VP slams 'deplorable harassment,' violent calls against Jews

Lapid says US must act against campus antisemitism; anti-Israel protest ‘seders’ held

Mass arrests near Schumer’s home; White House vows to denounce Jew hatred as issue raised in Herzog call with VP Harris; Trump: College unrest ‘a disgrace, all Biden’s fault’

Pro-Palestinian protesters gather during a demonstration against Israel near US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's home in Brooklyn, New York City, April 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)
Pro-Palestinian protesters gather during a demonstration against Israel near US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's home in Brooklyn, New York City, April 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid on Tuesday urged the Biden administration to act as American university campuses were roiled by pro-Palestinian demonstrations, and protesters held “seders” protesting US military assistance for Israel in its war against Hamas.

Lapid’s call came amid a spate of major demonstrations on college campuses from California to Massachusetts over the past week, some of which have included calls for violence and alleged harassment of Jewish students. On many of the campuses, protesters have set up unauthorized encampments of tents to press their demands, most notably at Columbia University in New York City.

“What’s happening on American college campuses is unforgivable,” Lapid wrote in a statement on X, formerly Twitter, “It is antisemitism, it is support for terrorism, it is support for Hamas which murders LGBT people and oppresses women.”

“The administration cannot stand by, it has to intervene,” he added.

The White House said Tuesday that it was monitoring the situation at college campuses closely, saying people have the right to publicly protest but not physical intimidation or calls for violence, citing some “alarming rhetoric.”

“When we see revolting, dangerous antisemitic comments, that is something that we’re going to speak out against, in very clear terms,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates told reporters aboard Air Force One as President Joe Biden traveled to Florida.

Bates said the US Department of Education has “an integral role to play” in addressing antisemitic protests.

A man walks past Israeli and US flags alongside portraits of Israelis taken hostage by the Palestinian terror group Hamas, in front of the anti-Israel encampment at Columbia University in New York on April 23, 2024. (Charly Triballeau/AFP)

The issue also featured in a Passover phone call that President Isaac Herzog held with US Vice President Kamala Harris, in which they discussed a slate of other issues.

“President Herzog sharply condemned the rise of antisemitism on campuses in the United States. The vice president strongly reiterated the firm condemnation from the White House against the hate speech and antisemitism heard on US campuses, and thanked President Herzog for his important statement regarding the violent incident at Columbia University,” said a statement from Herzog’s office.

A statement from Harris’s office also noted they “discussed recent developments in the United States, including deplorable cases of harassment and calls for violence against Jews,” without mentioning where the incidents occurred.

“The vice president condemned this reprehensible antisemitism as well as the rise antisemitism around the world, and she underscored her and President Biden’s commitment to speak out against it,” the statement said.

During the call, Herzog also hailed Congress’ advancement of billions in military funding for Israel, which was approved by the House of Representatives over the weekend. The US Senate approved the legislation later Tuesday, after which President Joe Biden vowed to swiftly sign it.

Mass arrests at anti-Israel Seder

As the Senate convened, some 2,000 protesters staged “an emergency Passover Seder” near the Brooklyn home of US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to protest American support for Israel.

Around 100 people were detained and led away in zip-tie handcuffs after refusing police orders to clear a road, according to The New York Times. The NYPD did not immediately provide a figure on how many people were detained, but images from the demonstration appeared to show officers carrying out mass arrests.

Among the organizers of the demonstration were the anti-Zionist Jewish Voice for Peace, far-left IfNotNow and Jews for Racial & Economic Justice.

“Hundreds will risk arrest while demanding Senator Schumer, who has recently spoken sharply against Netanyahu, take the next step and stop arming Israel,” said a statement from the protest organizers.

Protesters initially occupied a plaza close to Schumer’s home, where they chanted, “Stop arming Israel,” “Stop funding genocide” and “Let Gaza live.”

“I don’t see what Israel is doing as self-defense. I see incredible, absolutely unbelievable human rights violations,” said Katherine Stern, 62, of Woodstock, New York, who gave up her family Seder 120 miles (190 kilometers) away to attend the Brooklyn protest.

Canadian author Naomi Klein speaks as anti-Israel Jewish protesters demonstrate near the home of US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in the Brooklyn borough of New York during the second night of Passover calling on Schumer to stop arming Israel on April 23, 2024. (Kena Betancur / AFP)

Organizers staged music and song from Jewish and other cultures, giving prominence to Canadian author Naomi Klein, a peace activist who drew on her Jewish roots to argue against Zionism, which she called a “false idol.”

“We want freedom from the project that connects genocide in our name,” Klein said to cheers. “We seek to migrate Judaism from an ethnostate that wants Jews to be perennially afraid … or that we go running to its fortress, or at least keep sending them the weapons and the donations.”

The protest, held on the second night of the week-long Jewish feast of Passover, was one of a dozen to be held in cities around the country, including Portland, Oregon, and Seattle.

Police detain pro-Palestinian protesters near the home of US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, during a demonstration against US military support for Israel, April 23, 2024. (Kena Betancur/AFP)

Trump blames Biden

Meanwhile, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump slammed the campus protests as a “disgrace to our country” and blamed Biden for them.

“He has the wrong signal. He’s got the wrong tone. He’s got the wrong words. He doesn’t know who he’s backing and it’s a mess,” Trump said while arriving at a Manhattan courthouse for his hush money trial.

“If this were me, they’d be after me so much, but they’re trying to give him a pass,” the former president added. “What’s going on is a disgrace to our country, and it’s all Biden’s fault and everybody knows it.”

Protests had been bubbling for months but kicked into a higher gear after more than 100 pro-Palestinian demonstrators who had camped out on Columbia’s upper Manhattan campus were arrested last week. Dozens more protesters have been arrested at other campuses since, and many now face charges of trespassing or disorderly conduct.

With tensions at Columbia continuing to run high and some students afraid to set foot on the campus, officials said the Ivy League school will switch to hybrid learning for the rest of the semester, which will be finished by the end of next week.

Columbia also barred from Israeli professor Shai Davidai from entering the main part of the campus where the encampment was set up, with the university’s COO asserting the move was “to maintain safety of the community.” Davidai, who has emerged as a vocal and controversial supporter of Jewish students on campus since shortly after Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, has charged that he was banned from campus for being Jewish and that the decision evoked Nazi Germany’s dismissal of Jewish staff from universities in the years leading up to the Holocaust.

“To the best of my knowledge, the last time that a professor was denied access to their own university for being Jewish was Nazi Germany,” he wrote Tuesday on X.

Also Tuesday, Jewish students at Columbia put up pictures of the hostages held by Hamas across from the anti-Israel encampment, alongside an American flag and a banner calling to “bring them home now.”

On Wednesday, US House Speaker Mike Johnson is planning a trip to visit Jewish students at Columbia and address antisemitism on college campuses in a press conference.

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