JERUSALEM — The chairman of the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, whose mandate is to use the example of the systematic genocide of millions of Jews by the Nazis in World War II as a teaching point to prevent such mass atrocities from happening again, believes that the rampant rise in antisemitism and anti-Zionism in the U.S., and around the world, stems from the inaction of administrators at Ivy League colleges and other institutions of higher learning.

Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan, speaking to Fox News Digital after a weeklong trip to the U.S. where he met with presidents, provosts and deans from East Coast colleges, including Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, New York University and Queens College, said that in many of these distinguished institutions, where there has been a sharp rise in incidents of antisemitism, there were academics peddling inaccurate theories about Israel.

"In Ivy League colleges across the U.S. … there are groups of academics, not all of them, but important academics, especially in the humanities and social sciences, that are meticulously, stone-by-stone and step-by-step, building pseudo-academic, pseudo-scientific, pseudo-intellectual theories justifying the elimination of the Jewish state," he said.


Pro-Palestinian demonstrators attend a protest at Columbia University

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators attend a protest at Columbia University in New York City on Oct. 12, 2023. (Julia Bonavita/Fox News Digital)

"Violent demonstrations with students calling ‘from the river to the sea’ or for a ‘global Intifada’ are, of course, extremely disturbing," said Dayan, a former Israeli consul general in New York. "But in some sense, these are just a symptom."

"With all those academic buzzwords about the ‘ethnic-nationalistic,’ ‘settler colonial,’ ‘colonization of Palestine’ and ‘apartheid,’ they are building slowly yet constantly, a pseudo-scientific truth of academic theories," he said, adding that "first it's the demonization of Israel and then justification, after that they are actively advocating for the elimination of the Jewish state, and that is terrible."

Dayan said that calling for the elimination of the world’s only Jewish state is "a terribly antisemitic thing to do."

Asked how the heads of the country’s premier educational institutions responded to his criticisms, Dayan said they immediately cited the First Amendment, freedom of speech and academic freedoms.

Supporters of Palestinians at Harvard University

Palestinian supporters gather for a rally at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Oct. 14, 2023. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)

"I am the last person to try to impair anyone's, anybody’s freedom of speech, even though the freedom of speech of pro-Israel students is being greatly endangered," he said. "But I do wonder what would happen if a sociology professor or a philosophy professor developed a pseudo-academic theory justifying ‘blackface’ or a pseudo-intellectual theory that would ostracize LGBTQ people, would it also be placed under the protection of the First Amendment?"

"We all know that if any professor published such theories, he or she would be fired the following day and rightly so," Dayan continued. "On the other hand, when a professor at Columbia or Harvard or Princeton publishes a pseudo-scientific call for the elimination of Israel, there is a good chance that he or she will be promoted."


Pro-Palestinian protesters at Harvard

A pro-Palestinian protest of Harvard students and their supporters is shown on the lawn behind Klarman Hall at Harvard Business School in Boston on Oct. 18, 2023. (Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

As the chairman of Yad Vashem, which was established by the Israeli government in 1953 with the aim of documenting, researching, educating and commemorating the Holocaust, Dayan said academic institutions in the West, which have been slow to condemn Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre – the single worst attack against Jews since the Holocaust – should learn from the past.

"It's hard for me to say this, but we have been there," he said. "The University of Heidelberg in Germany in the 1930s was no less prestigious than Harvard or Columbia. That university, together with other German institutions of higher learning, developed far-fetched, horrific and barbaric academic theories of racial inferiority of the Jews and racial supremacy."

"Universities and intellectuals are not immune from developing terrible theories to justify and advocate for atrocities … the mob that burned books written by Jews in Berlin in the 1930s were not the ignorant masses, they were the professors and the students of the elite universities of those days," he said.


UPenn is losing major donors

Several major University of Pennsylvania donors have cut ties with the school over its response to the Hamas terror attack on Israel. (Left: Hannah Beier/Bloomberg via Getty Images | Right: Paul Hennesy/Anadolu via Getty Images)

"I believe that in a certain sense, books are already being virtually burned in American universities," he said, emphasizing that while college administrators have taken some steps, such as banning anti-Israel groups on campuses, it is not enough.

"Of course, we all want to protect the Jewish students, but these attacks are a symptom and not the actual disease," Dayan said. "They have taken measures for the wrong reasons … because of pressure from donors, but that's not the reason why the president of a prestigious Ivy League university should take a stand against antisemitism, such a stand should come from his inner beliefs."

"Unfortunately, I don't see college administrators understanding this," he said. "They only respond to provocations, and they don't take a principled stand, rejecting antisemitism from their innermost convictions."


Hamas terrorists in Gaza

Palestinian Hamas terrorists are seen during a military show in the Bani Suheila district on July 20, 2017, in Gaza City. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Dayan added that even if the administrators, presidents or provosts did realize that allowing antisemitism to run rampant was not only destructive for the Jews but also for the future of the prestigious academies in the U.S., the problem would still not be immediately addressed.

"This is an uphill battle," he said. "But it is one that should be addressed starting today."

Fox News' Emily Robertson contributed to this report.