newsSchools & Higher Education

Support for Hamas abounds on US campuses

Florida Gov. DeSantis bans Student for Justice in Palestine from state universities.

Activists at a “Day of Rage” attended by Students for Justice in Palestine and other anti-Israel organizations. Credit: A Katz/Shutterstock.
Activists at a “Day of Rage” attended by Students for Justice in Palestine and other anti-Israel organizations. Credit: A Katz/Shutterstock.

Florida governor and 2024 U.S. presidential candidate Ron DeSantis on Wednesday banned the Student for Justice in Palestine organization from operating on state college campuses.

SJP, long accused of antisemitism and of threatening Jewish and pro-Israel students on campus, was banned for providing “harmful support for terrorist groups,” according to the State University System of Florida.

National SJP, the organization’s umbrella group, has come under growing scrutiny after releasing a statement on Instagram describing Hamas’s bloody Oct. 7 invasion of the western Negev, in which it killed more than 1,400 people, wounded thousands more and took more than 220 hostages back to the Gaza Strip—nearly all of them civilians—as “a historic win for Palestinian resistance.”

The Oct. 12 statement called for a “national day of resistance,” which critics say is a euphemism for Palestinian terrorism, and featured an image of a Hamas paraglider, a reference to how some terrorists breached Israeli territory during the massacre. The post has since been deleted.

Columbia University’s Students for Justice in Palestine branch celebrated the rape, mutilation and slaughter of men, women and children as an “unprecedented historic moment for the Palestinians of Gaza,” and expressed its “full solidarity with the Palestinian resistance.”

JNS spoke to Shai Davidai, assistant professor of management at Columbia, who in a video that went viral with more than 10 million views, called out university president Minouche Shafik for her “cowardice” in allowing pro-Hamas organizations on campus.

“A day before I recorded my video, an Israeli student was attacked on campus. He was holding one of those flyers, the ones with a picture of missing Israelis on it, when someone assaulted him and broke his finger,” Davidai told JNS. 

When asked what motivated him to speak out, Davidai said he felt pain and sorrow for the victims of Hamas’s murderous assault, as well as frustration that people trying to support Israel were being targeted on campuses.

‘Holding Israeli regime entirely responsible’

The Anti-Defamation League released a report this week documenting 312 antisemitic incidents in the United States between Oct. 7 and 23, a nearly 400% spike in comparison to the same period a year earlier. The report also notes a 488% increase in online hate speech and threats towards Israelis and Jews in the first 18 hours after the Hamas terrorist incursion.

Examples include a Columbia professor who praised Hamas’s mass murder as “astonishing,” “astounding,” “awesome” and “incredible,” and a Cornell University professor who called the attack “exhilarating” and “exciting,” Fox News reported.

A coalition of 34 Harvard student organizations signed a letter “hold[ing] the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence,” adding that “the apartheid regime is the only one to blame,” Reuters reported. The signatories included Palestinian support groups and the Harvard Jews for Liberation. The letter has been removed from online.

On Tuesday, messages including “Glory to Our Martyrs” and “Free Palestine From the River to the Sea” were projected onto the exterior of a campus building at George Washington University.

Video footage that circulated on social media on Wednesday showed a group of Jewish students, including two men wearing kippahs, locked in a library at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in lower Manhattan.

Outside the library, protesters screaming “Free Palestine” pound on the door.

In response, seven U.S. senators including Republican presidential candidate Tim Scott of South Carolina, introduced the Stop Anti-Semitism on College Campuses Act, to defund colleges and universities that authorize, fund or facilitate antisemitic events.

“Following Hamas’s slaughter of over 1,400 Israelis on Oct. 7, we witnessed vile protests in celebration of the attacks by student groups on college campuses across the country,” said Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), a sponsor of the bill. “The federal government should not be giving one dollar to colleges and universities that aid and abet antisemitic student groups who glorify acts of terrorism,” she added.

Davidai told JNS that antisemitism has gained a foothold at universities all over the U.S. and in Britain, where Oxford academics this week canceled, due to legal concerns, a pro-Palestinian debate motion calling for “intifada until victory.”

“I had never experienced such uninhibited hatred for Jews,” said Davidai. “It’s 100 times stronger than anything I’ve encountered in the past. You can see it in the students’ eyes. Until now, they always pretended they wanted justice for Palestine. The slogan they chant, as we speak, all over campus says it all: ‘We don’t want two states, we want all of ’48,’” a call for the elimination of Israel.

Since posting his video to social media, Davidai has not felt comfortable returning to Columbia. He told JNS that not one member of the university administration had reached out to him.  

Rudy Rochman, an IDF reservist and Israeli activist, told JNS that in 2015 when he attended Columbia, “the campus was the most antisemitic in America.”

Unless Jewish organizations on campus such as Hillel and fraternities like AEPi start engaging other ethnic minority groups, the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiment will continue to grow, he said.

“The administration of the university and the faculty members will cater to the majority. If the position of the majority is to be against the Jews or at the very least not support the Jews, this is what they will do. The change will not come from politicians, it has to come from us,” said Rochman.

Eitan Moore is an Israeli student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Palestine@MIT, in association with other pro-Palestinian organizations, released a statement “holding the Israeli regime responsible for unfolding violence.”

Moore told JNS he witnessed celebrations on campus two days after Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre.

“They were saying radical things, chanting very worrying slogans such as ‘One solution, intifada revolution,” he said. “These people are excited about violence. They justify violence towards us. It’s part of a process of dehumanization of Israelis and Jews in general. They see us as the oppressor, they make us subhuman and then anything goes.”

Moore, who served in the IDF, told JNS he saw students ripping down posters of the 224 hostages Hamas is holding in Gaza, and is very worried for his safety and the security of his fellow Israeli students.

“Before the Oct. 7 attacks, MIT was actually one of the safest campuses for Jews,” he said. 

While DeSantis successfully banned chapters of SJP from operating on state campuses, other organizations such as Florida State University’s Students for a Democratic Society (FSU SDS), which commended Hamas for its “brave assault onto the Zionist entity Israel,” are still active.

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