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Anti-Israel Protests Roiled Campuses in May — and Led to Dangerous Concessions

Pro-Hamas demonstrators at Columbia University in New York City, US, April 29, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs

The academic school year ended with the anti-Israel movement making significant gains on and off campus. The most visible development was the appearance of protests, encampments, building takeovers, and marches at numerous universities across the US.

An analysis revealed that between October 2023 and May 2024, more than 300 protests were held and more than 120 encampments were created. The distribution, however, was strongly correlated with the status of institutions, with protests most common at highly selective or elite institutions where fewer students received Federal aid.

The implication is that pro-Hamas protests are largely an upper class and not a working class phenomenon. Notable encampments and takeovers occurred at Columbia University, UCLA, Portland State University, the University of Chicago, and elsewhere. In these and other cases, police intervention was required after lengthy negotiations with students broke down. Encampments were established and then cleared, either by police or by agreements, with many being reestablished within days and then cleared once again.

With few exceptions, mainstream media depictions of the May protests emphasized Israeli violence and student non-violence, the participation of Jewish students, and the purity of protestors’ motives and spontaneous actions.

Actual reporting noted the national plans to create encampments had circulated in the fall semester, and extensive training was provided to students on tactics such as seizing and securing buildings, and on strategic goals including recreating the widespread unrest of 2020.

Review of social media postings also revealed frequently antisemitic and violent rhetoric, such as the threat to “guillotine” George Washington University president Ellen Granberg. The damage caused to university property by encampments was considerable, but damage to occupied buildings was profound. Damage to the Portland State University library amounted to at least $1 million and at least $3 million at City College of New York, while extensive damage was also done to the University of California system headquarters in Oakland.

The May campus protests also highlighted the role of professional agitators in organizing anti-Israel protests and their links to earlier Black Lives Matter and other protests. Training materials provided by National Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) to encampment organizers also contained a variety of practical manuals for urban insurgency, as well as materials glorifying the Palestinian “resistance” and other violent revolutionary movements.

Commencement disruptions were frequent in May, with many graduates costuming themselves in keffiyahs, with bloody hands, and holding banners and signs. One notable example was at Duke University, where some 30 protestors walked out prior to an address from Jerry Seinfeld. Reports claim that 1,000 people walked out of the Harvard commencement, in part over the university’s decision not to award degrees to 13 protestors who had been suspended.

The clearing of encampments by police prompted backlash from faculty but also additional protests by students including a strike by the UAW affiliated academic workers union at the University of California system. Strikers alleged “unfair labor practice charges based on the way the university reacted to protesters,” and threatened to withhold all “academic labor,” including grades, until their demands for divestment were met.

Jewish students at many institutions continue to document harassment and intimidation by pro-Hamas protestors, deepening exclusion from campus life after accusations of being “Zionists.”

Hillels have been subjected to pro-Hamas protests at Baruch College, while at the University of California at Santa Cruz, the local SJP chapter demanded Hillel be closed for its support of Israel. The university dismissed the demand.

More explicit threats of a US terror campaign to “bring the intifada home” appeared in a manifesto from protestors who seized a building at the University of Chicago, which stated “We embrace many methods of attacking our enemies. Whatever is effective, destructive, fun, creative, creates leverage, disrupts power, or changes minds is welcome. We refuse to police and surveil each other and remember the enemies are the state, the pigs, and the war profiteers.”

In response to protests, encampments, and building takeovers, most university administrations were anxious to negotiate with protestors and to accede to their demands, thereby incentivizing future protests.

At Northwestern University, concessions included a promise to reveal its investments and to establish an investment advisory board with student participation, as well as two professorships and five scholarships for Palestinians, and a “Middle Eastern and North African” residential unit.
Brown University promised protestors that after a student presentation, divestment would be voted on by trustees. The students identified a number of aerospace and defense companies they alleged were complicit in “grave human rights violations” including Northrup Grumman, Boeing, and General Dynamics.
At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, administrators agreed to permit anti-Israel students to present the case for divestment to trustees, called the situation a “plausible genocide,” condemned destruction in Gaza, and demanded a ceasefire. The chancellor later apologized for weighing in on “deeply complex geopolitical and historical issues.”
Within the University of California system, the Berkeley administration agreed to a divestment task force and the chancellor called for a “permanent ceasefire.” The Riverside administration agreed to similar terms and also terminated a variety of overseas programs including in Israel, which had been the target of long term pressure.
Union Theological Seminary announced that it would “identify all investments, both domestic and global, that support and profit from the present killing of innocent civilians in Palestine” in order to “withdraw support from companies profiting from the war.”
Bard College announced an agreement with protestors that included disclosure of investments, strengthening ties with a branch campus in eastern Jerusalem, and “support of appropriate challenges — political, social, and legal— to Executive Order 157,” banning investments in institutions or companies that boycott Israel.

The most significant and real Israel boycotts have emerged in the Netherlands. Ghent University severed ties with three Israeli research institutions on the grounds they are “problematic according to the Ghent University human rights test,” while Leiden University has put exchange programs with Israeli universities on hold and “will assess all our current ties with Israeli institutions and joint research projects.” The university also stated it will also not admit Israeli students from Tel Aviv University or Hebrew University “until after an evaluation.”

Overall, the universities appear to have provided a mixture of performative and real concessions. Some appear to be simply using delaying tactics, or postponing confrontations until the fall semester. Funding Gazan students and creating “Palestine studies” centers, however, guarantees future campus radicalization by introducing anti-Israel extremists.

The privileged admission of Palestinian students also appears to be in violation of Title IV of the Higher Education Act, while the creation of residential and Muslim-only spaces reinforces campus identity politics.

Faculty remain at the forefront of anti-Israel and pro-Hamas protests in the aftermath of encampments and building takeovers, in many cases joining protests, conducting classes within encampments (where “Zionist” students were prohibited), staging walkouts and “die-ins,” acting as human shields, and being arrested.

Faculty members have been especially vocal expressing outrage over the rare suspensions of students involved in campus takeovers and other hostile activities. One example of that emerged at Harvard University, where 500 faculty members signed a letter complaining that the “unprecedented, disproportionate, and arbitrary” sanctions “undermine trust” and demanded that suspended students be awarded their degrees. The demand was rejected by the Harvard Corporation, who barred 13 protestors from receiving degrees.

Faculty unions with longstanding animosity towards Israel have used the campus violence as a pretext to propose increasingly severe and illegal measures, such as the notoriously anti-Israel union at the City University of New York, which demanded the administration ban all faculty and student trips to Israel. The resolution was voted down.

Northwestern University faculty and staff signed a resolution accusing Israel of “ethnic cleansing and genocide,” and demanding the administration condemn “targeted harassment of students and the disproportionate censorship of pro-Palestine speech,” end partnerships with Israeli institutions, and “disclose and divest” from “all companies that support Israeli apartheid.” Similar demands were made by faculty groups at Princeton University, Amherst College, and elsewhere.

Anti-Israel activities also continue to rile the K-12 sector. Reports indicate that dozens of Jewish families in the Oakland, California, school district have begun to withdraw their children after repeated anti-Israel and antisemitic incidents.

Walkouts from public schools were reported at a number of school districts including in Chicago and Princeton, New Jersey, while Berkeley middle school students were led by administrators to a local Jewish Community Center, then occupied by preschoolers, for an anti-Israel protest. Video also emerged of a pro-Hamas protest inside a Bronx high school during which Jewish students and teachers locked themselves in classroom.

Teachers unions continue to be at the forefront of anti-Israel activity. One recent example is a call by the Maine Education Association demanding that the state pension fund divest from companies “complicit in the violation of the human rights” of Palestinian civilians. A “spontaneous” student walkout in Washington, D.C. was apparently also organized by a teachers’ group with connections to American Muslims for Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, and the Palestinian Youth Movement.

The systematic indoctrination of students by teachers and their unions into anti-Israel bias represents a long-term threat to Jews and to American society that has yet to be addressed.

Anti-Israel protests continued around the world in May including London and New York, and vandalism of Jewish and Jewish-owned sites also continued in May, including three restaurants in Manhattan. Several Jewish children were assaulted in New York, in addition to an attempted car ramming attack against Hasidic Jews, and there were two incidents of shots fired at a Jewish school in Montreal.

The larger goals of the protestors remain downplayed by the media but are stated clearly in left wing and pro-Palestinian media. The anti-Western slogans include “There is only one solution, intifada revolution!,” “abolish the university,” “from turtle island to Palestine, solidarity forever,” along with demands that Jews “go back to Europe.”

Congressional investigations of K-12 schools and universities over their treatment of Jews, Israelis, and pro-Hamas protestors expanded in May. Presidents of universities again testified before a House subcommittee investigating campus antisemitism, a development that was condemned in advance by members of the higher education industrial complex. The presidents of Rutgers, Northwestern, and UCLA largely avoided the calamitous outcome of earlier hearings but could not easily explain sweeping concessions to protestors.

The major development in the arts and cultural sphere in May was the Eurovision song contest. After efforts to bar Israel altogether from the competition, and to force venues showing the competition to boycott it, Israeli entrant Eden Golan was restricted to her hotel and escorted by by police for fear of angry mobs in the streets.

She was also heckled by the audience members and by other contestants. But large number of votes from European residents rather than official judges enabled her to finish in fifth place.

Finally, writers in particular have been subjected to ideological tests and harassment regarding Israel. Blacklists of writers and musicians alleged to be “Zionists” continue to be circulated. A major corporate sponsor of a literary festival was dropped after a number of writers, including a Member of Parliament, threatened to boycott literary festivals across Britain. An effort to condemn Israel through a motion in the British Society of Authors failed by a narrow margin, but the writers’ group PEN American has been in the news over complaints it has failed to offer sufficient condemnations of Israel.

The author is a contributor to SPME, where this op-ed was adapted from.

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Netanyahu Heads to DC After Biden Quits 2024 Race, Says Israel Will Remain ‘Strong’ US Ally Whoever Is in White House

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Jerusalem, Feb. 18, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday departed for a highly anticipated trip to Washington, DC, where he will meet with US President Joe and Biden and deliver a speech before Congress this week as America grapples with the aftermath of Biden’s unprecedented decision to end his 2024 reelection campaign.

During his first trip to the US capital in almost four years, Netanyahu plans to visit the White House and also address US lawmakers on Wednesday. Netanyahu was originally expected to meet with Biden on Tuesday; however, several Hebrew media outlets reported that the meeting will likely be delayed due to Biden still being sick with COVID-19.

It is unclear how Biden’s shock decision on Sunday to drop out of the US presidential race will impact Netanyahu’s address to the US Congress. According to Israel’s Channel 13, Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, a close confidant of Netanyahu, assured US officials that the speech will not include criticism of or against Biden following repeated requests by US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan for information about what the Israeli premier will say.

Netanyahu issued a statement following Biden’s announcement indicating the Israeli premier will underline the importance of bipartisanship in maintaining a close US-Israel relationship.

“I will seek to anchor the bipartisan support that is so important for Israel. And I will tell my friends on both sides of the aisle [in Congress] that regardless of who the American people choose as their next president, Israel remains America’s indispensable and strong ally in the Middle East,” Netanyahu said while leaving Israel for Washington, DC. “In this time of war and uncertainty it’s important that Israel’s enemies know that America and Israel stand together today, tomorrow, and always.”

The Israeli premier also expressed gratitude to Biden, stating that he will thank the US president for helping the Jewish state as he prepares to exit the White House.

“I plan to see President Biden, whom I’ve known for over 40 years. This will be an opportunity to thank him for the things he did for Israel in the war and during his long and distinguished career in public service, as senator, as vice president, and as president,” Netanyahu said.

Amid declining support for Israel among US liberal Democratic lawmakers, Netanyahu hopes to use his congressional address and White House visit to mend relations with Democrats, who have become increasingly uneasy over Israel’s war effort against the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in Gaza.

Biden has come under heavy fire from Republicans as well as pro-Israel Democrats for what they’ve described as him turning against Israel amid the ongoing war in Gaza.

The US president expressed strong support for Israel following Hamas’ brutal invasion of southern Israel on Oct. 7, when Hamas-led Palestinian terrorists murdered 1,200 people and kidnapped about 250 hostages during their onslaught. In recent months, however, Biden has paused some weapons shipments to Israel and accused the US ally of “indiscriminate bombing” — a charge rejected by Israeli officials.

The Biden administration also discouraged Israel from launching a military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah to target some of the last remaining Hamas battalions, arguing such an operation would put too many civilians at risk. Experts told The Algemeiner at the time that Israeli forces needed to operate in Rafah in order to dismantle Hamas’ military capabilities.

More broadly, the relationship between the Democratic Party and Israel has deteriorated in the months following Oct. 7. Several high-profile Democrats, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), have suggested that Israel’s military operations in Gaza are tantamount to a “genocide.” Democratic lawmakers have also called on Biden to halt arms transfers to Israel, citing concern over mounting civilian casualties in Gaza.

While Israeli officials have expressed frustration about the Biden administration pressuring them to halt their military campaign, Netanyahu is expected to use his visit as a way to repair some of the damage. The trip could also serve as a way to make Israel’s case directly to the American public, which overall remains pro-Israel despite declining support among younger demographics.

The percentage of Americans that express “little or no confidence” in Netanyahu has increased by 11 points since 2023, according to an April poll by Pew Research Center. Among Democrats, a staggering 71 percent express “little or no confidence” in the Israeli leader. 

Anti-Israel groups have also organized protests in advance of Netanyahu’s congressional address. Far-left organizations such as Party for Socialism and Liberation and Palestinian Youth Movement are urging their supporters to “surround the Capitol” during Netanyahu’s address. Leaders of these groups have branded Netanyahu as a “war criminal” and have called for his arrest. 

The people charge Benjamin Netanyahu with genocide. When war criminal Netanyahu comes to Washington DC,” Palestinian Youth Movement wrote on Instagram, “the people of the world stand with Palestine and against the genocide committed by Israel with full support of the United States and impunity.”

In addition to meeting with Biden, Netanyahu may also speak with Republican presidential nominee and former US President Donald Trump. Netanyahu has requested an in-person meeting with Trump while in the US this week, according to Politico.

The Algemeiner could not immediately verify the report.

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Pro-Hamas Demonstrators Avoid Punishment Following Wave of Dropped Charges, Reports Say

Law enforcement officers detain a demonstrator, as they clear out a pro-Hamas protest encampment at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Los Angeles, California, US, May 2, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/David Swanson

The State Attorney’s Office of Cook County, Illinois has dropped criminal charges filed against three Northwestern University faculty and one graduate student who allegedly obstructed law enforcement’s efforts to clear an unlawful demonstration at the Deering Meadow section of campus.

According to a local National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate, the office said its decision is based on its “policy not to prosecute peaceful protesters.”

Charges against the four individuals were pursued by the Northwestern University Police Department, which said that they allegedly engaged in “obstructing a police officer during the protests,” a crime for which they could, if convicted, spend a year in jail and pay a $2,500 fine, The Daily Northwestern reported last week. They had already appeared before a judge and were scheduled to do so again in August.

The university had defended the recommendation of its police department and rejected the notion that the individuals acted peaceably, saying in a statement issued earlier this month that it “does not permit activity that disrupts university operations, violates the law, or includes the intimidation or harassment of members of the community.”

Many more protesters have similarly avoided punishment for the actions they took during a burst of pro-Hamas demonstrations at the end of the 2023-2024 academic year, according to a new report by The New York Times. Prosecutors in Travis County, Texas, for example, have dropped over 100 charges of criminal trespassing filed against University of Texas at Austin protesters, the paper said, and 60 other Northwestern University protesters saw their charges dismissed, with prosecutors calling them “constitutionally dubious.” The Times added, however, that some charges will stick, including those filed against someone who bit a police officer, and many students are still awaiting the outcome of disciplinary proceedings.

Per the report, “At the University of Virginia on May 4, as students were preparing for final exams, administrators called in police to break up an encampment. Police officers in riot gear used chemical irritants to get protesters to disperse and eventually arrested 27 people. The local prosecutor dropped the charges facing seven people after he determined there wasn’t enough evidence. He offered the rest an agreement: their charges would be dismissed in August if they didn’t have any outstanding criminal charges at the time.”

Prosecutors in other states have not been as forbearing. According to Fresh Take Florida, prosecutors in Alachua County, Florida charged seven University of Florida students, as well as two non-students, with trespassing and resisting arrest. The defendants have resolved to take their chances at trial, the news service added, noting that all nine have rejected “deferred prosecution,” an agreement that would require them to plead guilty, or no contest, in exchange for the state’s expunging the convictions from their records in the future so long as they abstain from committing more criminal acts.

One of the nine, computer science student Parker Stanley Hovis, 26, — who was suspended for three years — proclaimed earlier this month that they will contest the state’s cases.

“We did not resist arrest, and we are prepared to fight our charges,” Hovis said in a statement. “We’re standing in solidarity with each other, and collectively demanding that the state drop the charges against us.”

Jewish civil rights group have described the anti-Israel protesters across the US as posing an imminent threat to Jewish students and faculty while noting that many avert being identified by concealing their faces with masks and keffiyehs, a traditional headscarf worn by Palestinians which has become known as a symbol of solidarity with the Palestinian cause and opposition to Israel. Images and footage of the practice have been widely circulated online, and it has rendered identifying the protesters — many of whom have chanted antisemitic slogans, vandalized school property, and threatened to harm Jewish students and faculty during a weeks-long demonstration between April and May — virtually impossible.

On Thursday, one such civil rights group, StandWithUs (SWU), implored the US Department of Justice to crack down on masked protests at Columbia University by enforcing legal statues which are widely referred to as the “KKK Laws,” citing numerous antisemitic incidents of harassment and assault on its campus and the difficulty of punishing the perpetrators.

Dating back to the administration of former US President Ulysses S. Grant, the so-called “KKK Laws” empower the federal government to prosecute those who engage in activities which violate the civil rights of protected groups, as the Ku Klux Klan did across the US South during Reconstruction to prevent African Americans from voting and living as free citizens. StandWithUs alleges that five anti-Zionist groups — most notably Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) — currently operating on Columbia University’s campus have perpetrated similar abuses in violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which guarantees all students, regardless of race or ethnic background, has the right to a safe learning environment.

“We hope the Department of Justice will take this opportunity to restore justice on Columbia University’s campuses and hold bad actors responsible for violating federal laws,” Yael Lerman, director of the SWU Saidoff Legal Department, said in a statement.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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France Says Israeli Athletes ‘Welcome’ at Olympics Amid Mounting Threats, Added Security Measures

The Olympic Village prepared for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Photo: Paris 2024 / Raphael Vriet

French leaders said on Monday that the Israeli delegation to the 2024 Paris Olympics is welcome in France, despite what critics described as “antisemitic” comments to the contrary made by a French politician two days earlier

At an anti-Israel rally on Saturday, far-left French lawmaker Thomas Portes said, “I am here to say that, no, the Israeli delegation is not welcome in Paris. Israeli athletes are not welcome at the Olympic Games in Paris.”

Portes called for Israelis to be excluded from the Paris Olympics because of Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip who perpetrated the Oct. 7 massacre in Israel.

Portes later also told the newspaper Le Parisien that “France’s diplomats should pressure the International Olympic Committee to bar the Israeli flag and anthem, as is done for Russia” due to its invasion of Ukraine.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said Portes’ comments had “obvious antisemitic overtones” and “placed a target on the backs of the Israeli athletes.” He added, “I want to express my disgust at that. I want to assure the Israeli athletes of our full protection, like all athletes, but particularly them, also welcoming them.”

Darmanin also announced that Israel’s Olympic delegation, which includes 88 athletes representing the Jewish state, will have increased security and will receive 24-hour security from French police. He said the decision was made after taking into consideration the 1972 Munich Olympics — where 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were murdered by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September — and how Israeli athletes are a target for attacks, especially since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

France has experienced a record surge in antisemitic incidents since Oct. 7, when Hamas launched the war with its massacre across southern Israel.

French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné reiterated that the Israeli delegation “is welcome in France” for the Paris Olympics during his visit to Brussels on Monday, the French-language newspaper Le Monde reported. He called Portes’ remarks “irresponsible and dangerous,” and added that France “will ensure the security of the [Israeli] delegation.”

Paris Police Chief Laurent Nuñez said 30,000 to 45,000 police personnel will be working daily to ensure safety at Olympic sites and fan zones in Paris.

It was previously reported that Israel doubled its security budget for this year’s Games, which will be Israel’s 18th appearance in the Olympics. Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar told The Telegraph that the Israeli Olympic delegation this year, which is the second-largest Israeli delegation in Olympics history, has received threats but he did not go into detail. He added that delegation members will receive security details from Israel’s Shin Bet security agency but not everyone will have their own bodyguards.

“We try our best to make sure the athletes feel free but also safe and not afraid. We don’t want them to notice the security guards too much. We want them to feel confident so they can do their job,” he explained to the publication.

There have been calls to ban Israel from the Paris Olympics because of the Israel-Hamas war, but Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said in March there is no doubt that Israel will participate in the Paris Olympics.

The 2024 Olympic Games will take place from July 26-Aug. 11.

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