OpinionSchools & Higher Education

A mother’s call for action against campus antisemitism

Uniting against pro-Hamas hate and extremism in American universities.

A pro-Israel counter-demonstration at MIT, May 15, 2024. Source: Courtesy.
A pro-Israel counter-demonstration at MIT, May 15, 2024. Source: Courtesy.
Nirit Friedlander. Credit: Courtesy.
Nirit Friedlander
Nirit Friedlander is Massachusetts chair of the Israeli-American Civic Action Network (ICAN).

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on May 15, an alarming yet all too familiar scene unfolded.

A group of masked youths, manipulated by leaders with radical Islamic and Marxist agendas, staged a pro-Hamas hate rally. They publicly called for a “global intifada,” an Islamic revolution and the elimination of Israel.

This rally was part of a larger trend of increasing extremism on American university campuses, fueled by years of quiet funding from entities like Qatar and billionaire activists like George Soros. These funds have facilitated the insertion of Marxist and Islamist ideologies into academia.

These dangerous ideologies, masquerading as noble activism, stand in direct opposition to American values. They undermine the principles of equal opportunity, racial equality, religious freedom and free academic debate.

As an Israeli-American mother, I am deeply concerned about the quality of education and the safety of my children on campus. The rise of extremist ideologies not only threatens the Jewish community but erodes the very foundation of democracy in America.

On that day at MIT, I joined a pro-Israel and pro-American counter-rally organized by the God Bless America and Israel group. Our demonstration marked a pivotal moment in the growth of Jewish-American activism, particularly among the younger generation.

Fueled by growing discontent with the encroachment of jihadist ideologies onto American streets, our demonstration served as a potent expression of resistance against extremist influences.

This eruption of extremism should have been anticipated given the long-standing financial support from foreign entities that seek to spread radical ideologies. The combination of radical Islamism and an extreme left-wing cultural and economic agenda poses a significant threat. This ideology of Islamo-Marxism aims to dismantle traditional liberal principles and create chaos and anarchy in society.

Following the Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel on Oct. 7, the Jewish community was appalled by the inadequate reactions and excuses offered by those who claimed to understand the “context” behind the atrocities. This absence of moral clarity, condemnation and human sympathy left Jews grappling not only with the tragedy unfolding in Israel but also with a sudden surge of antisemitic incidents worldwide. What was once universally recognized as wrong has now been shrouded in moral ambiguity, as academic extremism infiltrates reality and corrodes foundational values.

On May 15, amid the chants and slogans of the pro-Hamas “protesters,” our counter-demonstration sought to inject a sobering dose of reality into the conversation: “You start a war, you lose and then you cry.”

This stark reminder of the consequences of conflict resonated deeply with those who value accountability and reasoned dialogue. Our signs and speeches highlighted a largely untold chapter of recent history: The expulsion of approximately 850,000 Jews from Arab countries in 1948 and after.

This tragic exodus, spanning generations and continents, is testimony to the enduring resilience of the Jewish people. Those displaced Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews had one place of refuge: The Land of Israel and the one and only Jewish state.

Unfortunately, the truth holds little sway over loyal Hamas supporters, even those who identify as LGBTQ+ or feminists. Their unwavering allegiance to an organization known for its intolerance and brutality raises troubling questions about the moral compass of contemporary Western activism.

Amidst the backdrop of this increase in extremist ideologies, Americans are awakening to the urgent need for action. They recognize that the calls for Palestinian “liberation” are a symptom of a broader campaign to erode democratic values and impose radical religious dogma. Waving Israeli and American flags at our rally, alongside the flag of the free Iran replaced by the mullahs, served as a powerful symbol of solidarity with and desire for true progress.

Iranian-American counter-demonstrators, haunted by the specter of Iran’s descent into religious extremism, refuse to remain silent in the face of encroaching radicalism at home. They are acutely aware of how the secular government in Iran was swiftly replaced by a fanatical religious regime overnight, sparked by protests in universities. They are deeply worried by what is unfolding here in America.

As an Israeli-American mother, my participation in the counter-rally was not just an act of defiance but a declaration of a new breed of Jewish activists. We do not hesitate to take our message outdoors, rally in front of hate-filled pro-Hamas demonstrators and demand change. As Israeli-Americans proud of our national heritage, our voices are powerful. This new breed of activists was able to pull together a coalition of Jewish Americans, non-Jews and Iranian-Americans.

We are a movement fueled by a clear moral compass, unwavering in our distinction between good and evil. We refuse to be silent in the face of hate and extremism. As universities become battlegrounds for ideological supremacy, we understand the dangers of apathy. We are prepared to take to the streets to ensure that our voices are heard and that our campuses and our country remain bastions of liberty and justice for all.

Our rally at MIT was a turning point, showcasing the power of collective action and the resolve to stand up against hate. It demonstrated that, when united, we can challenge and dismantle extremist encampments and ideologies.

As a mother, I am committed to ensuring a safe and quality education for my children and future generations. I call on all those who value democracy, freedom and human dignity to join us. Together, we can protect our values and our communities from the threat of rising extremism.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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