Western students can’t mask their vile anti-Semitism

A protestor looks on as the police stand guard near an encampment of protesters supporting Palestinians on the grounds of Columbia University
A protestor looks on as the police stand guard near an encampment of protesters supporting Palestinians on the grounds of Columbia University

A tragic state of affairs has gripped what are supposed to be our strongest bastions of liberal values. Fuelled by culture wars and misguided self-righteousness, students are shutting down debate in the name of free speech and re-writing the story of a people to suit their own ends.

Columbia University – my alma mater, I’m ashamed to say – has a lot to answer for. It has failed to protect Jewish students on its campus and enabled the erasure of Jewish identity and history by pandering to the demands of the violent, law-breaking pro-Palestine bullies and their “Tentifada”. Now, emboldened by the Jew-taunting permitted in New York, which is home to the diaspora’s largest Jewish community, the protests have spread to British universities.

There are, undoubtedly, truly peaceful protesters who rightfully care about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and would welcome an open, respectful dialogue about the future of the region. It is entirely legitimate to question and criticise Israel’s military strategy; over the weekend tens of thousands of Israelis marched in Tel Aviv to demand a ceasefire deal that would secure the return of the hostages. Plenty of Jews and Israelis want the war in Gaza to end with no further bloodshed.

But it is disingenuous to suggest that the demonstrations are well-meaning pleas to save the children of Gaza and not dogmatic mobs that have become overrun with bad-faith extremists who will not tolerate opposing viewpoints and whose face coverings mask their mouths more effectively than their anti-Semitism.

Khymani James, a leader of the Columbia protests, was already known to the university, having been called before officials in January for making violent threats about Zionists. He proudly recorded himself making a direct correlation between Zionists “who don’t deserve to live” and Hitler, who “a lot of people agree needed to die”, concluding: “Be grateful that I’m not just going out and murdering Zionists.”

Shockingly he was not suspended when he made those statements, but he has now been banned from campus and given an “interim suspension”. It is not clear whether he has been expelled.

Don’t be fooled by Mr James directing his rage at Zionists; these are thinly-veiled incitements against Jews. Zionism is the belief in Jews’ right to self-determination in the land that was historically their own, which gave them their name, which gave them their language and towards which they have prayed for hundreds of years, long before Islam or the word Palestine existed. It is supported by the overwhelming majority of Jews, because Israel is and has always been intrinsically connected to the story of the Jews.

Marie Adele Grosso, another American student protest organiser, tied herself in knots last week explaining to LBC radio why Israel should not exist as a Jewish “separatist state”, despite living in what presenter Ben Kentish pointed out was a Christian “separatist state”.

Jewish students, who pay tuition fees and are entitled to be on campus, have been physically blocked by other pupils from entering their university – not even for brandishing Israeli flags or chanting political slogans but just for being Jewish. One protester held a sign saying “Al-Qasam’s next target” – referring to Hamas’ military wing – with an arrow pointing at a nearby group of Jewish counter-protesters. Groups of activists have jeered at Jewish students that the October 7 massacre will happen “ten thousand times” and shouted at them to “go back to Poland”.

Poland, where some Jews ended up after centuries of persecution and displacement, just to be murdered and forced to flee again. In other words, go back to the gas chambers where you belong.

Poland, where most Jews aren’t from at all. In other words, the total erasure of the real story of Judaism and its relationship with Israel.

The irony is that the Jews are trying to go back to where they came from. That’s what this is all about.

On university campuses the bad apples have spoiled the bushel. Intelligent, Ivy League students who should be pursuing knowledge and learning the art of scrutiny have been swept up in a distorted dichotomy steeped in contradiction and hatred.

In the protesters’ performative, topsy-turvy world, they profess to be anti-war activists while calling for the bombing of Tel Aviv, the globalisation of the intifada (in which Jews were blown up on buses and in cafes) and total annihilation – “from the river to the sea” – of Jewish Israel.

They call for a ceasefire but also for Hamas to “take another soldier out”.

They excuse all their actions under the defence of free speech, an inalienable right except if you disagree with them in which case you are a Nazi and are blocked from engaging or entering.

They stand up for what they believe in, but cover their faces to do so.

They scream “apartheid fascists” at Zionists – whose country enshrines free speech, embraces LGBT people and has an 18 per cent Muslim population with equal rights – but glorify Hamas, the Iran-sponsored Islamist terror cult that hates Jews and kills dissenters.

In an indication of how morally confused these students have become, both Shiraz University in the Islamic Republic of Iran and Sanaa University, which is run by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi militia, have offered places to American students who have been suspended for protesting in support of Palestine.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend, and thus young Western liberals have gladly fallen into bed with the repressive authoritarians who call for the death of the liberal West.

This is a direct result of the way anti-Semitic intimidation of Jews has been allowed to thrive at American universities.

Giving testimony to Congress in December, the presidents of Harvard, UPenn and MIT failed to agree that calls for the genocide of Jews constituted harassment.

Similarly, in her testimony to Congress last month, Minouche Shafik, the president of Columbia University, appeared to equivocate over condemning statements such as “long live the Intifada” – violent uprisings that led to the deaths of hundreds of Israelis in civilian settings – as anti-Semitic.

Perhaps most chillingly, in the lobby of the Columbia Journalism School, arguably the world’s most prestigious facility for teaching the skills of ethical, impartial and accurate reporting, a wall has been erected in memory of journalists killed in Gaza. An investigation by the Daily Mail found that 21 of the 98 names displayed worked for Hamas’ propaganda TV and radio stations and 11 worked for outlets connected to terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

I wonder what the school’s founder Joseph Pulitzer – like me, a Jew – would have made of this propaganda masquerading as journalism in the faculty entrance hall that bears his name. I certainly would have felt extremely uncomfortable had I been forced to walk past this “wall of martyrs” every time I went to class.

A recent report by Brandeis University found Columbia to be one of the most anti-Semitic colleges in America, so it is little wonder its weak administration permitted the protests to last so long and gather so much momentum. As the protests start to pick up in Britain we must be braver in the face of bullies, protect our Jewish students and guard our intellectual institutions from falling to hatred and lies.