Sen. Josh Hawley is incensed by a Missouri professor’s support for tormenting a prominent Jewish American – and by what he says is the university’s milquetoast response to it.
Responding to a potentially criminal Thanksgiving Day demonstration outside the home of a Jewish official in the Los Angeles area – in which fake blood was splattered and smoke bombs were set off – Washington University in St. Louis professor Bret Gustafson enthusiastically endorsed the acts, posting on social media platform X:
“Nobody was harmed. It was an escrache tactic (Look it up). Pretty cool I’d say. Let those who enable mass murder not live in peace.”
An escrache tactic is one in which demonstrators try to shame public officials, particularly at their homes.
This went far beyond that, Hawley argues, saying the professor’s support of “vandalism and terrorism” outside an American’s home is reprehensible. It also appears from his post that Gustafson is saying the Jewish American in question – the president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, also known as AIPAC – is among “those who enable mass murder.”
“This professor, he was celebrating the fact that people are setting off bombs, lighting gas canisters outside the homes of Jewish Americans,” Hawley told The Heartlander in an interview Thursday. “Just let that sink in. These people are committing acts of vandalism and terrorism outside Jewish Americans’ homes, and you’ve got a guy who is getting paid by WashU – a professor – who’s celebrating it.
“Now, that may be a First Amendment right, I suppose. You can celebrate terrible stuff, I guess. But I don’t know why WashU wouldn’t come out and say, ‘Uh, that’s morally reprehensible.’ And I would just say they have a moral obligation to do so. And I think the fact that they’re silent about this is really telling. Really, really telling.”
A university spokesperson did not respond to The Heartlander’s inquiry as of publication, but had issued a statement earlier claiming “the opinions expressed by this faculty member as an individual do not represent the university’s position. We do not condone intimidation and we will not tolerate discrimination, harassment or threatening behavior.”
That’s not enough, Hawley argues, calling for a more forceful condemnation of Gustafson’s post by the university’s chancellor.
“That’s a good start,” Hawley said of the initial statement. “Now do something about this professor. “I think they need to be clear that he can have his views and, again, they’re protected by the First Amendment. But when you’re actually celebrating attempted acts of terrorism against Jewish Americans in their homes – I mean, this is the United States.
“Just imagine if this were reversed. Imagine if it were a professor who was celebrating acts of terrorism trying to blow up the homes of Palestinian Americans. Do you think they’d tolerate that? I doubt it. I doubt it. These are the same people who are rushing around saying, ‘Oh, the big issue is Islamophobia, it’s not anti-Israel, it’s Islamophobia.’ Listen, any targeting of Americans or anybody in this country on the basis of their religious beliefs or their ethnicity is wrong. And I don’t know why, when it comes to Jewish Americans, we can’t just say that.”
Hawley said he had not heard from the WashU chancellor as of midday Thursday.
“No, I haven’t. I haven’t heard a word. It’s the same old silence that we’re hearing from all of these woke universities all over the country. They’ve got their students out there, their professors out there, calling for the destruction of Israel.
“It’s so pathetic. But it’s so typical of the kind of moral bankruptcy we see at these universities. You have all of these students and all of these professors out there calling for the destruction of Israel, assaulting Jewish students on campus – and these universities, they can barely even clear their throats. I mean, it’s unbelievable.”
For his part, media reports say Gustafson is completely unrepentant – budging only to say he’ll take the post down if the perpetrators in the incident are charged with hate crimes. In fact, Gustafson claims a raging backlash against his statement has brought him threats, and is a “tactic to silence” critics of Israel.
Hawley’s having none of that.
“Yeah, right. Exactly. He’s the victim, in other words. Right. He’s celebrating the potential killing of Jews, but he’s a victim. A tenured professor or a tenure-track professor at an elite university, getting paid six figures a year – he’s the victim.
What exactly should the university do?
“Well, I think No. 1 they need to be clear that these are morally reprehensible statements,” Hawley said. “No. 2, they need to say that they stand with Israel and they stand with Jewish Americans – that there should be no question that Jewish Americans on campus need to be safe, that Israel has a right to exist. And people who are celebrating terrorism – so, you want to go out and criticize Israel, fine. But there’s a big difference between doing that and saying, ‘Yeah, it’s great to blow up gas canisters outside of Jewish Americans’ homes.’
“That’s just nuts.
“And this [teacher], they ought to take a hard look at what he’s saying in the classroom. Is he singling out Jewish students in the classroom? If he’s willing to post this on social media and then cry that he’s a victim, what’s he doing to Jewish kids in his classroom?
“I mean, this is crazy. It’s just crazy.”