Now that university presidents have learned how to respond to members of Congress without digging themselves into a public-relations hole, the lawmakers’ own statements will stand out a bit more. And one talking point that has cropped up among Democrats reveals both a misunderstanding of how to combat anti-Semitism and a desire to pass the buck.

At Thursday’s hearing, which focused on Rutgers, UCLA, and Northwestern, some lawmakers continued a line of argument they had used in previous hearings: that anti-Semitism is happening on these campuses because the federal government doesn’t have enough money to stop it. It’s a preposterous claim, but since it’s become a regular talking point it’s worth calling out before it catches on further.

“The civil rights division of the Department of Education just reported in 2023 they had a record number of complaints for the department,” intoned Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.). “If you go back to 2009, it’s tripled in terms of the number of complaints—and a lot of those complaints involve anti-Semitism. But the staffing level at the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Education back in 2009 [was] larger than it is today.”

Courtney then echoed his colleague Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia and accused Republicans of trying to cut that division’s budget, “which I would characterize as the equivalent of defunding the anti-Semitism police. I think it’s our job at some point to focus on the fact that we need to beef up the ranks of that department whose mission it is to investigate and to curtail this type of activity.”

This is an almost-clever play on “defund the police,” the slogan that divided Democrats during and after the George Floyd demonstrations. But it is marred by the instant recoiling one cannot help but feel toward the dreadful phrase “anti-Semitism police.”

Three makes a trend, and Suzanne Bonamici (D-Oregon) joined the chorus. “Because this is also a Title VI issue, let’s focus as ranking member Scott and Rep. Courtney said, on equipping the office of civil rights with the resources that it needs rather than cutting their budget.”

Scott and Bonamici both gave quite contemptible performances, complaining about holding the hearings (i.e., doing their job) while remaining militantly unwilling to condemn anti-Semitism without diluting it with “and Islamophobia.” Courtney, however, seemed to be acting in good faith.

For example, Courtney voted in favor of the Antisemitism Awareness Act earlier this month, which assists the Education Department with identifying Title VI-related civil-rights violations concerning anti-Semitism on campus. Courtney, then, can at least lay claim to consistency. Not so Bonamici and Scott, who voted against the Antisemitism Awareness Act.

Whatever Bonamici and Scott are worried about, it isn’t Title VI enforcement. In fact, responding to a plea for civil rights enforcement from Jewish students by demanding more cash has a certain “Your money or your life” ring to it. Is this a protection racket?

Bonamici is particularly hostile to doing her job. Instead of having hearings and investigating the problem, she wants Congress to “work with experts on anti-Semitism, legal scholars with expertise in the area, people knowledgeable in the field who can help us determine what the government response can and should be to the increase in anti-Semitism and racial hostility on campuses.”

First of all, the “anti-Semitism and” does not go unnoticed there. Second, “anti-Semitism experts” already told you what to do about it. They said vote for the Antisemitism Awareness Act. You, Suzanne Bonamici, chose not to follow their advice. Third, the “government response” is to hold these hearings as part of their investigative process. Suzanne Bonamici may not be doing very much with her time, but committee chair Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) has been pairing the hearings with a comprehensive document dive to find out what has been going on at these campuses for years now, and those investigations have informed the subsequent hearings.

“Give us more money” is not an answer here. Neither is anything called “the anti-Semitism police.” Universities are teaching their students blood libels and then encouraging those same students’ physical expression of that anti-Semitism. They are doing so with public money. If that doesn’t bother you, you might be morally unfit to serve in Congress. If it bothers you that it bothers others, the areas of public life for which you are morally unfit expands exponentially.

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