Following weeks of reports detailing ongoing instances of antisemitism at the University of New Hampshire, Granite State Senate Republicans on Thursday formally called on UNH administrators to “simply reaffirm its commitment to denouncing all hate speech and racism, especially those related to antisemitic hate.
“Following the horrendous terrorist attack in Israel on Oct. 7, we’ve seen a sharp increase in antisemitic hate across the globe. This has ranged from physical and verbal attacks to targeting Jewish-owned businesses with graffiti to online hate speech and has led to fear and anxiety in the Jewish community. It is safe to say that no sensible person condones these actions or the perpetrators of them,” the senators wrote in a letter to UNH President James Dean. “Unfortunately, the University of New Hampshire has not been immune to this spreading hatred.”
None of the state’s 10 Democratic senators signed on to the statement, despite the letter featuring signatures from 13 of the 14 Republican senators.
The New Hampshire Senate Democratic Caucus and its leader, Sen. Donna Soucy (D-Manchester), declined to respond to requests for comment.
Senate President Jeb Bradley told NHJournal his Democratic colleagues were invited to participate in the letter but declined. They were also invited to make changes or additions to the widely-circulated statement, but declined to participate in the antisemitism statement.
“Had they [Democrats] done that, I would’ve taken it back to our caucus, and we would’ve discussed it,” Bradley said. “I think that Senate Democrats are into avoidance and thinking that it suits their interests better.”
Weeks after the surprise Oct. 7 attack by Hamas Palestinians resulted in the killing of 1,200 Israeli citizens, the Bradley-led New Hampshire Senate passed a resolution affirming the state’s support for Israel and its support for the safety and security of that nation’s people.
Meanwhile, American college campuses have become hotbeds for reports of antisemitism, and UNH has been no exception. Rallies on the Durham, N.H. campus have included calls for the destruction of the state of Israel. (“From the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free!”) And a UNH professor has compared Hamas to Jewish victims of Nazi Germany.
“We’ve seen student rallies utilizing offensive language and messages, swastikas painted on bathroom walls, and even faculty members voicing antisemitic hate speech,” the GOP senators wrote. “This is simply unacceptable from our state flagship university.”
So far, Dean has said he is allowing all speech, including antisemitic speech, in the name of the First Amendment. UNH spokespeople Thomas Cronin and Robin Ray did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
Last month, 50 students, many of them Jewish, signed a letter to Dean raising concerns about antisemitism on campus and asking him to act. Dean’s response was not a robust push against hate, instead reaffirming UNH’s free-speech stance.
“In as much as I am committed to the safety of our community, I am similarly committed to our role as a public university in protecting free speech on campus,” Dean wrote to the students. “The remedy for speech that some may find objectionable is not for the university to choose sides.”
Republicans say the issue isn’t Dean allowing the protests, but his refusal to speak out against them. If twenty-something UNH students really don’t understand history and geography well enough to know that “from the river to the sea” means the nation of Israel can’t exist, that’s Dean’s failure, not the students, critics say.
Bradley’s predecessor, former Senate President Chuck Morse, is even more direct in calling out the UNH administration, demanding Dean “stand up for our Jewish community.”
“During the course of this conflict, UNH President James Dean has prioritized progressive activism at the expense of ensuring the safety and well-being of his students,” Morse said in a statement.
Morse is a candidate in the GOP gubernatorial primary, and on Thursday, he distributed a petition “seek[ing] immediate action against professors who espouse antisemitic rhetoric, inviting individuals to add their names in solidarity and demand necessary changes.”
Morse and former U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte are seeking the GOP nomination for governor and the chance to succeed Gov. Chris Sununu. Ayotte recently attended a solidarity event outside the Elbit Systems USA facility in Merrimack, N.H., targeted by antisemitic vandals.
Sununu has also been outspoken in condemning UNH students’ chants of “From the river to the sea,” noting the popular leftist refrain is “nothing short of requesting another Holocaust.”
Support for Israel is currently a significant source of division within the Democratic Party, with progressives leading the charge in criticizing the Jewish state.
“Look at what’s happening nationally; where are the Democrats?” Bradley said, adding that progressives are undermining any support offered to Israel by President Joe Biden.
“And Biden is waffling,” Bradley said.
Additional reporting by Damien Fisher.