Targeting Israel at schools alienates Jewish students and strikes fear

It’s no secret that numerous university campuses have been a hotbed of hatred for years.

Students hold up anti-Israel signs and Palestinian flags at an anti-Israel protest in front of Sproul Hall at the University of California, Berkeley, on Oct. 25, 2023. Credit: Kefr4000 via Wikimedia Commons.
Students hold up anti-Israel signs and Palestinian flags at an anti-Israel protest in front of Sproul Hall at the University of California, Berkeley, on Oct. 25, 2023. Credit: Kefr4000 via Wikimedia Commons.

“Jews are always told that we are not allowed to speak up for ourselves. You cannot allow yourself to be pushed out. We are showing resilience and strength. The Jewish people are not going anywhere.”

— University of California, Santa Barbara student government president Tessa Veksler

The unrelenting attacks on Jewish students across America increasingly threaten and frighten the Jewish community. From kindergarten to college campuses, a growing number of young Jews do not feel safe in their schools. Younger Americans are not only more likely to oppose Israel, they increasingly endorse anti-Jewish myths. Attacks on Jews, especially at schools, have led The Atlantic to publish a story, “The Golden Age of American Jews Is Ending.” The intense threat campaign is being waged to intimidate and silence Jews, weaken the community and cease all American support for Israel.

Campus Horrors: ‘It’s Open Season on Jews’

It is no secret that numerous university campuses have been a hotbed of anti-Jewish hatred for years. Recently, Jewish students testified before the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce:

  • “It’s open season on Jews on our campus.” — Noah Rubin, University of Pennsylvania
  • “We have been attacked by sticks outside our library. We have been attacked by angry mobs and we have been threatened to ‘Keep f***ing running.’ ” — Eden Yadegar, Columbia University
  • “A Harvard employee posted a video on his social media with a machete and a picture of my face saying he wants to fight and has a plan.” — Alexander Shabbos (“Shabbi”) Kestenbaum, Harvard University

Many universities have opened investigations into anti-Jewish hatred. However, most of these task forces have featured a lot of talk but minimal action. A Jewish Harvard professor told Jewish Insider: “They’ve utterly failed to protect Jewish and Israeli students. It’s shameful.”

Tessa Veksler, University of California, Santa Barbara
Tessa Veksler, student government president at the University of California, Santa Barbara, stands outside her office, defamed with a sign, on Feb. 22, 2024. Source: Instagram.

Multiple task force chairs at Harvard resigned. New York progressive Democrat and unwavering Israel-supporter, Rep. Ritchie Torres, said: “I think it has become indisputable that these institutions are systemically antisemitic. They cannot be trusted to police themselves.”

University of California Incidents: ‘Jew, You Jew, You Jew!’

Hundreds of pro-Hamas students and their supporters swarmed a recent event at the University of California, Berkeley. The mob stormed a campus theater, broke windows and forced the police to evacuate the Jewish students. Senior Vida Keyvanfar described: “They found us. It was a gigantic mob of people stomping, marching and screaming. There was spit flying left and right. And I’m screaming for the police.” An angry Hamas supporter yelled, “Jew, you Jew, you Jew,” into a student’s face.

Pro-Hamas students recently targeted the Jewish student government president at the University of California, Santa Barbara: “You can run but you can’t hide, Tessa Veksler,” and, “Get these Zionists out of office.” The university denounced the messages as “a violation of our community and inclusion.” Yet a now-former member of the university’s multicultural center used its official social-media account to tell all Jews that they should leave Israel and go “back to Poland or the USA.”

In another notable incident, Jewish and Israeli students were asked to remove the word “Jewish” from all literature for an Oct. 7 vigil by administrators at Vermont’s Middlebury College, according to a recently filed Title VI civil-rights complaint by the StandWithUs Center for Legal Justice.

K-12 Schools: ‘I Live in Fear’

A New York high school world history teacher Danielle Kaminsky “lives in fear of going to work every day. I’ve had students call me a ‘dirty Jew,’ draw swastikas on my desk, tell me they wanted to kill my family.” Students also saluted Hitler. Two staff members accused high school leaders of ignoring their complaints and creating a hostile environment.

The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under the Law and the Anti-Defamation League recently filed a federal complaint against Berkeley, California public schools for “severe and persistent” discrimination against Jewish children. Bullying has been instigated by students and even teachers. They stood silent while students chanted: “Kill the Jews” and “Kill Israel.”

Pro-Hamas Poster in Australia
A poster at Sydney University in Australia celebrating the Hamas terrorist organization in Gaza is representative of pro-Palestinian, pro-Hamas groups at universities worldwide. Source: Australian Jewish Association/X.

Berkeley teachers are indoctrinating their students: “A second-grade teacher instructed students to write ‘messages of anti-hate’ on sticky notes. The teacher wrote, ‘Stop Bombing Babies,’ and many of her students followed suit. The teacher instructed her students to put them on the door of the only Jewish teacher in the school.”

Legal action can be successful in forcing school administrators to confront and eliminate anti-Jewish hate. StandWithUs won a legal battle on behalf of a ninth-grade student who was physically assaulted and taunted with Holocaust jokes. SWU’s Center for Combating Antisemitism sent a letter to the principal and district superintendent on behalf of concerned parents about an anti-Israel lesson taught to second-graders at an elementary school in Washington. The school district and principal admitted that a lesson promoting the destruction of Israel was not within the district-approved curriculum and noted the district has opened an investigation.

“We are dealing with a far more insidious problem that has crept into the educational system at much lower levels, with teachers indoctrinating young minds with anti-Israel propaganda and misinformation that incites violence and undermines and denies 3,000 years of Jewish history in the Land of Israel,” stated Carly Gammill, who directs the nonprofit’s Center for Combating Antisemitism.

Younger Americans More Likely to Believe Anti-Jewish Myths

The ADL’s Center for Antisemitism Research released its annual report, Antisemitic Attitudes in America 2024. Individuals who held negative attitudes towards Israel-related policies, Israeli people and Israel-oriented conspiracy theories were significantly more likely to believe anti-Jewish stereotypes, myths and tropes.

The survey confirmed a worrying trend seen in similar surveys that show support for Israel among younger Americans is plummeting. Anti-Jewish beliefs are increasing in America but the rates are higher among younger Americans. More than half of Gen Z respondents express some degree of comfort in being friends with a Hamas supporter.

Hate Graffiti on Hostages Posters at Harvard University
Hate graffiti on posters at Harvard University of Israeli hostages being held captive by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, including 1-year-old Kfir Bibas, Jan. 22, 2024. Source: Screenshot/X.

Points to consider:

  1. Schools must take decisive action against the targeting of Jewish students.

Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Mich.) reflects with alarm: “Is this 1932 Germany? Is this Russia in 1903, when my grandparents fled pogroms to this country seeking refuge from antisemites?” Attacks on Jewish students are a severe violation of their civil rights, and defy the principles of inclusivity and diversity that educational institutions claim to uphold. Yet repeatedly, schools from kindergarten to college break their own rules. MIT student Talia Khan described “DEI administrators, an interfaith chaplain and faculty who publicly supported antisemitic blood-libel conspiracy theories.” Parents, teachers and community members should actively support efforts to create an educational environment where all students feel safe, respected and valued.

  1. Seemingly separate incidents intended to decrease American support for Israel.

The events on university campuses across the United States are deliberately planned to pressure Americans into abandoning their support for Israel. This notably includes national politicians. The rising tide of hatred on campus also emboldens support for the anti-Jewish, anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS). Student governments at the University of California, Davis, and Tufts University outside Boston recently passed anti-Israel resolutions. A divestment referendum was approved by 68% of those University of Virginia students who voted. The Virginia attorney general urged the UVA board to “explicitly reject and definitively repudiate the misguided attempt by the UVA student body to undermine the legitimacy of Israel. This is not a time for moral confusion.

  1. Younger Americans are more likely to be hostile to Jews and Israelis.

UC Santa Barbara student government president Tessa Veksler described how “anti-Zionist rhetoric targets, isolates and vilifies Jewish students.” According to a recent report by the Anti-Defamation League, social networks and social norms are increasing the acceptance of antisemitism. Young Americans are learning on social media that Israel is a villain that must be destroyed. Anti-Israel and anti-Jewish rhetoric on campus strengthens these views and creates the warped perception that it is OK to demonize Jews. Education is needed to teach students about the history, culture and contributions of the Jewish people and Israelis, and to combat prejudice, break down stereotypes and build bridges of understanding.

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