Jessica Abramsky

Being a Jewish student journalist in America during the Israel-Hamas War

Screenshot of a video from a pro-Palestine protest at Florida Atlantic University on Oct. 11. Screenshot courtesy of FAU alumna Ariana Hoblin.
Screenshot of a video from a pro-Palestine protest at Florida Atlantic University on Oct. 11. Screenshot courtesy of FAU alumna Ariana Hoblin.

I should be asleep because I have class in the morning, but I spend my days obsessively watching and reading the news on the Israel-Hamas War. I am a proud Zionist Jew with an Israeli grandfather.

I’m a 19-year-old junior at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and the editor-in-chief of FAU’s student-run newspaper, the University Press.

I have witnessed antisemitism firsthand since I was in grade six. In middle school and high school, staff found swastikas on students’ computers and drawn on the stall in the bathroom with the words “Heil Hitler” above it. Boca Raton, Fla., home to FAU, where I’ve lived my whole life, is a pretty Jewish area.

At universities and colleges around the nation, antisemitism and support for Hamas have become more popular. In the U.S., hate speech is protected by the First Amendment unless it is threatening or incites violence. 

Supporting Hamas is threatening and encourages violence. Shouting “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is threatening and encourages violence. Chanting for Intifada is threatening and encourages violence. In America, Hamas is recognized as a terrorist organization.

Luckily, FAU as a whole is a different story. There has been little outward support for Hamas on campus. A recent study by Brandeis University revealed the most and least antisemitic college campuses in the U.S. The data found that FAU was the fourth least antisemitic school in the nation. FAU prides itself on being one of the most diverse campuses in the U.S. and FAU’s administration is a staunch supporter of Israel, even though some employees and students are not.

Administrators have stood in solidarity with Israel since the start of the war and have sent multiple emails about the war to students, faculty and staff. In the first email, FAU strongly took this position. All emails sent by the administration did not acknowledge Palestinian deaths or Palestinian students at FAU.

As ardent supporters of Israel, Florida Atlantic University vehemently opposes the ongoing violence and loss of life witnessed this weekend in Israel and urges an immediate cessation of hostilities to avoid further loss of life,” FAU Interim President Stacy Volnick wrote to the FAU community on Oct. 9. “We condemn the terrorist attacks that were carried out against civilian communities and we support Israel’s right to defend itself.”

FAU students held a pro-Palestine protest on campus on Oct. 11. At this protest, three people, including a Jordanian student, were arrested for battery, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. The police report, published by Boca News Now, states the Jordanian student elbowed an Israel supporter.

This shocked me because until then, I felt safe and welcome at FAU. After seeing videos, hearing from students and editing my staff’s breaking news story on this incident, I felt uneasy. An expression of free speech escalated into a non-peaceful protest. Pairing this protest with the conversations I’ve had with people I am close with, I get the impression that people are not well-informed and don’t care to be.

FAU students and staff that I’ve spoken to have mixed feelings about the war, just like the rest of the world. But here are some key takeaways from some of the conversations I’ve had that have left me speechless: thinking that “from the river to the sea” references the Nile River, not knowing the Iron Dome exists, a Jewish journalism student claiming Israel committed war crimes without having facts to back it up and the saddness for Gazan children but no acknowledgement of Israeli civilians who were brutally raped, tortured, murdered and taken hostage. 

As a journalist, let alone a Jew, this scares me because it means that Americans don’t understand the history of Israel or what they’re protesting. This proves ignorance to the subject and incuriosity to learning about it. For journalists, this is dangerous because our jobs are to promote fact and truth, which can require a vast knowledge of history, which I think many Americans are lacking.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and do not reflect those of the University Press or its staff.

About the Author
Jessica Abramsky is a Jewish university student in the United States with a background in college and freelance journalism. She currently serves as the editor-in-chief of Florida Atlantic University's student-run newspaper, the University Press.
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