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The Writing on the Wall: How 2024 Became 1938

“The Austrian painter should have finished the job” 

“You won’t be here anymore when I come back and shoot you”  

“Ya Qassam (Hamas) make us proud-take another soldier out” 

“Israel has got to go” 

All of these comments and many more have been said, just within the last month, to members of Students Supporting Israel (SSI) across North America.

Also this semester, at the University of Calgary and the University of Manitoba, the local SSI chapters were forcefully kicked off campus by their student unions for simply being, “Zionists.” One of the student union leaders at Manitoba wrote, “fuck your entire coming into existence, it’s been 76 years and you STILL don’t have the right to exist no matter how many countries you pressure to stand with you. Fuck all of that and fuck you.”

In a December 2023 congressional hearing on antisemitism, three elite university presidents could not condemn the call for the genocide of Jews, stating that, “it depends on the context.”

Last week, Columbia University President, Nemat “Minouche” Shafi, poorly defended herself and the Columbia administration at her congressional hearing while her school was simultaneously occupied for five days by blatant antisemites and Hamas supporters.

Last night, on a call with Columbia professor Shai Davidai, a Columbia student said “I just want to pack my bags, get on the first flight home and leave this university. I can’t be here anymore”. Other Jewish students are asking to finish their semester online, as they cannot walk to class or be in class anymore due to the poisonous environment that was created on campus.

The higher education system in North America was hijacked and is now facing a major crisis. Despite the presence of radical students and teachers, university leaders have failed to take action or responsibility.

While students on campuses across North America continue to proudly chant “Intifada, Intifada,” and “glory to our martyrs,” some students have taken this rhetoric one step further with actual physical violence. At Tulane University, a Jewish student had his nose broken after he rushed to save an Israeli flag that was set on fire. At Yale University, a Jewish student was stabbed in the eye with the pole of a Palestinian flag.

In 1989, my family immigrated to Israel from Kyiv, a city that was once the home to one of the most inspiring Jewish communities in the world. Leaders like Golda Meir and poets like Sholem Aleichem came from Kyiv along with so many others. But while Kyiv was once a home to many flourishing Jews, it also later became one of the largest graveyards for Ukrainian Jewry. In September of 1941, 33,731 Jews were massacred by the Nazis and their Ukrainian collaborators in Babi Yar in just two days. Fourteen members of my immediate family were killed by the Nazis within those two days.

Leah Estis, my great-grandmother, left Kyiv with her two young children just before the Nazis arrived. Her father and other family members who remained were killed.

As a child, I once asked my grandmother how the Nazis could have killed so many Jews in just two days. Her response has stuck with me until this day. She explained that it wasn’t just the Nazis who were responsible, but also the people who lived in the area, including her neighbors and friends.

The same people who she shared food with, who said hello to her every morning, and who welcomed her, all turned out to be Nazi collaborators. These “neighbors” and “friends” murdered the Jews in such a cruel way that even the Nazi SS officers were surprised.

And yet, we know that history tends to repeat itself.

Over the past 12 years, I have had the opportunity to work closely with college students at more than 200 universities. During this time, I have personally visited over 100 of these universities and have seen first-hand the efforts of our generation in fighting for the Jewish community in North America and beyond. Despite the challenges we face, I have always believed in our movement’s ability to take a leading role in this fight.

This mentality changed on October 7, 2023, when our higher education institutions quickly turned from places of inspiration and education to bastions of Hamas support and blatant antisemitism. From hearing constant death threats to being victims of physical violence, Jewish students now sit in the same classrooms as students who not only openly support Hamas, but also dream of their slaughter. When would the university leaders wake up? When a Jewish student is being severely injured or even worse?

Simply listen to the rhetoric college students are pushing on campus: “Globalize the Intifada,” “When people are occupied, resistance is justified,’‘ and “Yemen Yemen make us proud, turn another ship around.” It is no longer just, “free Palestine.” It is now “free our campuses from Zionists,” or “free the world of Jews.”

I cannot help but reflect on the fact that less than a century ago, 14 members of my family were murdered in Ukraine, where the Jewish community was completely assimilated and comfortable. This makes me wonder, what is stopping similar incidents from happening here? Having worked on college campuses across North America, I can say with certainty that it is ALREADY happening here.

The individuals who came up with the Final Solution for the destruction of European Jewry during the Nazi regime were highly educated. Similarly, many of the people currently leading or participating in protests against Israel and the Jews are “educated” individuals such as college students, professors, and deans.

The Nazi regime heavily indoctrinated its youth by dehumanizing Jews; successfully garnering society-wide support for their goals.

And what is happening on our college campuses today? The words “dirty Zionists,’ “Zionists pigs,” and “Zionists rats off campus,” are heard all over campus. The same generation that proudly waves the flag of ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusivity’ has also turned out to be the generation of pure Jew-hatred.

In the book ‘Night’ by Elie Wiesel, we read about Moishe the Beadle who warns his community about the Nazis and what they plan to do to the Jews. But no one listened; no one took him seriously. When the Nazis arrived, he survived while everyone else did not. The parallels between the 1930’s and 2024 across North America are frightening.

As the founder of the SSI movement and as someone who simply knows from his family background, I am urging everyone to understand the severity of this problem. The Jews of North America and beyond must be prepared for what is to possibly come.

The writing is on the wall. We must act before it is too late. For so many years we have said, “never again,” but the truth is never again is NOW!

The Students Supporting Israel movement will continue to mobilize day and night for the Jewish people and the Jewish state. While we are taking many hits, we are resilient and we will continue to fight back.

We are fortunate to be alive during this time as Jewish people. We are also the generation that will emerge victorious on all fronts. As young Israelis fight and devastatingly lose their lives in Gaza to safeguard the Jewish state, SSI continues to work to ensure that young students across North America fight fiercely on all of our campuses.

The Hamas student crowd wants us to fall, they want us to stop showing up and to be afraid of being labeled, “Zionists.” But being labeled “Zionists” is the greatest badge of honor we could have in 2024 on North American college campuses.

I PLEDGE that we will win this fight. We simply have no other choice.

Am Yisrael Chai. Chag Pesach sameach.

About the Author
Ilan Sinelnikov is the Founder and President of the national Students Supporting Israel movement.