Marc Rowan: It’s time to ‘exact a price’ for antisemitism

Apollo Global Management CEO and UJA-Federation of N.Y. chair says campus protests are not about antisemitism but anti-Americanism, calls on Israel to take responsibility for mending ties with White House in recent interview for Israeli VC firm's podcast

Marc Rowan, the CEO of Apollo Global Management who has emerged as a leading voice of the donor-class against antisemitism on college campuses, described the anti-Israel protests at universities across the country as having less to do with Israel and the Jews than with “anti-Americanism.”

“It’s not antisemitism. It is anti-Americanism,” he said on the Aleph venture capital firm’s latest podcast, which aired yesterday. “We are in the middle of a takeover of our elite academic institutions by a dominant narrative that you can call post-colonial education: Oppressed versus oppressor, powerful or powerless,” said Rowan, who successfully led a group of alumni threatening to withhold donations unless the university removed its president, Liz Magill, and board of trustees chair, Scott Bok.

In the hour-long interview, which also focused on Rowan’s philanthropic interests, his views on Israel and its relationship with the United States and his investment ideologies, the CEO and chair of UJA-Federation of New York called for the Jewish community to “exact the price” for antisemitism.

“There’s been no price to pay for being an antisemite,” he said. “These kids who are marching [at anti-Israel demonstrations], they don’t think about it because there’s been no price to pay. But if you come to Apollo, I would not hire you if you were anti-Black. I wouldn’t hire if you were anti-gay. I wouldn’t hire you if you were anti-anything. Why would I hire an antisemite?”

Rowan called for the Jewish community to “call out the 20 worst universities, the 20 worst civic organizations and the 20 worst philanthropic institutions. We should make it embarrassing to serve as a director on these boards and trustees.”

“One positive side effect of [Oct. 7 attacks is that] the Jewish community in the U.S. is off the sidelines. They are engaged and now they just need to be directed,” he said.

Rowan, who has regularly criticized academics for focusing more on diversity than excellence, said university trustees must force the schools to change. 

“The narrative is so dominant that it has squelched conservative voices or merit-oriented voices to the point where they’re just nonexistent,” he said. “So an outside force — trustees — I believe, need to come in and help re-center some of these institutions.”

Rowan said he was in Abu Dhabi when the Oct. 7 attacks took place. (He noted that the Emiratis are “by far the largest investors” in his company, with “north of $35 billion” under its management.)

Rowan was critical of both the U.S. and Israel for their conduct over the course of the conflict, beginning with feeling embarrassed that Hamas was able to carry out the Oct. 7 attacks in the first place.

“I was embarrassed, actually, to think that a failure of this scale could happen, particularly in the south where the people already feel neglected,” he said. “As a proud supporter of the State of Israel, as someone who looks to the IDF and to what Israel does, the notion that a group of amateurs could cause damage of the scale was embarrassing and then tragic.”

Without blaming anyone in particular, Rowan said that Israel quickly lost global sympathy and found itself accused of genocide and facing a large protest movement.

“The world was on Israel’s side,” he said. “Israel had carte blanche to come in and do this, and [the fact that seven months] later we have lost the narrative is just insane.”

Rowan, who recently spoke at a fundraiser for Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), who is seen as being on the short-list of potential Republican vice presidential candidates, said the upcoming election may hinge on Israel and whether its war against Hamas amounts to genocide.

“That’s not a great thing for the president and that pushes the president to be tough on Israel, which actually undermines Israel’s leverage with hostage negotiations. It undermines its leverage with Hezbollah. It undermines its potential discussions with Saudi [Arabia],” Rowan said.

Yet when asked by Aleph co-founder Michael Eisenberg who should do more to resolve tensions between Israel and the U.S., Rowan indicated the former.

“The onus right now is on the Israeli government to take steps, to not tell Biden ‘no’ at every turn. [Israel should] appreciate the position that [Biden] is in, which is a political position, and do that which is necessary to garner support for what needs to be done,” he said, clarifying that was destroying Hamas.

Rowan stressed the closeness that American Jews felt toward Israel, noting that in a normal year the UJA-Federation of N.Y. raises roughly $250 million, but this year — in response to the Oct. 7 attacks — it will likely raise $450 million. 

“What’s the importance of the Jewish state? We find it every day. It’s our refuge,” he said.