The Campus War against Israel

Pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel demonstrators at a rally in Times Square, October 13, 2023. (Luke Tress / JTA)
Pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel demonstrators at a rally in Times Square, October 13, 2023. (Luke Tress / JTA)

While Israel contemplates the invasion of Rafah, leading universities in the United States have been definitively invaded by masses of Hamas sympathizers. Since the outbreak of the war on October 7, the lives of Jewish students on prestigious campuses in the United States have become precarious. Severe violence against Jewish students, incitement, calls for the murder and rape of Jewish students, graffiti and vandalism including swastikas and the marking of Jewish residences with Star of David symbols – all of this is happening on leading American campuses that nurture the leaders of tomorrow.

The response from university administrations? Mere murmurs. At a hearing of the American Congress’s Education Committee, Columbia University President Nemat Shafik, whose institution has become the largest pro-Hamas campus of them all, evaded accountability. Republican Congresswoman Elise Stephanik, who had already brought about the dismissal/resignation of Harvard President Claudine Gay and University of Pennsylvania President Liz McGill after the imfamous claim in those hearings that calls for genocide of Jews must be “context dependent” to break university rules, queried Shafik about whether she has encountered antisemitic demonstrations on her campus. Her astonishing response was “no”.

Days later, just before Passover, Jewish students at Columbia were urged by Orthodox Rabbi Elie Beuchler not to return to campus until their security could be assured. Israeli professor Shai Davidai, who leads the fight against antisemitic demonstrations on campus and battles with all his might against the university administration’s negligence, was not allowed onto campus grounds for fear of his safety. “A terrorist organization has seized control of the university, and the state must intervene and take control of the campus,” tweeted Davidai. Tent camps were set up at Columbia and spread to other universities, including MIT, Yale, Berkeley, and other campuses from where Hamas and Hezbollah are encouraged to “burn Tel Aviv to the ground” and “execute October 7 every day.” The situation is completely out of control, and even the White House issued a condemnation and labeled the events at Columbia “dangerous antisemitism”. The Governor of New York and the Mayor of the city also stood up to denounce and demand the restoration of public order.

In response to the situation we are still witnessing, the International March of the Living is launching the first ever University Presidents and Chancellors Mission from the United States and Canada to the annual March of the Living taking place on the Yom HaShoah this year. By participating in this solemn mission, the hope is that university leaders will bring home their insights to fight antisemitism, hatred, and racism on campus.

The presidents, who come from a diverse group of colleges and universities, including public, private, Catholic, Evangelical, and historically Black colleges and universities, will be also joined in Poland by a delegation of survivors from the October 7 attacks – injured victims, bereaved families, released hostages and families of those still hostage – giving them the opportunity to see the direct impact of the antisemitic attacks perpetrated by Hamas, which have earned support as US campuses.

The truth is, Americans have no idea what to do with a tsunami of terror-supporting students at the heart of their prestigious universities. These universities have long been ideologically conquered, and now, even physically, the Israel-Hamas has led to the explosion we see today. Supporters of Israel’s elimination have been gathering momentum since the Durban Conference held in South Africa in 2001. There, the “soft” campaign against Israel began: Israel = Apartheid, Zionism = Racism, and these simple, catchy messages have fueled today’s Hamas-supporting students on campuses. We are now seeing the rotten fruits of a long process of delegitimization and dehumanization of the State of Israel among young American generations, cutting across sectors, religions, and ethnicities.

Leaders of Israel’s delegitimization, students and professors alike, have successfully hijacked the human rights agenda, turning Israel into the epitome of global evil, even without concealing their ultimate goal: the annihilation of the Jewish state. The slogan “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which has become famous only in recent months, is a rallying cry for delegitimization supporters for decades. The American “context”, freedom of speech, and extreme progressivism have for years normalized calls for the destruction of the State of Israel.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in Jewish philanthropy, including funds from the State of Israel, flowing into universities and student organizations on campuses, have not changed the picture. It cannot. Not when, according to the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISAGP), billions of dollars from Qatar are flowing into to elite universities as part of a soft power to grow extremists ideologies. Jewish organizations stood no chance of stopping the Palestinian pro-wave that flooded the campuses. Israel Apartheid Week, held every year, with its violent and harsh displays against the State of Israel, were met with stands selling Challah bread, and Jewish students became isolated, if not ostracized. Even the withdrawal of massive donations from major Jewish businessmen like Robert Kraft, Bill Ackman and others,  since the recent wave of antisemitism did not change the picture. University administrations are trapped in empty slogans, turn a blind eye, and the smoke of burning Israeli flags on campuses does not penetrate the detached administration building.

In 2024, Jewish students have no safe haven, and an obvious solution is not on the horizon. However, amidst the turmoil on campus, education can still be a beacon of hope. The antidote to bad education is good education. It’s time to reclaim our campuses as bastions of knowledge, critical thinking, and respect. By fostering an environment where dialogue triumphs over division, where facts prevail over propaganda, we can rewrite the narrative.

We must continue the fight for the narrative of the rightful war against Hamas; and we must continue the fight for Israel’s right on campuses.

About the Author
Revital Yakin Krakovsky is Deputy CEO of the International March of the Living, senior advisor to the Combat Antisemitism Movement, and a former senior department head in the Ministry of Strategic Affairs.
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