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Evaluating The Widespread Support for Palestine on College Campuses


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On October 7, 2023, the Middle East became the grounds for war—as the terrorist organization Hamas launched a vicious surprise attack in which they took 132 hostages. In response, Israel declared war on Hamas and the United States provided them with over $250 million in military aid. Subsequently, pro-Palestianian protests have erupted on college campuses around the country—expressing their solidarity with Palestinians, frustration with the United States’ support for Israel, and overall anti-Zionism. Resolutions that call for institutional divestment have become extremely widespread. One example is the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Movement, which claims that “Israel is occupying and colonizing Palestinian land, discriminating against Palestinian citizens of Israel and denying Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes” (AJC). It is important to note however that Jewish people are also indigenous to the land of Israel and have been living there for over 3,000 years. 


The largest encampment, in which students have camped out on college grounds in a show of solidarity with Palestine and calling on their institutions to hear their demands for divestment, is set up at Columbia University. At this encampment, over 100 pro-Palestinian protestors have been arrested as a result of their occupation of an academic building, in which the students barricaded classroom doors, broke windows, and locked two janitors in the building overnight. Additionally, this encampment on Columbia locked arms and prohibited the entry of Jewish students. As a result, a class action lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of New York accusing the university of violating safety protocols by allowing "extremist protesters" to intimidate Jewish students and “push them off campus” because of safety concerns (NBC News). Despite this, Columbia University has extended the deadline for protests to stop their encampments.


Columbia University president Dr. Nemat Shafik was questioned amid Congressional hearings about free speech on US college campuses. While she condemned antisemitism, she failed to acknowledge the common pro-Palestinain phrases including “from the river to the sea,” and the calls for the globalization of intifada were themselves anti-Semitic. From the river to the sea is a phrase that, according to the American Jewish Committee, is used as “a rallying cry for terrorist groups and their sympathizers, which called for Israel’s destruction in its original governing charter in 1988 and was responsible for the October 7, 2023 terror attack on Israeli civilians, murdering over 1,200 people in the single deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust.” Such calls to violence against a certain religious group express how this phrase is not only anti-Semitic but also incites violence preying on a specific ethnic group. Calls for intifada, which have also been widely chanted on encampments, refer to aggressive resistance against Israel and those who support Israel. The Arabic word “Intifada” directly refers to “uprising.” It has been used to describe two major periods of intense violent periods of intense Palestinian protest against Israel: The First Intifada from 1987-1990 and the Second Intifada from 2000-05. 


Regardless of how you feel about Israel or its actions, it is essential to ensure that all students are treated equally and feel safe on college campuses around the country. In addition to the students' calls for divestment and action, their alleged criminal actions have led to consequences such as probation and arrests. Yet they still seek cooperation from the administration, despite certain individuals' actions and causes ensuing widespread fear amongst Jewish students. As more and more protests take place, it is clear that institutions around the country must address the antisemitism prevalent on their campuses.


Sources:

“From The River To The Sea” | #Translatehate. (2024, March 4). AJC. 


Impelli, M. (2024, April 29). Pro-Palestinian protesters ask for Home-Cooked meals. Newsweek. https://www.newsweek.com/pro-palestinian-protesters-northwestern-university-ask-home -cooked-meals-1895135 


Jewish And Pro-Palestinian Students At Columbia University Accuse School Officials Of Discrimination In Competing Complaints. (2024, April 30). NBC News. 


Matza, B. M. (2024, April 18). Columbia University president defends efforts to combat antisemitism. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-68838018 


Reporter, G. S. (2024, May 17). USC Vetoed a Muslim Student’s Graduation Speech for Her Pro-Palestinian Views. Why? The Guardian


What Does “Globalize the Intifada” Mean and How Can it Lead to Targeting Jews with Violence? (2024, May 9). AJC. 

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