How did we get to the point that on numerous American campuses devoted to “social justice,” many student groups openly celebrated a brutal Hamas attack that killed more than 1,000 Israeli civilians and saw many hundreds tortured, beheaded, executed in front of family members and set on fire?
How did we get to the point on campuses where any unwanted sexual contact, even if intended only as a non-violent romantic approach, is denounced as a crime against women and can lead to expulsion, yet student protesters celebrate the mass rape of Israeli women, including rape victims still bleeding from the violation or killed and stripped naked, being paraded through the streets of Gaza as howling mobs defiled and abused their bodies?
How did we get to the point that universities where demands for universal free pre-K are supported, the kidnapping of babies and children as hostages is considered a legitimate tactic?
How did we get to the point that at universities demanding “land acknowledgments” recognizing Native American claims, Jews are called colonizers and occupiers of their own ancestral homeland, to which resistance by any means is justified?
We got here through a confluence of ideological intolerance on campuses that has been building for decades, with Jews and the Jewish identity targeted. The moral rot on American campuses runs from the most to the least elite schools, and in a repeat of history, Jews are the universal enemy.
At Harvard, more than thirty student groups signed a statement blaming Israel and Israel alone for Hamas’s atrocities. Similar statements were issued at other top-tier universities. At CUNY, an institution with a deep and long history of rabid anti-Zionism and harassment of Jews, the president of the school was so worried about violence that she excused students from having to attend classes. At the University of Wisconsin, student protesters shouted “glory to the martyrs, glory to the murders,” and called to “liberate the land by any means necessary,” clearly supporting the Hamas massacres.
It is laughable that anyone would be surprised by these developments. Legal Insurrection has documented for fifteen years how the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement dehumanized Israeli Jews and perpetrated the falsehood that Jews are colonizers and occupiers of the ancestral Jewish homeland. In any other place, the liberation of a land by the indigenous people would be celebrated.
BDS merely repackaged anti-Jewish sentiment in the language of social justice. The rebranding of antisemitism convinced many students at elite institutions that justice required them to oppose the liberation of the land of Israel by the Jewish people — the very people driven from the land by Arab Muslim conquest. It is no surprise then that today’s ideologues will ignore that Hamas is repeating the grotesque violence perpetrated by the colonizers of the seventh century.
Alongside the BDS movement has been the rise of student groups devoted to the destruction of Israel. Chief among these groups is Students for Justice in Palestine, which operates both nationally and through local chapters, sometimes using different names. We have documented SJP’s long history of physical intimidation, disrupting events and speakers, and embracing well known terrorist murderers such as Leila Khalid and Rasmea Odeh. SJP often finds a handful of leftist Jewish anti-Zionist students to provide cover for their efforts to legitimize groups like Hamas. SJP has organized a “National Day of Resistance” to celebrate the attack on Israel. The use of the term “Resistance” to defend the mass murder and rapes against Israelis is no coincidence. HAMAS is an acronym for Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya (Islamic Resistance Movement). Naive or ignorant students, media and administrators may not understand this Hamas reference, and may think it a reference to the French Resistance, but SJP and its activists surely understand that they are promoting Hamas.
The National Day of Resistance by SJP’s UNC chapter features an image of the motorized paragliders used by Hamas to murder 270 people at a music festival in Israel devoted to peace, and asks participants to hide their identities by wearing masks. This is a full embrace of Hamas.
The racialization of campuses puts Jews in the white oppressor category, which is why Jews are demonized as colonizers of their own homeland who can be targeted by any means “necessary.” I witnessed the start of this at Harvard Law School in the early 1980, when Palestinian students joined with the American Indian and Black Law Students Association to embrace the PLO and to promote the same white colonial oppressor narrative that eventually captured the campuses.
There are other factors involved, of course, including the radicalization of faculty who give guidance to anti-Israel students. And the demonization of Jews is an international effort, in which US campuses play just a part.
The problem of acceptable antisemitism has only accelerated since my days attending law school. How do we explain the justification of murder, torture and rape of Israelis by many students? Now that I am teaching law school, the better question is, why are we surprised campuses have morphed into the center of terror apologia. For decades administrators have not only failed to challenge the caricatures of Israeli Jews by BDS and the rise of groups like SJP but rewarded the propagandists for their commitment to human rights, so long as those humans were not Hebrews.
It’s often said that collapses happen gradually, then suddenly. On American campuses, when it comes to Jews, we are in the “suddenly” phase. Hamas is inside the gates.