Top of Mind: Anti-Semitic Protesters

Author’s Note: This excerpt is from my weekly “Top of Mind” email, sent to subscribers every Thursday. For more content like this and to receive the full newsletter each week, sign up on Minding the Campus’s homepage. Simply go to the right side of the page, look for “SIGN UP FOR OUR WEEKLY NEWSLETTER, ‘TOP OF MIND,’” and enter your name and email.

Pro-Hamas protests continue to proliferate across colleges and universities nationwide, and I couldn’t let this week pass without sharing my thoughts on them once again. The question seemingly on everyone’s mind is: how do we think about these protests and what do we do about them?

Opponents of categorizing anti-Israel protesters—pro-Hamas—as anti-Semitic and those taking a free speech absolutist approach overlook critical truths about both the demonstrators and the broader movement opposing Israel.

While not every critique of Israel is rooted in anti-Semitism, it’s undeniable that American universities have become breeding grounds for anti-Jewish sentiment, and the protesters provide us with concrete evidence of this alarming rise. Khymani James, a prominent student activist at Columbia University and a spokesperson for “Columbia Apartheid-Divest,” is an illustrative case.

In a video posted to X, James articulated his belief that “Zionists don’t deserve to live.” He entertained the idea of murdering Zionists as well as remarked that people should rejoice over the death of Zionists in the same manner they celebrated Hitler’s death—only an overpriced Ivy League education could leave a person with such a misunderstanding of how problematic that parallel is, but I digress.

Supporters of these protests or those who oppose using police to dismantle encampments—whether from the left or free speech absolutists—may accuse me of cherry-picking. But those proponents don’t see all the cherries!

The protesters’ anti-Semitic views are unmistakably clear.

Homemade signs showcased at Columbia’s Gaza Solidarity Encampment bear inscriptions such as “PARADISE LIES IN THE SHADOW OF SWORDS” and “GLORY TO HE …WHO MAKES THE OCCUPIER TASTE BITTERNESS.” Each sign targets “‘THE SCUM OF NATIONS AND PIGS OF THE EARTH,’ a clear reference to Jews,” as The Hill reported.

Ironically, these words come at a time when university administrations still affirm that verbal expressions can constitute violence. Yet, authorities’ responses have thus far failed to quell instances of anti-Semitic intimidation. Even worse, some authorities are disregarding demands from college administrators to dismantle the encampments entirely.

Take, for instance, Washington, D.C.’s police department, which declined George Washington University (GWU) officials’ request to disperse anti-Israel demonstrators.

The department cited concerns about the optics of confronting a small number of so-called peaceful protesters (when did I last hear that phrase?)—a concern I find perplexing, given that optics were not a concern for D.C. police when they arrested pro-life protesters in 2020 for chalking a sidewalk.

Mason Goad captured scenes at GWU that showcased ample reasons for the police to takedown encampments, one being that the George Washington statue had been vandalized with paint—it was also draped with a Palestinian flag. Is vandalism what the left deems as peaceful protests?

We shouldn’t be taken aback by D.C. police’s inaction, however. It’s become almost expected in leftist cities, as D.C. crime reporter Alan Henney told me earlier this week. He pointed out that in recent years, “city officials have been increasingly lax in enforcing laws for everything from fare evading to traffic offenses, among other offenses.”

Spray-painting statues isn’t unique to GWU’s pro-Hamas protesters. Neetu Arnold captured protesters at the University of Pennsylvania trying to conceal “Zios get f***t” sprayed on the Benjamin Franklin statue.

Consequently, observers of this nationwide fiasco, including those who may shape policy or contribute to public discourse, must acknowledge that Gaza Solidarity Encampments and divestment protests are anti-Semitic. Like bread and butter, divestment is just an excuse to lather on anti-Semitic and anti-Western rhetoric.

Further, these protests represent a broader ideological shift within academia toward Marxist ideologies: Marxism’s critique of Western capitalist systems extends to Western support for Israel; the left sees Israel as an oppressor and Palestinians as oppressed—a narrative found throughout modern Marxist writing and thought.

This connection to Marxism is vivid at GWU. A photo of an encampment library, captured by Goad, features works such as I.X. Kendi’s “How to Be an Anti-Racist,” Che Guevara’s “Motorcycle Diaries,” Jason Stanley’s “How Fascism Works,” Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States,” Karl Marx’s selected writings, and Islamic flyers and pamphlets.

All we need to do is look back at history to understand how problematic this is.

As Ian Oxnevad aptly articulated, “It would be a mistake to dismiss the campus antics as just that. Student protestors and student groups in general are dangerous and have toppled governments and societies over the past century … Today’s burgeoning left wing totalitarians are indeed learning from history, as the Nazis did the exact same thing at the University of Vienna in 1938.”

Finally, it may seem like a matter of protecting students’ First Amendment rights to allow these protests to continue unchecked, and it may seem as if these students do not truly harbor anti-Semitic views. But many of these future leaders in education, government, and business do, in fact, harbor genuine anti-Semitic views and disdain for the West. And, with their disruptive protests—even setting the American flag on fire—monopolizing discussions with their perspectives on the Gaza-Israel conflict and compromising the freedom of others to learn and engage in open dialogue, they undermine the very principle of the First Amendment.

Photo by SWinxy — Wikimedia Commons 


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