MIT student activist blames school for lackluster response to anti-Semitism

Jewish students at MIT have been met with calls for violence, with some expressing disappointment in how their university leaders have responded.

When student Liyam Chitayat reached out to the anti-harassment office on campus about calls for violence by Palestinian activists, she was told to go to therapy.

After organizing and speaking at a pro-Israel demonstration at MIT in October, a Jewish student leader tells Campus Reform her university is not doing enough to support its Jewish students.

Liyam Chitayat, an MIT doctoral student and fellow at the Hertz Foundation, discussed calls for violence against Jews, a lackluster university response, and struggles in forming a Jewish student group on campus.

“Maybe they think that some sort of neutral stance is the least inflammatory,” Chitayat said of her university’s administrators, “where, in fact, anyone who acts as a bystander or is complacent with that, the blood will be on their hands.”

While Chitayat said that she can understand why Palestinian students with family and friends in Palestine want to express their pain and fear for their families, some others have crossed a line.

She recounted how at a recent large pro-Palestinian protest at MIT, attendees called for “Intifada,” which are terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, and chanted “from the river to the sea,” which refers to the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea and is a call for the erasure of Israel.

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In response to these calls for violence against Jews, Chitayat reached out to the MIT Institute Discrimination and Harassment Response Office, but she says she did not get the support she was looking for.

“The institute said I can reach out to mental health support, as if the right response to physical threats and calls to violence is going to therapy,” she stated.

Days after the war began, MIT President Sally Kornbluth released a video message where she condemned the violence against Israel and acknowledged the fear of Jewish students, while also noting that “antisemitism and anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hatred are corrosive, and they’re poisonous to our community.”

“That [statement] to me was really disappointing because there’s a really fine line between freedom of speech and unequivocal incitement of violence,” Chitayat said. “There should be clear condemnation of any calls like that.”

[RELATED: Harvard hosts record number of pro-Hamas rallies in one week: report]

Chitayat and other Jewish students who organized the October demonstration at MIT are actively trying to form a student organization, called the MIT Students Israel Alliance. But even that, Chitayat said, has not been simple.

“We’re not yet an officially recognized student organization, but we will be soon,” she said.  “People treat this as politics, but it’s not politics.”

Chitayat said that overall, her experience as a Jewish student at MIT has left her “somewhere between heartbroken and angry.”

“I thought I was surrounded by people who wanted to do good. And I found that a lot of them don’t care about truth,” she added.  “And they don’t care about human life, they care about their little game of identity politics.”

Campus Reform has contacted MIT for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.