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Diane Gensler
Hadassah Educators Council

An Urgent Message to the Protestors on US College Campuses

Image created by the author with some images from pngtree. Image courtesy of the author.
Image created by the author with some images from pngtree. Image courtesy of the author.

You want to do the right thing. I get it. You want to stop the killing of innocents in the Gaza Strip. And that is laudable. But you are doing more harm than good.

You are endorsing the violence that Hamas seeks to perpetrate, even if you are protesting peacefully. I’m sorry to tell you this, but you may even be their pawn.

Do you understand that the Hamas rulers of Gaza are not synonymous with the Palestinian people? Hamas actually subjugates the Palestinian people. Please read Newsweek’s “Message from a Gazan to Campus Protestors: You’re Hurting the Palestinian Cause” (April 25, 2024) by Hamza Howidy.

Hamas doesn’t care about the innocent people being killed. In fact, it is largely responsible for their deaths. While you may care about the innocent Palestinians, you are making the situation worse for other innocent people –American Jews as well as the worldwide Jewish community.

Hamas wants to eradicate Israel and wipe the Jewish people off the face of the earth. Through your protests, you are unwittingly supporting this horrific mission.

You may think Israel’s aim is to commit genocide, but you have it backwards. It is Hamas who seeks to commit genocide. Whether you are yelling “From the River to the Sea,” sitting in an encampment or asking for divestment and sanctions against Israel, you are supporting Hamas’ mission.

Your act of protesting, whether you are pro-Palestinian or pro-Israel but against the war–whatever your reason– is harmful.

Even if you are a Jew who is advocating for a ceasefire, you are not helping. You are contributing to antisemitism because you are inflaming a prejudice that for years has been lying dormant beneath the surface.

The hate you are expressing is making Jews around the world afraid for their lives, including your fellow Jewish college students (some of whom have to take classes from home now).

For many of us, memories of the Holocaust are now uppermost in our minds–memories of our ancestors’ murder because of antisemitism. We are afraid that the mass killing of Jews will happen again. Hamas would revel in this, just as they did in the murders, rapes and beheadings they committed in their October 7th rampage in Israel

How do you think the Holocaust started? The Nazis generated the same type of hatred. Six million innocent Jews and millions of other people the Nazis deemed undesirable paid the price with their lives. Is this your aim?

Hate speech often leads to violence, which inevitably spins out of control. Hamas counts on it. And this is what is happening right now.

Remember the lynchings of Black people, especially in the southern part of the US, in the 19th and 20th centuries? That was the aim of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Thanks to their hate speech, mobs rose up and took the law into their own hands. The result? Innocent people were murdered. The KKK’s mission was accomplished. Hamas wants you to be that angry mob.

Extremists target you because you are the most easily influenced, and they have access to you. They are frequently not fellow students. Be aware of who is talking to you. Be alert to whether the facts are accurate or not. Think carefully before you pick up a sign and start chanting words that may incite violence and ill will.  No college student should ever feel unsafe on campus.

Jew-hatred is spreading like wildfire. We need to stop this epidemic. How many Germans stood idly by while their Jewish neighbors and friends were sent to concentration camps and murdered in gas chambers or during mass shootings? What side of history do you want to be on? I beg you to stand down.

If you really want to protest against something, protest against Hamas. Demand that these terrorists return the hostages. That would be a worthy cause to get behind–and one that could alter the course of events in the Middle East. We must continue to hope for peace. That has to be our one true aim.

Hadassah’s policy statement on antisemitism calls on leaders — especially in government and education — to fervently fight antisemitism by:

  • Rejecting and denouncing growing antisemitism on college campuses, online and in our communities; raising awareness about antisemitism disguised as anti-Zionism and working to ensure antisemitism does not become normalized.
  • Taking steps to protect Jewish and Zionist students, including by swiftly addressing threats of violence and other forms of intimidation directed at these students, increasing institutional support and government funding to educate school officials about antisemitism and promoting collaboration with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights to investigate and rectify issues of harassment and discrimination.
  • Recognizing and adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism as the widely accepted tool to identify and address antisemitism in all its forms.
  • Support the continued implementation of the White House’s National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism across all national, state and local agencies and sectors.

Diane Gensler is a member of the Hadassah Educators Council.

About the Author
Diane Gensler is a Life Member of Hadassah Baltimore, a member of the Hadassah Educators Council and the Hadassah Writers' Circle, and a lay leader in her synagogue. She is the author of Forgive Us Our Trespasses: A Memoir of a Jewish Teacher in a Catholic School (Apprentice House Press, 2020) and occasionally writes articles for organizations of which she is a member, such as the Jewish Genealogy Society of Maryland. She is a certified English and special education teacher. In addition to teaching in public and private schools, she developed educational software, tutored online and wrote and managed online curriculum. She is a Maryland Writing Project Teacher Consultant and a mentor. A native Baltimorean and mother of three, she leads the Baltimore Jewish Writers Guild and holds volunteer positions in her children’s schools and activities.
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