FBI investigates anti-Semitic threats targeting Jewish students at Cornell University, Biden ‘very concerned’

By | October 31, 2023

The FBI said it was investigating a potential anti-Semitic hate crime at Cornell University, with President Joe Biden telling ABC News he was “very concerned” about rising anti-Semitism.

Over the weekend, numerous threats against Cornell’s Jewish community were posted on a website “unaffiliated” with the university, Cornell University President Martha Pollack wrote in a letter Sunday addressed to the community.

Online messages posted Sunday threatened violence against the school’s Jewish community and specifically mentioned the location of the Center for Jewish Life, where the kosher dining hall is located, Pollack said in his letter. One of the messages threatened to shoot Jewish students on campus, another encouraged others to engage in violence against Jewish students, according to Cornell’s student newspaper, The Cornell Daily Sun.

Pollack said the FBI was investigating the incident as a “potential hate crime.” The FBI has said it takes these threats seriously.

“The FBI is aware of threats made against the Jewish community at Cornell University,” the FBI said in a statement to ABC News. “We take all threats seriously and work closely with Cornell and our law enforcement partners at all levels to determine credibility, share information and take appropriate investigative actions.

The FBI asks anyone who sees suspicious activity to report it immediately to law enforcement.

“Nothing is more important than the safety of our communities and we will not tolerate violence motivated by hatred and extremism,” the FBI said in its statement.

The Cornell incident is part of a larger problem of anti-Semitism on college campuses, according to the White House, which has mobilized the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Education to combat speech by hatred on campus. On Monday, Biden told ABC’s Mary Bruce that he was “very concerned” about rising anti-Semitism.

During Monday’s press briefing, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the president was thinking of the Cornell community and that the administration was doing everything in its power to counter the anti-Semitism, including by making it easier to report students who are victims of discrimination.

“President Biden has been clear: we cannot stand idly by and remain silent in the face of hate,” she said. “We must unequivocally denounce anti-Semitism. We must also unequivocally denounce Islamophobia.”

On ABC’s “Good Morning America” ​​Monday, John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said the rise in anti-Semitism on college campuses was a “deep concern” as THE The war between Israel and Hamas rages in the Middle East.

Since the October 7 terrorist attack in Israel, the DOJ and DHS have shared public safety information with campus law enforcement. The DOJ also referred anti-Semitic complaints to its civil rights division. The surprise attack by Hamas terrorists killed more than 1,400 people, according to Israeli officials. Since then, more than 8,000 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

On Monday, New York Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul visited Cornell University’s Center for Jewish Life and held a news conference with Pollack. Hochul said no student should feel unsafe at Cornell and that threats such as those targeting the university’s Jewish community would not be tolerated.

“I came here in person with a strong message that we will not tolerate threats, hatred, anti-Semitism, or any form of hatred that makes people vulnerable, exposed and made to feel insecure. insecurity in a place where they should be enjoying their life on campus without fear that someone could harm them,” Hochul said.

Law enforcement is working to identify those responsible for the posts, Hochul said.

“Identifying who made threats and holding them accountable because you want to let people know that if you engage in these nefarious actions, these hate crimes, breaking our laws, you will be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent. of the law,” she said.

The Anti-Defamation League posted on that he is “horrified and disgusted” by anti-Semitic messages directed at Jewish students at Cornell.

“We have been in contact this evening with Cornell students and parents who are traumatized and fear for their safety,” wrote the New York and New Jersey chapter of the Anti-Defamation League. “We thank law enforcement for their quick response and for President Pollack’s strong statement of condemnation.”

ABC News’ Molly Nagle and Benjamin Siegel contributed to this report.

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