Student groups seeking to isolate and delegitimize Israel, to stifle dialogue and control the message about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have organized activities on college and university campuses for several years.
These efforts polarize campuses, inflame existing tensions and intimidate students. In light of the previous academic year’s significant anti-Israel activity and the organized anti-Israel reactions to this summer’s conflict between Hamas and Israel, the 2014-15 school year will likely be marked by another escalation in anti-Israel actions and events.
So far in this academic year, there have been more than 90 anti-Israel events scheduled to take place on U.S. campuses, double the 45 events scheduled during the same period last year.
Student groups that constitute today’s anti-Israel movement hurl a multitude of hateful accusations against Israel, falsely claiming that Israel is guilty of apartheid, ethnic cleansing, genocide, and a number of other war crimes in an effort to demonize Israel by portraying it as the embodiment of the world’s true evils. These claims are rarely, if ever, balanced with an acknowledgement of Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians, Israel’s continual efforts to make peace with the Palestinians and make no mention of the Palestinians’ failings on security issues and their intransigence during negotiations throughout the years.
Not all criticism of Israel is anti-Israel in nature, and not all anti-Israel rhetoric and activity reflect anti-Semitism. However, anti-Israel sentiment increasingly crosses the line to anti-Semitism by invoking anti-Semitic myths of Jewish control and demonic depictions of Israelis or comparing Israel’s actions to those of the Nazis during the Holocaust. Such messages have been seen throughout the years on the fringes of the anti-Israel movement and appear to be moving more to the forefront of many anti-Israel protests.
The response to Israel’s military operation against Hamas in Gaza this summer was marked by an upsurge in anti-Israel rallies around the country, both on and off campus. These protests frequently featured rhetoric that devolved from legitimate criticism of Israel into hateful messaging about the Jewish State, its people and Jews in general. At least 30 of these anti-Israel demonstrations during Operation Protective Edge were sponsored or co-sponsored by student groups. Many groups sent representatives to speak at these demonstrations, including in Philadelphia, New York, and Louisville, Kentucky. In some instances, such as at the University of Michigan, students even organized demonstrations on their campuses to condemn Israel, even though classes were not in session.