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How Should We Respond to Pro-Hamas College Rallies?

A student rally accusing Israel of “genocide” at Indiana University. Photo: Gunther Jikeli.

“Glory to Hamas.” Is there any civil response possible to this chant?

During the past few weeks, events at American universities have unfolded thick and fast. Columbia University was at the center of attention. We could hardly believe our ears when we heard the slogans shouted by hundreds of students on campus, and even more radically outside the university gates.

Jewish students were harassed, beaten, and prevented from entering some of the spaces on campus. Slogans such as “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” and “Globalize the Intifada” were heard at many American universities. The first slogan takes up almost verbatim the wording of the Hamas charter of 2017, which calls for the “liberation” of the territory on which Israel is located. What else can this mean other than the desire to eradicate Israel, and at least the acceptance of murder and ethnic cleansing against Jews as part of this “liberation”?

Hamas has not only repeatedly affirmed this goal verbally and in writing, but put it into practice to the best of its ability on October 7, 2023. And Hamas has vowed that as long as it retains power, it will try to repeat October 7 over and over.

Anyone who does not want to be misunderstood should therefore explicitly distance themselves from Hamas. But the protesters are not doing that.

The call to “globalize the intifada” is no less murderous. Both the first and second intifadas were violent, and Israeli civilians were targeted — in cafés, buses, and on the street. This terror is now to be globalized?

My university, Indiana University in the Midwest, is not exactly known as a trouble spot. Still, there have been some protests by students and professors here. We are not an Ivy League university, but one of the Big Ten research universities, known for the Jacobs School of Music, the Kelly School of Business, the McKinsey Institute, and the Maurer School of Law, among others.

Around 10 percent of the almost 50,000 students on our campus in Bloomington are Jewish. Since April 25, there has been an encampment “for unconditional solidarity with Palestine” opposite the Chabad House, where many Jewish students come and go. Some of the slogans, chanted verbally and put on posters, seem to be aimed directly at Jews.

Not all of the slogans are implicitly murderous. Some merely demonize Israel — for example, the claim that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza, which is presented as an indisputable fact through constant repetition. You can show solidarity with the Palestinian victims of the war (started by Hamas), you can condemn the war, you can be very partial to the Palestinians — but the accusation of genocide is slander.

The false claim to genocide is so pernicious, because it justifies all the hate directed at Israel — and at those who don’t explicitly condemn Israel.

There is a certain logic to this. If one is truly convinced that Israel is in the process of deliberately exterminating an entire people, then not only is Israel is reprehensible, but all those people who support and normalize Israel, or are Zionists themselves, are evil — that means most Jews.

The dynamic is similar to the medieval accusation of ritual murder. Anyone who was really convinced that Jews were murdering Christian children in order to use their blood for their rituals understandably wanted to put an end to it by any means necessary — even with violence. “Resistance by all means” does not allow for criticism of the barbarity of Hamas.

Not all students who write and shout such slogans are aware of their meaning, and their effect on Jewish students.

I spoke to students who held up a poster that equated campus police, the KKK, and “IOF.” But it took one of the masked organizers, who came running to block our conversation, to clarify what IOF meant. The students didn’t know. “Israel Offense Forces or Israel Occupying Forces” — he wasn’t quite sure either. But the message that comes across to the Jewish students who pass by these posters is that the country they feel deeply connected to is being demonized in a way that condemns them at the same time.

Many of the protesting students may be astonishingly ignorant and naive. Not so the organizers. There has been a rapid, sectarian radicalization among them over the past six months. Shortly after October 7, I had a discussion with the president of the Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) at our university on the university radio station. Even though we disagreed on many points, he condemned Hamas, at least in private conversation. And he asked Jewish acquaintances whether they were doing okay. A week ago, I looked at his Twitter profile. “Glory to Hamas” was written there. For him, Israel is “a demonic, irredeemable society that never has and never will have ever [have] a single right to exist.” He equates Zionists, i.e. all those who do not condemn Israel, with the Nazis. Zionists, he writes, are “indigenous to hell.”

The PSC plays a key role in calling for the campus protests, and regularly reports on the protest camp on its Instagram page. There is a lot of applause for this — also from an Iranian account called “Mahdi_Alavi.” He encourages students to read Ayatollah Khamenei’s letter to the youth of Europe and North America. There were love and applause emojis in the comments, but no objections.

Another key leader of the protests, who is particularly good at reaching other students via megaphone, also provides an insight into his thinking on social media. He writes about the Israeli army on X: “They lied about mass rape so they themselves could mass rape,” and has denied the unimaginably brutal sexual violence of the murderers of October 7. He also takes a liking to Hamas. It is “morally superior to Israel in every way that matters.”

What is the answer to such pro-Hamas propaganda? The Jewish students played loud music by Jewish-American musicians such as Matisyahu and Israeli pop songs, drew attention to the hostages, and posed with Israeli flags in front of the encampment where implicit and explicit Hamas sympathizers were present.

A similar response came from Rabbi Levi Cunin. The group “Faculty & Staff for Israel” had called for a rally on May 2. A politics professor known at the university for being anti-Israel and tearing down posters of the hostages filmed the entire event, possibly to intimidate participants. When Rabbi Cunin, while giving a speech, became aware of him, he turned to him and shouted in his face “And when there are antisemites who come to [our] anti-Hamas rally, what do you say? Am Israel Chai!” Long live the people of Israel.

And indeed they shall.

Günther Jikeli holds the Erna B. Rosenfeld Professorship at the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism in the Borns Jewish Studies Program at Indiana University. He heads the research lab “Social Media & Hate.”

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Advocacy Group Attempts to Shore Up Support for Israel Among US Democrats

US President Joe Biden addresses rising levels of antisemitism, during a speech at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Annual Days of Remembrance ceremony, at the US Capitol building in Washington, DC, US, May 7, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

A pro-Israel advocacy group is attempting to quell fears among US Democratic politicians that expressing support for the Jewish state amid the ongoing war in Gaza will lead to electoral defeat in November. 

Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI), a group that advocates for pro-Israel policies within the Democratic Party, circulated a memo this week explaining that the war in Gaza is simply not a top priority for most of the electorate. The memo, first acquired by Axios news website, asserts that “it just isn’t true” that Democratic support for Israel will come at an electoral cost. 

The group argues that a series of misleading polls has caused Democratic elected officials to become more tepid in their support for the Jewish state. 

To bolster its claims, DMFI points to a poll conducted by the New York Times in May which revealed that only 2 percent of voters cite Israel, Palestinians, Hamas, or Gaza as their most important issue. Nonetheless, the Times tried to exaggerate the extent to which voters care about the Israel-Hamas war by highlighting the 5 percent of voters who cite foreign policy as their biggest issue, according to DMFI. However, these 5 percent of voters did not identify if the war in Gaza is their major foreign policy concern.

The group also points out a Harvard-Harris poll from April which showed that Americans overwhelmingly side with Israel in its ongoing war effort. Eighty percent of Americans support Israel and only 20 percent back Hamas, the poll revealed.

DMFI also suggests that Israel’s ongoing military offensive against Hamas has not had a noticeable impact on President Joe Biden’s national standing. According to polling data aggregated by FiveThirtyEight, the president’s approval rating on Oct. 7of last year stood at 39.6 percent, and on April 23 last month, his approval stood at 40 percent. The same poll reveals that presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s lead over Joe Biden did not grow over the same time period. 

DMFI president Mark Mellman told Axios that anti-Israel activists represent a small fringe of the American electorate. 

“People sometimes mistake volume for percentage, and the fact that some people are very loud doesn’t make them the majority. … It doesn’t even make them a substantial minority,” Mellman said.

The group’s efforts to reach out to Democrats come on the heels of a high-pressure effort by left-wing groups to force the Democratic establishment to stop supporting Israel. Anti-Israel organizations have organized efforts to encourage voters in Democratic primaries to vote “uncommitted” in lieu of voting for Biden. Moreover, nearly every appearance by Biden in recent months has been marked by the presence of scores of angry anti-Israel protesters

The relationship between Democratic politicians and the Jewish state has significantly soured in the months following Hamas’ Oct. 7 slaughter of over 1,200 people in southern Israel. High-profile Democrats such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA) have suggested that Israel is committing “genocide” against Palestinian civilians.

Meanwhile, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (CA) signed onto a letter urging Biden to pause weapons shipments to Israel. Biden vowed to stop arms deliveries to Israel if the Israeli army attempts to dismantle the remaining Hamas battalions within the city of Rafah in southern Gaza, expressing concern about the prospect of civilian casualties during such an offensive.

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Hate crimes in Toronto are predominantly antisemitic—and the numbers continue to rise: TPS security and intelligence commander

Antisemitic hate crimes continue to account for more than any other category of reported hate crimes in Toronto, according to the head of Toronto police intelligence. Superintendent Katherine Stephenson of Toronto Police Service (TPS) confirmed the ongoing spike in hate occurrences during a presentation at Holy Blossom Temple on May 29, where she addressed 350 […]

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‘Israel Is Not Jewish People,’ New York Times ‘Daily’ Guest Really Wants You to Know

Anti-Israel protesters outside Columbia University in Manhattan, New York City, April 22, 2024. Photo: USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Connect

When producers from the New York Times podcast “The Daily” posted on social media looking for “Jewish students who represent a range of feelings and experiences, from being enthusiastically pro Palestinian to enthusiastically pro Israel, and everything in between,” I replied, “This is a trap! They’ll use the ‘pro-Palestinian’ (the polite term they use for the ones who want to wipe Israel off the map) ones to make it sound like the Jewish community is divided and give listeners the illusion that the anti-Israel protests aren’t antisemitic.”

Sure enough, the Times podcast episode that finally aired, headlined, “The Campus Protesters Explain Themselves,” included three students.

Mustafa Yowell, of Irving, Texas, said his mother was from “Nablus, Palestine” and described himself as a Palestinian Arab. He’s a student at the University of Texas, Austin who complained to the Times that “two IDF [Israel Defense Forces] soldiers had infiltrated the campus.” By “IDF soldiers” he meant Israeli students at the university who had, like many Israelis, served in the army before college.

The second student interviewed, Elisha Baker, a student at Columbia University, described himself as a proud Zionist and a graduate of Jewish day school.

And the third student, Jasmine Jolly, a student at Cal Poly Humboldt, described herself as the daughter of a Catholic father and “of Ashkenazi descent on my mom’s side.” Jolly showed up at protests with a sign that said “in honor of my Jewish ancestors, I stand with Palestine.” Jolly also chanted “there is only one solution, intifada revolution.”

“There’s nothing that has come across to me as antisemitic if you are able to pause and remember that Israel is not Jewish people and Zionism is not Jewish people,” Jolly explained to the Times audience.

Jolly read an email from her Jewish grandfather claiming, “Israel is an increasingly apartheid state.”

This is just such a misleading view of reality on campus and in American Jewish life. Even polls like Pew that use an expansive definition of who is Jewish find overwhelming Jewish support for Israel and negligible support for Hamas, including among younger Jews 18 to 34.

In reality, a lot of the anti-Israel protesters aren’t even Palestinians; they are European or Asian students or white or black Americans who either have been brainwashed by their professors or who have underlying, pre-existing antisemitic attitudes. Few of them have been to the Middle East and many of them are ignorant about basic facts about it — remember the Wall Street Journal piece, “From Which River to Which Sea?

“The Daily” episode made it crisply concrete, with the Times representing Jews as being split 50-50, with one normative Jew and one Jew chanting “there is only one solution, intifada revolution.” That’s ridiculous, yet a similar approach contaminates other Times coverage of the Jewish community, misleadlingly portraying American Jewry as deeply divided rather than unified around the goals of getting the hostages back, eliminating the threat of Hamas, and making American college campuses safe for Jewish students.

The Times was at this game well before Oct. 7, 2023, proclaiming “the unraveling of American Zionism” and trotting out old chestnuts such as the Reform movement’s Pittsburgh Platform of 1885 and the New York Times‘ favorite Jew, Peter Beinart.

I find myself rolling my eyes at such depictions, but there is clearly some audience for them among the Times readership and top editorial ranks. The Times executive editor, Joe Kahn, told Semafor’s Ben Smith in a May interview, “I’m not an active Jew.” Maybe the New York Times can sell sweatshirts: “Inactive Jew.” Who, exactly, is supposed to find that distinction between “active” and “inactive” Jews reassuring? Maybe they can put it on top of the front page in place of “All the News That’s Fit to Print”: “Edited by someone who wants the public to know he’s not an active Jew.”

Of all the moments to choose to distance oneself publicly from the Jewish people, this is sure quite one to choose.

This “Daily” episode seems calculated to appeal to the inactive Jews, and to others who want justification to believe it’s not antisemitic to set up on Passover and falsely accuse Israel of genocide. It’s nice for the Times to include a Zionist voice on the program, but he wound up sandwiched in between a Palestinian and an “only one solution, intifada revolution” person. It’s fairly typical for the New York Times these days, but it isn’t pretty.

Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here. He also writes at

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