CAA suspension must be made permanent

It is time now for the MIT administration to take urgent and immediate steps to protect its Jewish students and to ensure their long-term safety

Since the day George Washington met with members of a Rhode Island synagogue, Jews in the United States have enjoyed relative freedom and safety. Although discrimination was common in America in the second half of the twentieth century, the US was still considered a haven for individuals escaping persecution in Europe. At a time when other institutions of higher learning in America did not welcome or even admit those from the Jewish community to their universities, MIT was an exception. Numerous notable Jewish scholars, blocked from access to most prominent American universities, found a scholarly home at MIT. For the many fleeing antisemitism abroad, late 20th century MIT seemed like a dream come true: a place where academic freedom, honest intellectual pursuit, and student equality — regardless of nationality, race, or religion — was respected and achieved. As evidenced by recent events on the MIT campus, however, it is unfortunate but clear that for the Jewish community, this atmosphere of safety, inclusion, and peaceful scientific study has ended. Jewish students currently enrolled at MIT now face bullying and hateful antisemitic rhetoric. Some, fearing for their own physical safety, feel they must hide their Judaism and themselves. It is now common on campus to hear calls for antisemitic violence and the spread of bigoted anti-Jewish misinformation and slander against the Jewish community–both in person and in writing–is everywhere, including the pages of this newspaper. 

The Tech recently published two Guest Opinion columns by members of the Coalition Against Apartheid (CAA), each arguing for reinstatement of this organization, which has been temporarily suspended by the MIT administration for repeatedly violating MIT’s code of conduct. On behalf of the MIT Jewish Alumni Alliance (JAA) Executive Committee, we state here strongly that CAA should not be reinstated. Instead, it should be permanently suspended. Not only has CAA demonstrated a total disregard for the MIT code of conduct, it has also engaged in a protracted campaign of antisemitic bullying and harassment of the MIT Jewish community and created a persistently intolerable atmosphere for Jews on campus. 

The antisemitic behavior of the CAA predates October 7, 2023. In October 2022, CAA co-hosted Mohammed El-Kurd, who, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), “has accused Israelis of eating the organs of Palestinians and of having a particular lust for Palestinian blood. He has compared Israelis to Nazis, negated the historic Jewish connection to the Land of Israel, and vilified Zionism and Zionists.” El-Kurd made numerous fallacious and defamatory allegations at the October 2022 MIT event, asserting for example, that MIT students who served in the IDF had tied up and gassed Palestinian children. There, he also stated that, “I hope every one of them [IDF veterans] dies in the most torturous and slow ways.” By inviting El-Kurd, the CAA strove to humiliate, and to incite, encourage, and promote, a now growing culture of Jew-hatred, which today has created a threatening environment at MIT specifically directed against one specific identified group of MIT students: its Jewish students. 

The October 7 attack on Jewish civilians by Hamas was a modern version of the Holocaust. Like the Nazis, the Hamas terrorists deliberately targeted Jewish civilians for murder because of their Jewish identity, perpetrating upon them acts of extreme butchery and brutality. Thousands of terrorists from Gaza and their allies in this mission massacred Israelis, gunning down party-goers at a peace music festival and burning alive whole families in their homes. Hamas engaged in violent leg and pelvic bone-breaking rape of Israeli women, and paraded naked, broken, and twisted dead bodies of their female victims throughout the streets of Gaza. They kidnapped hundreds of people, including non-Jews (Arab Israelis, Americans, Africans, and Asians). Over 100 hostages currently remain in captivity, including a entire family with a 1-year-old infant and his 4-year-old brother.  

This unspeakable violence perpetrated on Israeli civilians was cause for celebration for the CAA. The day following the massacre, on October 8, CAA sent an email to the entire undergraduate MIT population blaming “all unfolding violence” on the “settler colonial regime”, i.e., Israel, and inviting everyone to a “Victory is Ours” rally the next day. Just a few days after the attacks, on October 13th, heeding calls from a former Hamas leader, CAA participated in the “Global Day of Jihad” by organizing a large protest. All this was happening as Jewish and Israeli students were reeling from the awful news and were still learning about the fates of their family members and friends killed in the attacks.  

The activities by the CAA, focusing on harassing and dehumanizing Jews at MIT, only got worse. During the CAA-held rally of October 19, protesters directly called for the elimination of Israel, chanting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “One solution: intifada revolution.” Some protesters directly and individually harassed and threatened Jewish students who were standing nearby. CAA members interrupted classes, staged walkouts, and disrupted lecturers with chants of “Free Palestine.” CAA members stormed offices of the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI), harassed and intimidated the staff, and later protested outside the office of the MISTI faculty director, accusing him personally of genocide. This faculty member felt so personally threatened, that for weeks after this incident he did not feel safe returning to campus. The now-infamous CAA-organized blockade of Lobby 7 on November 9 involved direct violations of MIT protest policies, while another protest of November 12, 2023 involved a direct incitement of violence with language such as “[i]t is our duty to fight,” “history requires trouble,” “resistance is resistance…it is not enough to exist passively…not enough for us to come out and march…” and “resistance requires sacrifice.” On social media, CAA also declared support for the Houthi pirates, whose slogan includes "Death to America, Death to Israel, a curse upon the Jews." 

The above represent only a few selected examples of the CAA activities that continued through the 2023 fall semester and continue unabated in the spring semester of 2024. Lack of a meaningful response to this behavior from MIT administrators has only made members of the CAA and others on campus feel more emboldened to openly express their antisemitic views and more brazenly bully Jewish students in social settings. Many Jewish students continue to experience fear and social isolation. As an example, Talia Khan, a graduate student who testified before the Congressional Committee investigating campus antisemitism, described to them the circumstances that forced her to quit her doctoral exam study group because some study members claimed to her directly that people killed at the Nova music festival deserved to die. One Jewish student who appeared in a video of the Lobby 7 blockade faced direct online threats to his life that forced him to stay locked up in his dorm room for weeks.  

Jewish students have been fearful of revealing their Jewish identities or expressing their political opinions, while non-Jews have been required to disavow their Jewish friends or express their personal support for Palestine to maintain their social standing. An Israeli student confided to Mauricio Karchmer, an MIT professor who himself resigned from MIT due to pervasive antisemitism, that he was returning to Israel, an active war zone, because he needed to escape the toxicity of the MIT campus. The atmosphere on MIT's campus became, and continues to be, intolerable for Jews. 

If any minority group other than the Jewish community was subjected to the bullying, harassment, threats of violence, and intimidation currently experienced by MIT’s Jewish students on campus, immediate measures would be taken to address, to correct, and to mete out appropriate discipline. MIT’s current leadership and administrators, however, continue to turn a blind eye to the mounting evidence of hatred on MIT’s campus that is perpetrated on Jews by their fellow students, by numerous faculty members, by junior and senior administrators, and by MIT’s highest leaders. The profound failure of MIT’s President and administrators to address widespread and profound antisemitism on its campus has prompted the congressional House Education and the Workforce Committee to launch a formal investigation into the deeply embedded antisemitism and Jew-hatred on the MIT campus, and has resulted in personally-affected Jewish MIT students filing a lawsuit against MIT over claims of antisemitism. It is time now for the MIT administration to take urgent and immediate steps to protect its Jewish students and to ensure their long-term safety. The temporary suspension of CAA is a small step towards accomplishing that objective. For the suspension of CAA to have any real or lasting worthwhile effects, however, it must be made permanent.  


Matthew Handel, S.M. ‘91 (Course XV) 

Yevgeniya Nusinovich, M.D., Ph.D., ‘01 (Course V, Course VII) 

Lori Ullman, M.D., ‘81 (Course V, Course VII) 

Executive Committee, MIT Jewish Alumni Alliance 

The MIT Jewish Alumni Alliance is an unincorporated association of MIT alumni and supporters which aims to eliminate antisemitism within the MIT community and ensure that the MIT leadership and administration establish concrete measures to support this mission.