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Avoiding the “Intifada” Problem: Cornell very narrowly defines calls for genocide that would violate campus policy

Avoiding the “Intifada” Problem: Cornell very narrowly defines calls for genocide that would violate campus policy

Internationally-recognized definitions of Genocide do not require killing all members of a group, but Cornell defines it that way for campus policy: “An explicit call for genocide, to kill all members of a group of people, would be a violation of our policies.” This avoids the issue of having to deal with the “Intifada” chants, since even the Intifada did not seek to “kill all” Jews, just a lot of them.

At a recent congressional hearing, the presidents of Harvard, U. Penn, and MIT were grilled, particularly by Elise Stefanik, as to whether chants calling for the destruction of Israel and expulsion or worse of Jews would violate school policies against intimidation and harassment.

The hesitant, as best, answers ended up costing the U. Penn president her job, put the Harvard president on the rocks, and did not appear to put the MIT president’s job on the line.

In response, Stanford issued a statement that a call for genocide would violate the campus code:

In the context of the national discourse, Stanford unequivocally condemns calls for the genocide of Jews or any peoples. That statement would clearly violate Stanford’s Fundamental Standard, the code of conduct for all students at the university.

The Stanford statement did not define genocide. There is a common international understanding that genocide can be something less than the complete annihilation of a people. The U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide uses the following definition (emphasis added):

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  1. Killing members of the group;
  2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The U.S. Holocaust Museum uses the same definition. The crime of genocide under U.S. law is similar (emphasis added):

(a)Basic Offense.—Whoever, whether in time of peace or in time of war and with the specific intent to destroy, in whole or in substantial part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group as such—
(1)kills members of that group;
(2)causes serious bodily injury to members of that group;
(3)causes the permanent impairment of the mental faculties of members of the group through drugs, torture, or similar techniques;
(4)subjects the group to conditions of life that are intended to cause the physical destruction of the group in whole or in part;
(5)imposes measures intended to prevent births within the group; or
(6)transfers by force children of the group to another group;

shall be punished as provided in subsection (b).

While killing all of a group would be genocide, killing “all” is not a requirement under the most recognized standards and definitions.

Putting aside whether calls for genocide are protected speech under the First Amendment, there are serious issues of hypocrisy for campuses that intimately regulate and punish speech, even so-called microaggressions, yet have done nothing as mobs of student have careened through campuses openly supporting Hamas’ barbaric October 7 attack targeting Jews (though non-Jews also were killed) and/or chanting for an Intifada. The Intifada is the term used for the bloody suicide bombing assault on Israel almost two decades ago (the “Second Intifada”) which cost over 1000 Israeli lives, as buses, schools, restaurants, and even a Passover Seder were targeted.

I talked about this in America’s Ivy Problem: “they’re just not being truthful about how they regulate speech on campuses”:

Cornell has been the scene of pretty outrageous demonstrations and hit the national headlines over a professor who said he was “exhilarated” when he heard of the Hamas attack, and a student who made death threats against Jews on campus and now is arrested.

Perhaps trying to get ahead of the issue, on December 9, 2023, Martha Pollock, the president of Cornell issued a statement about calls for genocide on campus, requiring that it be an “explicit” call for genocide “to kill all members of a group” (emphasis added)

Statement on university policy

Over the past few days, a number of universities, including Cornell, have been asked by members of Congress to make clear their policies around genocide. Genocide is abhorrent, and Cornell condemns calls for the genocide of any people. An explicit call for genocide, to kill all members of a group of people, would be a violation of our policies.

Martha E. Pollack

Why such a narrow definition? It might have something to do with anti-Israel Cornell students staging a mock trial of President Pollack for supposed complicity in genocide.

Or it may be a way of trying to thread the linguistic needle – agree that calls for genocide can violate the campus code, but use a non-standard narrow definition that negates any meaning to the policy. This avoids the issue of having to deal with the “Intifada” chants, since even the Intifada did not seek to “kill all” Jews, just a lot of them.

That’s my guess, an overly-lawyered wordsmithing that was too cute by half.

Perhaps the President of Cornell will explain that reasoning if called to testify before Congress.


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We will need to wait for Professor Jacobson’s reports to see if Cornell changes its ways.

However, I will not hold my breath.

Um ok so student call for the killing of large number of university administrators, but not all of them??

Good to know.

Given the chant from the river to the sea IS an explicit call to kill all Jews then we can see that Cornell will very soon be moving against the racists. Any second now. Right?

    Actually, it is “direct and public incitement,” which this is, that is punishable.

      No, it is not incitement, as defined by US law. People chanting that slogan do not intend their audience to drop everything, fly to Israel, and immediately slaughter all the Jews who are there. Nor is it at all likely that the chanting would have that effect.

    jagibbons in reply to mailman. | December 12, 2023 at 8:09 am

    Agreed. Hamas’ stated goal is the eradication of Israel and all Jews worldwide, so any repetition of their slogans would be an agreement with that goal.

    Of course, that is the same goal as called for the Qur’an, so………

    Milhouse in reply to mailman. | December 12, 2023 at 11:41 pm

    “From the river to the sea” is not a call to kill all Jews, not even all Israeli Jews. A lot of them, yes, but not all of them. It’s also a call to expel a lot of them. But a “free Palestine” covering the entire Holy Land would likely still have a significant Jewish minority, who would be servants and dhimmi.

So what do we call a group where 75% favor what Hamas did? A group which has been intentionally having large numbers of children and teaching those children for generations to become martyrs?

What do you do with people like that? Does anyone think they can be cured?

    You can call them anything you want as long as you use Woke terminology that is approved by left-leaning liberals who love Muslims and hate Jews.

    What do you do with them, without falling foul of the definition of genocide provide here?

    At the very least, these people cannot be allowed to raise their children. The children who have not yet been brainwashed into Jew-killers, or who are young enough for that brainwashing to be corrected, need to be taken from them and put in institutions where they can be civilized. According to the definition given here, that would be genocide.

You should also set the following from the Convention:

Article III says that “Direct and public incitement to commit genocide,” are punishable.

Public calls of Intifada and River to the Sea, fall within Article III, and Article IV says they, “shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.”

This is where the culpability of these haters is, because few explicitly call for genocide outright.

Genocide does not require killing all, thus the words “in part.”

Killing some is no different than killing all, if you have genocidal intent.

Calls for genocide aren’t literal in the first place, which the English Lit department could tell them. It’s a rhetorical call for an end of something. Narratives are full of it.

There are calls here for turning Gaza into a parking lot for example.

The solution for Cornell and everywhere else is allow speech that they’ve been prohibiting, rather than the reverse.

    Oblivious. People have been calling for genocide of Jews, LITERALLY, for a very long time.

    Making Gaza a parking lot is not a call for genocide. Obnoxious to imply so.

    And to say that genocide is simply a political term is ridiculous. Tell that to the Jews of WWII, Armenians, or Rawandans, just three examples.

    Keep pretending with silly notions that escape reality.

    Crawford in reply to rhhardin. | December 11, 2023 at 5:08 pm

    You are foul, rhhardin.

    artichoke in reply to rhhardin. | December 11, 2023 at 6:47 pm

    I’ve also seen “genocide” used heatedly as describing the movement of people off some land to somewhere else. So a program to move all the Gaza Palestinians into a refugee camp in Egypt could be called “genocide”, an escalation of language the left has used when it suited them.

Genocide is a political term in the second place.

OK, message received.

If you’re bright enough to be considering Cornell then you’re bright enough to succeed in life without ever having to spend time in Ithaca, NY

Life’s not fair
Deal with it

So according to Cornell, it’s okay to demand the death of every Jew in Israel as long as you’re not demanding the death of every Jew worldwide.


    Milhouse in reply to Sanddog. | December 12, 2023 at 11:52 pm

    Probably not. But it’s OK to demand the deaths of only half the Jews in Israel, or only 90%. Like that video that was doing the rounds a few weeks ago, in which a person settles on demanding only that “from the river to the sea” be free of straight Jewish Israelis. Any non-Jewish, or LGBTQWERTY Israelis could stay.

So a student can call for just-short-of-genocide without being punished, but if they use the wrong pronouns….

Um, wouldn’t a call to kill all Israelis be a call to kill all members of a group? Isn’t that what the “river to the sea” crap means?

    jagibbons in reply to Crawford. | December 12, 2023 at 8:11 am

    Yes, that is what it means. And Hamas will continue to work (not just speak) to bring it about. I pray the just in the world will soon see them for what they are and deal with the problem.

since even the Intifada did not seek to “kill all” Jews

That’s just wrong. If they did say that it was merely strategic, as eliminating all Jews is a Quranic imperative. The Islamic eschaton does not happen until that occurs.

Today’s posting at the NY Post:

Congress may cut federal funds flowing to colleges and universities that fail to combat antisemitism on campus, the chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce warned Sunday. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), who chairs the panel that launched an investigation into the higher education institutions last week.

“We cannot tolerate taxpayer dollars going to institutions that allow for antisemitism and for calling for genocide of the Jews,” , told Fox News.

“This is not just confined to these campuses. We want to look at Columbia, Cornell, and many, many other institutions,”

“It should be so easy. This country was founded on religious freedom,” she added. “It should not be difficult to condemn antisemitism and the calling for genocide of the Jews or any other people.”

President Martha Pollack has NOT dodged a bullet.
She should also expect a letter of invitation and a request for the policies which are handed to her to enforce and guide her leadership.

Is there a possible post class action law suit waiting in the wings for these Ivy League Schools by supporting via ‘Inactions and Actions’ perpetuating to give cause for “Class Bias’s”?

    That appears to run a great risk of falling foul of the first amendment. Calling for genocide is advocacy, which is absolutely protected speech. Neither Congress nor any government institution may punish anyone for advocacy, including by cutting off funding to which they would otherwise be entitled.

    The problem is not so much that they’re allowing this speech but that they’ve not been allowing a lot of other speech that is likewise protected. That is what they have to correct.

Cornell Students: We want to kill all the Jews.

President Pollack: That is a violation of Cornell’s policies.

Cornell Students: We want to kill all the Jews except for Moshe Cohen.

President Pollack: Okay, that doesn’t violation our policies. Carry on.

OK, so calls to kill rather than relocate Palestinians would be fine too, as long as some survive. This is not desirable by any means, but it should tone down the kvetching over the fact that Palestinian human shields are at risk when Israel goes after Hamas.

    Another Voice in reply to artichoke. | December 11, 2023 at 7:19 pm

    This is a War.
    With family serving in the Pacific during WWII and Korean (Action) War
    More immediately a brother and good friend dying in Viet Nam
    With having a good friend losing his son dying in Afghanistan
    And a Nephew who served 3 tours in Kabul and flown out of Bagram in the last 2 days of Biden’s fiasco. Our country called and they served because they were asked to defend those who want our same freedoms.
    Israel is doing no less and they are out there on their own ……. and if they are willing to step in to fight the same type of global terrorists, should we not at least have their backs if only with monetary and equipment to do the fighting?

University administrators endorsed:

2015: Students feeling microagressed by the very presence of a right wing speaker on campus.

2023: Students chanting murderous slogans while corralling Jews on campus.

This is a War.
With family serving in the Pacific during WWII and Korean (Action) War
More immediately a brother and good friend dying in Viet Nam
With having a good friend losing his son dying in Afghanistan
And a Nephew who served 3 tours in Kabul and flown out of Bagram in the last 2 days of Biden’s fiasco. Our country called and they served because they were asked to defend those who want our same freedoms.
Israel is doing no less and they are out there on their own ……. and if they are willing to step in to fight the same type of global terrorists, should we not at least have their backs if only with monetary and equipment to do the fighting?

    jagibbons in reply to Another Voice. | December 12, 2023 at 8:14 am

    Thank you for your family’s service, especially in a time when many in this nation and in its leadership do not respect the work that they call our military to complete.

At least she didn’t say “context.”

So Cornell’s view is that the Holocaust was not genocide since it did not seek to kill all Jews, just all Jews that were within Nazi territory?

And presumably the KKK wouldn’t be genocidal either since they are against Blacks in America, not all Blacks in existence.

Or does the definition of genocide, and the response to a group’s conduct, depend on the subjects involved?

    The Holocaust sought, eventually, to kill all Jews in the world. Of course the Nazis could only kill Jews in territory they controlled, but their ultimate goal was for that to cover the whole world.

This is even worse than if they had just left it alone….

Under the disingenuous new Cornellspeak definition, Hitler would likely get a pass , as he was calling for the elimination “only “ of European Jews.

    Milhouse in reply to Lexman. | December 13, 2023 at 12:04 am

    No, he was calling for the elimination of all Jews. And the nazis’ dedication to this goal allowed it to get in the way of their war efforts. During the Germans’ short-lived occupation of Tunisia, knowing that they were soon going to have to fight to keep it, they diverted much-needed resources into flying Jews to Auschwitz. And they sent agents to China to look for Jews there (though I suspect the real purpose of that was to find some officials’ nephews safe postings, doing “vital work for the Reich” while being well out of danger).

caseoftheblues | December 12, 2023 at 9:20 am

Cornell = Rolling dumpster fire

Capitalist-Dad | December 12, 2023 at 9:26 am

Cornell’s grand pubahs are patting themselves on the back over their superior cleverness: We’ll just change the definition of genocide. (Not to worry the ignorant rubes outside our sacred walls will never catch on.). Could the egregious insult to our intelligence get any worse? This is more evidence that these institutions need destruction because they are rotten to the core.

pronouns > Jews?

OK. So, at Cornell, I’m free to chant “All blacks back to Africa — if you stay, we *will* kill you.” That’s not genocide, per Cornell, because I’m not calling for the murder of *all* blacks, just the ones who remain in the US. Blacks outside the US are safe. That’s a direct analogy to “from the River to the Sea”, though Hamas *has* called for killing *all* Jews.

I’m fine with abhorrent speech being permitted on campus (including calls for Jewish genocide), as long as it’s not accompanied by harassment or worse — I prefer this approach to draconian rules regarding speech. But Cornell (and any other university) must be *SERIOUS* about such rules, and not decide that speech directed against favored groups is handled differently. That means that misgendering, fat-shaming, anti-Islamic statements, and racist statements are all permitted too, as long as they don’t result in actions.

    lawgrad in reply to csprof. | December 12, 2023 at 6:52 pm

    I don’t think that you appreciate the vague talk vs. action distinction. Here is the last paragraph of the Policy on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Speech and Expression that was adopted by the Faculty Senate and then the Board of Trustees:

    “Based on the protections afforded by academic freedom, speech and other expression in the context of instruction or research will not be considered prohibited conduct unless this speech or expression meets the definition of discrimination or protected-status harassment under Cornell policies and procedures, and also meets one or both of the following criteria: a reasonable person in the setting would find it to be abusive or humiliating toward a specific individual or specific individuals, or it persists despite the reasonable objection of the specific individual or individuals targeted by the speech.”

    So, it is really a question of whether your examples target specific people and not a group in general.

I agree that there are problems with the definition. However, the more serious problem is that the statement does not explain what policy is being amended. Contrary to popular belief, Cornell never adopted a written speech code, thanks to the courageous advocacy of a number of Cornell Law professors and alumni.

Please read the Supreme Court’s opinions in Brandenburg v. Ohio and Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education. Then come back here and explain to me what the Dec. 7 policy statement actually does.

The problem with the genocide law is that sometimes genocide, especially as it’s defined here, is right and necessary. For instance, according to this definition the British committed genocide when they wiped out the Thugs. That’s fine, but I think everyone would agree they did the right thing.

Prof. Jacobson argues that the definition is too narrow. I would argue that it is too broad. Suppose a student who fails his Organic Chemistry exam shouts “Kill all the Organic Chemists” — which would violate the policy.
Or suppose the Cornell Football team chants “Kill all of the Columbia Football Team” — that is covered as well.

The Cornell students have tried President Pollack in absentia and found her guilty of “genocide.” Does that create an affirmative defense? I can engage in antisemitic chanting so long as I am protesting against genocide, which your policy agrees in “abhorent.”

The problem is cancel culture, which can only work if the substantial majority is trying to silence a small minority view. Here we have two large groups (20% of Cornell students are Jewish) trying to “cancel” each other. The only loser will be free speech.

*Ahem* Hamas was formed for the purpose of committing genocide of the Jews. It says so in their founding document, the Hamas Covenant.