Commentary on Political Economy

Monday 22 April 2024



The Ivy League’s Anti-Israel Protest Meltdown

At Columbia in New York City, pro-Palestinian demonstrators have surrounded Jewish students to push them from a protest camp dominating the campus lawn. “Attention Everyone,” a voice says in a campus video, “Can I get everyone to form a human chain, we have a Zionist at the entrance of our encampment.”

The “Zionist” was a Jewish student whose friend wore a necklace with a Star of David, according to News Israel correspondent Neria Kraus. The Palestinian crowd followed the order to “slowly walk and take a step forward so we can push them out of the camp.”

Many protesters on and near campus wear masks or kaffiyehs to disguise their identities. Students have to walk through a gauntlet to get to class. The protesters carry banners calling to “Honor the Martyrs of Palestine” and a sign pointing to pro-Israel counterprotesters as “al-Qasam’s next targets.” Al-Qassam is the military wing of Hamas. That’s a call to kill Jews.


On Friday Columbia President Minouche Shafik invited police to clear the campus encampment after protesters refused to leave. About 100 were arrested. But the demonstrators returned with a vengeance, and it isn’t clear that Ms. Shafik has the fortitude to handle them.

In a statement on Monday she told students that “antisemitic language, like any other language that is used to hurt and frighten people, is unacceptable” and that “appropriate action will be taken.” The school moved all classes temporarily online to “reset” and “de-escalate the rancor” and to “consider next steps.”

But the protesters are winning if they’re allowed to shut down classroom instruction. Ms. Shafik’s statement notes “there is a terrible conflict raging in the Middle East” but doesn’t include a single mention of pro-Palestinian groups as the perpetrators of the campus harassment. Columbia also deactivated the university key card of Jewish professor Shai Davidai and told him he was “not permitted to enter the West Lawn” on grounds that his plan for a counterprotest was a safety risk.

Similar scenes unfolded over the weekend at Yale in New Haven, Conn., as Gabriel Diamond described Monday on these pages. Jewish students were harassed and one was hit in the eye with a flagpole and hospitalized. On Monday Yale finally called in police to arrest those who refused to leave a campus plaza.

This crisis in liberal education has been decades in the making. These schools have sown the intolerance their students are demonstrating by putting identity and left-wing politics above the free exchange of ideas. A progressive faculty monoculture has fueled divisive narratives blaming the Middle East’s ills on colonialism and imperialism.

Antisemitism has too often been tolerated within Near Eastern Studies departments. On Oct. 8, 2023, Columbia professor Joseph Massad praised the “awesome” scenes of the Oct. 7 massacre “witnessed by millions of jubilant Arabs.” In 2018 Columbia professor Hamid Dabashi posted on Twitter (now X) that “Every dirty treacherous ugly and pernicious act happening in the world” could soon be traced to “the ugly name of Israel.”

The liberal elites who run these institutions seem to lack the moral self-confidence to stand up to these student bullies. College presidents have to take charge, restore order and protect Jewish students, or the trustees should fire them and find someone who will.

Wonder Land: College Presidents' spineless response to antisemitic protests are the culmination of academia’s plummet the past 50 years which has included grade inflation, speech codes, trigger warnings and ultimately cancel culture. Images: AP/AFP/Getty Images/Zuma Press Composite: Mark Kelly


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