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:
- Killing members of the group;
- Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
- Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
- Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
- Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
(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.
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.
.@Cornell very narrowly defines calls for genocide that would violate campus policy. Has to be “explicit” call to kill “all” members of a group. Killing most of a group would not be covered. Killing Israeli Jews but not “all” Jews not covered. Clearly defined to avoid the… pic.twitter.com/Y2zPT25kDy
— William A. Jacobson (@wajacobson) December 10, 2023
@Cornell has adopted its own narrow definition of genocide, differing from the Genocide Convention and U.S. law, which defined genocide as destroying or trying to destroy a group “in whole or part.” They’d rather define genocide down than upset intersectional progressives. https://t.co/sjufSgsBfd
— Eugene Kontorovich (@EVKontorovich) December 11, 2023
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