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If protestors actually cared about Palestinians

'Pro-Palestinian protesters' march outside Columbia University in New York City on April 18, 2024. (Kena Betancur / AFP).
'Pro-Palestinian protesters' march outside Columbia University in New York City on April 18, 2024.(Kena Betancur / AFP). At another protest yesterday, individuals were filmed shouting, 'We are all Hamas, pig!'

The horror, fury, and nausea I felt watching the news in Israel on October 7 are back. This time, it’s because I’m watching video after video of innocent Jews get harassed and attacked by their fellow students on college campuses around America.

At Yale, a Jewish student journalist was just stabbed in the eye with a Palestinian flag while attempting to cover a “pro-Palestinian protest” on campus. At Columbia,  the “pro-Palestinian protests” have gotten so out of control that the university’s Orthodox rabbi urged Jewish students to leave campus for their safety.

Calls to “globalize the intifada” — the term for a violent uprising against Israelis that does not differentiate between soldier and civilian  — have become so commonplace at the “pro-Palestinian protests” that have taken over American student life since October 7 that they’re almost boring. But now that protestors are shrieking “we are all Hamas, pig!” and “the 7th of October is going to be everyday for you,” the world must wake up and start calling this out for what it is:

These people are not “pro-Palestinian protestors.” They are anti-Jewish aggressors.

You know how I know this? (I mean, besides the obvious?) Because in order to be “pro” something, you need to actually advocate for, well, anything. Attacking Israel and harassing Jews, no matter how self-righteously you do it, does not make you pro-Palestinian. But actual pro-Palestinian protestors would be a valuable addition to today’s conversations — and of course, I firmly believe in the first amendment that grants every American the right to free speech and public assembly, not just the ones I agree with, so long as it doesn’t cross over into hate speech. So let me offer some good-faith free advice to all those who claim to care so much about this one particular cause:

How to have a pro-Palestinian protest, if you actually care about Palestinians:

  1. Call on the UN to scale up and improve its abilities to distribute humanitarian aid that is delivered to Gaza (by Israel, but you don’t even have to include that part). If you’re angry that the people of Gaza are not receiving enough food, water, medical supplies, and shelter since October 7, your biggest bone to pick should be with the UNRWA, UNICEF, WHO, WFP, and the other UN organizations that are failing at their jobs. They are letting aid pile up and wait on the Gazan side of the Kerem Shalom crossing because they simply don’t have the manpower and infrastructure to get enough aid distributed to Gazan civilians, or to protect it from being stolen by Hamas. Want to effect real change? Start with the UN.
  2. Call on Hamas to release the hostages (dead and alive) that they are still holding in Gaza. If Hamas did that, they would effectively end the war immediately; Israel would lose most, if not all, of its international legitimacy to continue fighting. Everything you do claims to serve the goal of pressuring Israel to stop the war for the sake of the Palestinian who are caught in the middle, but you have never once acknowledged Hamas’ role in dragging the fighting out without an end in sight. Want to save Gaza from another day of bloodshed? Put pressure on Hamas to end the war by releasing the Israeli hostages.
  3. Leave the Jews and Israelis on campus alone. You must know that the Jewish 19-year-old you’re harassing on their way to philosophy class has just as much to do with the IDF’s military policies as you do, right? Tell me, what could the Palestinians possibly have to gain by you shouting slogans and slurs at your fellow students thousands of miles away from this conflict? By associating yourselves with terrorists, using violent rhetoric, and engaging in actual violence and harassment, all you’re accomplishing is making your cause look bad. You’re creating an unsafe environment for Jews that have just as much of a right to be on your campus as you do. What you’re not doing is freeing Palestine.

If you’re on a college campus (or reporting on one) and you find that none of the above sounds palatable to these “protestors,” the time for changing the narrative is now. Again, I’m the first one to say that not all anti-Israel sentiment is anti-semitic, but the students at Yale and Columbia have not so much blurred the line as thrown that line into a river or a sea. If they’re never going to advocate for things that would actually benefit the Palestinians, and if their advocacy hinges on harassing Jews and Israelis who have absolutely nothing to do with the conflict, they no longer get to call themselves “pro-Palestinians. They’re good, old fashioned, straight-out-of-1939 anti-Semites. The least they, and we, could do is be honest about it.

About the Author
Rachel Lester served in the IDF Spokesperson's Unit for four years, creating videos for the IDF's millions of social media followers and running the international video department as creative director. She was called into reserves on October 7 and stayed for six months. Rachel is an alumna of the University of Southern California and holds a Masters in Government from Reichman University.
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