Talia Dror, a Jewish student at Cornell and the Vice-President of Finance for the Cornellians for Israel group, testified at a hearing hosted by the university. The hearing was held following a wave of antisemitic incidents including the threat of a mass shooting targeting Jewish students. Her account has quickly spread online, with her story ringing through traumatized Jewish student communities feeling unsupported by their institutions.
After addressing members of the Ways and Means Committee, Dror gives herself a short introduction where she describes herself as “the embodiment of the American dream. I am the child of an immigrant who fled Iran after facing religious persecution, dreaming of an America where she could openly raise a Jewish family.”
“I grew up hearing cautionary tales of blatant antisemitism,” Dror recounted. “How my grandfather was stabbed for being a Jew, how my mother was called “a dirty Jew” daily, how my family had to pretend they weren’t Jewish. But I never thought the horrific antisemitism they faced would follow us to the country we fled to for refuge.”
Describing Hamas’s October 7 massacre of 1,200 people in Israel, where several women were raped and mutilated, Dror explained how the violence transcended to her American university.
“39 days ago…my reality as a college student in the United States radically transformed. Students, professors and administrators at Cornell celebrated the massacre of innocent civilians. Just 5 days after the heinous terror attacks, the Student Assembly introduced a resolution calling Hamas “an armed resistance” and placing full blame for the October 7 attacks on Israel.
“At the hearing, I spoke about the fact that the very terrorists endorsed by that resolution called for a global Day of Rage the next day. I explained that as a Jewish student leader, my community is terrified to walk around the school they paid to attend because they are afraid of getting threatened, assaulted, or killed.
“Students at rallies chant genocidal phrases like “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” This is a chant that calls for the elimination of Israel and all 7 million Jews inside of it. This is a chant that calls for a second Holocaust. Students scream “intifada, revolution,” calling for deadly terror attacks on civilians.
“A Cornell professor announced that he was exhilarated and energized by the Hamas attacks by the murder of my family and friends,” Dror offered as one of the examples of extreme hate that the Jerusalem Post reported on.
Russell Rickford, a history professor, had made the comments during an October 15 pro-Palestinian rally.
He later issued an apology, writing: “I apologize for the horrible choice of words that I used in a portion of a speech that was intended to stress grassroots African American, Jewish and Palestinian traditions of resistance to oppression. “I recognize that some of the language I used was reprehensible and did not reflect my values.”
Dror continued “On October 25, Cornell students woke up to a campus vandalized with graffiti. It said “Zionism=genocide” and “new intifada.” That day, students walking into their classes stepped over calls for terror attacks and accusations of being genocidal for supporting the existence of the state of Israel.
“Cornell’s administration has made firm statements on everything, from supreme court cases to the war on Ukraine to the Black Lives Matter. But, in the wake of the deadliest day in Jewish history since the Holocaust, administrators have excused endorsements of terrorism under the guise of free speech. In their initial statement, they compared the “loss of life in the Middle East” to deaths caused by natural disasters. They allowed tensions to fester on campus, professors to use captive audiences to preach terrorist sympathies, and the target of Jewish students on their campus. They paved the perfect path for radicalized individuals to shift calls for the murder of Jews in Israel to calls for the extermination of Jews on campus.
“On the morning of October 29, the provost, in an address to concerned Jewish parents, explained that while he understands concerns for their children’s physical safety, that they shouldn’t be worried.
“Not seven hours later, Jewish students on campus received threats that stated “If I see another Jew on campus, I will stab you and slit your throat,” “If I see another pig female Jew, I will drag you away, rape you and throw you off a cliff,” “Jews are human animal and deserve pigs death. Liberation by any means. From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “Gonna shoot up 104 West, the kosher dining hall. Glory to Hamas. Liberation by any means necessary.”
The threats were investigated by the police, who arrested a student at Cornell.
“That night,” Dror recounted to the hearing. “I sat in my locked house pondering my mortality. I knew that with my roommates and I being openly Jewish community leaders, our apartment would be one of the first targets for someone looking to actualize the threats.
“I thought back to the stories my mother used to tell me growing up, how as a young child I found so much comfort in having the privilege of being protected by a country built on the foundation of equal opportunity and individual liberty.
“Two days later, I got the news that the threats were made by a fellow student. This wasn’t far away, he was at the same school I worked my whole life to get into. The school I invested my family’s hard-earned life savings to attend. The school promised me they would uphold a community of belonging.
“Universities have failed to uphold their self-proclaimed values of equity and belonging when it comes to Jewish students. The hypocrisy is glaring. In light of recent antisemitism, Jewish students on campus have been courageous and resilient but we shouldn’t need to be. American Jewish students on campus deserve better.