Alex Sauickie said Jewish and pro-Israel students across the country are being marginalized and at times threatened by their peers and professors. The rhetoric coming from some of New Jersey’s colleges and universities is heated, equating Israel’s military response against Hamas with that terrorist organization’s sneak attack on civilians.   

“No higher education institution that receives taxpayer money of any kind should tolerate speech that supports terrorist organizations and the annihilation of the Jewish or any community of people,” Sauickie (R-Ocean) said. New Jersey’s public and private colleges and universities -- four public research universities, seven state colleges and universities, fourteen private colleges and universities, and 18 county colleges -- receive federal and state grants for research, or student financial aid.  

He introduced legislation (A5765) that would prohibit colleges and universities from authorizing, funding or supporting hate speech or antisemitic events and organizations. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance defines antisemitism as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”    

At Princeton University on Oct. 12, Students for Justice in Palestine, a national organization with more than 200 affiliated groups around the country, scheduled a last-minute “teach-in” during a planned vigil by Princeton’s Chabad to honor those slain Israelis. Participants called for the dismantling of  the “Zionist apartheid state,” and reportedly used the phrase “From the river to the sea,” widely understood as meaning genocide against Jews. Nearly 100 faculty members and 900 students and alumni signed an open letter published in The Daily Princetonian condemning Israel’s “ongoing assault upon the Gaza strip.”   

At Rutgers University, nearly 200 faculty rebuked President Jonathan Holloway’s “one-sided message” that called Hamas’ actions of Oct. 7 terrorism. Their letter showed solidarity with Palestinian civilians “under assault and the members of our community who have loved ones there and close ties to Palestine.”  

Hamas, labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, has governed the Gaza Strip since June 2007. Palestinians comprise 20% of Israel’s population, with 590,500 calling Gaza home.  

“Our academic elites sit comfortably in their ivory towers, just as Hamas’ leaders sit comfortably in Qatar, and side with terrorists. Attacking civilians and taking hostages are each war crimes. Hamas terrorists did both and more on Oct. 7,” Sauickie said. “Yet these professors and students have implicitly and explicitly expressed an utter lack of regard for Jewish and pro-Israel students, faculty and staff whose annihilation Hamas has openly called for.”  

He added that it’s more urgent than ever to pass another bill he introduced last year to combat bias crimes. Those incidents saw a 29% spike in New Jersey between 2020 and 2021, according to the Anti-Defamation League. One such target involved a historically Jewish fraternity at Rutgers, which experienced repeated cases of antisemitic harassment since at least 2021. Sauickie’s legislation (A4462) would require the immediate public reporting of bias incidents—those crimes directed at a person or group based on their race, color or religion.

“It is not free speech to commit incitement by calling for another holocaust. ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ and ‘globalize the intifada’ are rallying cries to slaughter the Jewish people and their supporters, in Israel and around the world,” Sauickie said. “Hamas kills Israelis and uses innocent Palestinians as human shields, and keyboard warriors in our colleges and universities shamefully support this. It’s time for action to counter this dangerous and threatening behavior.”