House Education and Workforce Committee chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) is demanding that Education Secretary Miguel Cardona resign for declining to say in a recent interview whether the slogan “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is an antisemitic call for the genocide of the Jewish people.
“Three months after October 7 and the disgusting antisemitic demonstrations that followed, there is no excusing Secretary Cardona’s cowardly evasion of the antisemitic character of the phrase ‘from the river, to the sea,’” Foxx said in a statement late Tuesday.
“This nation deserves much better than bungling and deliberate misuse of taxpayer dollars. And Jewish students deserve to know that their Education Secretary understands the hate they face and has the necessary courage and clarity to confront it. It is time for the Secretary to resign.”
Cardona, 48, made the remarks in an interview published Tuesday by Jewish Insider, in which he affirmed that university administrators must “set clear lines on how you communicate while not making students feel threatened or unsafe on campus.”
“That’s why I say we investigate each case, and it’s difficult for me to make a statement here about that,” he said in response to a question about the chant heard on college campuses across the nation.
“If students are feeling unsafe with that, it’s the responsibility of leadership to act,” he added of the slogan. “I believe antisemitism can include anti-Zionist statements. … We take that into account when looking at cases.”
A senior Education Department official who was present during the interview told the outlet that the agency is aware of students being “surrounded,” having to be “barricaded” in rooms for their own safety, and even being “attacked” by anti-Israel demonstrators.
In December, three prominent university presidents were also at a loss for words when grilled by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) during a House hearing over the question of whether calls for the “genocide of Jews” violated their schools’ codes of conduct or constituted bullying and harassment.
Harvard University president Claudine Gay, University of Pennsylvania president Liz Magill and Massachusetts Institute of Technology president Sally Kornbluth all said that it depends on the “context.”
The testimony drew widespread backlash — and mea culpas from all three elite university presidents, with Magill and Gay later resigning from their posts, though Gay only quit in response to a separate plagiarism scandal.
“It’s unbelievable that this needs to be said: calls for genocide are monstrous and antithetical to everything we represent as a country,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement after the hearing.
“Any statements that advocate for the systematic murder of Jews are dangerous and revolting — and we should all stand firmly against them, on the side of human dignity and the most basic values that unite us as Americans.”
The Post has reached out to the White House and the Education Department for comment.
Foxx’s committee has since launched investigations into Harvard, Penn and MIT for their handling of antisemitism on campus that exploded in the wake of Hamas’ attack against Israel on Oct. 7.
Hamas terrorists killed more than 1,200 people, mostly civilians. Another 240 people were kidnapped by the jihadists and taken back to the Gaza Strip, where at least 130 still remain hostage, with a number of that cohort believed dead.
The Education Department has also launched probes into at least 10 US colleges and universities — and vowed to “take aggressive action to address the alarming nationwide rise in antisemitism, anti-Muslim, anti-Arab and other forms of discrimination and harassment on college campuses and in K-12 schools since the Oct. 7 Israel-Hamas conflict.”
“The words of the students really echoed in my mind when they communicated that antisemitism in some parts of our country has become normalized,” Cardona told Jewish Insider about having heard stories about the campus unrest.
“At the Department of Education, this became an all-hands-on-deck moment. After the attacks, the terrorist attacks, we really recognized that we had to step up,” he added.
But Cardona also said that Jewish leaders have told him antisemitism was on the rise across college campuses well before Oct. 7, to which he responded that his department has set up a web portal to field complaints.
Almost 73% of Jewish college students say they witnessed or were the victim of on-campus antisemitism since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, an increase of 10 percentage points from 2021, according to a joint study by the Anti-Defamation League and Hillel International.
“What I heard from younger students is, ‘I have to hide who I am,’” Cardona told Jewish Insider about his knowledge of the current climate on campus.
“They might hide the sticker of the Israeli flag on their computer, or they might tuck in the Star of David, where before they didn’t. That, to me, as an educator, as an educational leader, is very concerning. When students can’t be who they are unapologetically because of the conditions on campus, that to me is an unsafe learning environment, if you can’t be yourself.”