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Education Secretary Cardona condemns antisemitism at House hearing

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(WASHINGTON) — Education Secretary Miguel Cardona faced a barrage of questions on antisemitism and college protests during a more than three-hour hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, but repeatedly condemned all forms of hate.

“Make no mistake, antisemitism is discrimination and is prohibited by Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” Cardona said. “Every student deserves to learn in an environment where they can feel free to be themselves without discrimination or fear, or safety.”

Republicans have seized on antisemitism as an election-year issue, claiming the administration isn’t doing enough to stop it.

When Republican Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer asked Cardona if he would withhold federal funding, he replied, “if schools refuse to adhere to Title VI — absolutely.”

Cardona pointed to the department’s 145 open Title VI investigations — 100 of which were started after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

He took every opportunity to ask for Congress’ help in carrying out the investigations.

“We’re asking for a $22 million increase in our [FY 2025] budget,” he said, adding, “We need additional investigators to close out these cases and make sure we’re providing support for our students.”

Cardona said he was appalled by the unrest on some college campuses.

“There should be no place on any campus — no place in America — for antisemitism or threats of violence against Jewish students,” he said. “There is no place for hate speech or violence of any kind.”

Rep. Kevin Kiley, R-Calif., who has been dogged in antisemitism hearings with the presidents of Ivy League schools, grilled Cardona on the encampments at some universities.

“For students who have been told to leave and other protesters in the encampments that are refusing to do so, what is your message to them? Will you tell them to — as the secretary of education — that they need to leave?” Kiley asked.

There were also references to both rising antisemitism and Islamophobia from Democrats.

Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat and one of the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress, said “emotions are running high,” arguing that students protesting genocide in Gaza had been alienated from their schools.

“What I’m hearing from [Jewish and Muslim] families is that they’re scared,” Cardona said. “Children are having to hide symbols of their faith on their way to class so that they are not targeted. That to me — as a father and educator — is something that I stand against.”

He condemned all violent threats against Muslims and Arabs.

But Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, the committee chair, said Cardona’s answers didn’t meet her bar.

“You unequivocally condemned anyone from saying ‘kill all Muslims.’Good for you,” Foxx said in her closing remarks. “We all should condemn that. And yet, given multiple opportunities, you wouldn’t condemn ‘from the river to the sea,’ nor would you condemn calls for campuses to eliminate Hillel,” referring to the Jewish campus organization.

“How can the Jewish community in this country trust you to combat antisemitism on campus if you have such double standards of antisemitism?” she asked.

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