Growing bid to make opposition to Israel core campus element

Report finds anti-Israel incidents on US campuses harming Jewish student life

Over 350 anti-Israel acts at colleges last year, Anti-Defamation League says, highlighting a growing trend toward excluding Zionists and fostering a hostile environment for Jews

Luke Tress is a JTA reporter and a former editor and reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

Illustrative: Pro-Palestinian protestors march along Huntington Avenue at Northeastern University on March 18, 2014. (AP/Stephan Savoia)
Illustrative: Pro-Palestinian protestors march along Huntington Avenue at Northeastern University on March 18, 2014. (AP/Stephan Savoia)

The Anti-Defamation League tallied over 350 anti-Israel incidents on US college campuses during the last school year, the organization announced this week, saying the activities had negatively impacted Jewish students and were part of a growing trend to ostracize Zionists.

The incidents ranged from harsh criticism of the Jewish state to harassing and excluding Jewish students due to their perceived stances on Israel.

“The antisemitic vitriol directed at pro-Israel students is deeply unsettling and makes our colleges and universities feel less safe and secure for Jewish students,” the head of the ADL, Jonathan Greenblatt, said in a statement.

The ADL’s annual Campus Report, released on Wednesday, recorded 359 anti-Israel incidents during the 2021-2022 school year. The report, which focused on more radical activism and not routine criticism of Israel, was intended to provide a snapshot of the campus environment, and was not comprehensive or scientific, the ADL said.

Many of the incidents were “antisemitic in intent or in effect,” the report said. “While other incidents may not be antisemitic, collectively they may contribute to a more hostile campus environment for Jewish students.”

The report highlighted what it said was a growing movement to make opposition to Israel and Zionism “core elements of campus life or as a prerequisite for full acceptance in the campus community.” Most US Jews believe that caring about Israel is important or essential to being Jewish, though a Pew survey from 2020 found those aged 18-29 were slightly less likely to share the sentiment.

The hundreds of incidents comprised mainly anti-Israel events and protests. There were also 19 cases of targeted harassment, 11 incidents of vandalism, one physical assault and 20 resolutions in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Three of the trends identified by the report were ostracizing Zionist students, supporting anti-Israel violence and espousing antisemitic tropes.

Activists routinely used the terms “Zionism” and “Zionist” to demean and disparage Jewish students, the report said. Progressive campus groups have also expelled Jewish students from activities over their support for the Jewish state’s existence.

Illustrative: Anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian activists in New York City, May 15, 2021. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

The assault involved a pro-Palestinian protester throwing a rock at Jewish students at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Some of the vandalism included a sign endorsing the conspiracy theory blaming Israel for 9/11, and graffiti that said “You genocidal [racist] fucks” on a Hillel building. Verbal harassment included calling a Jewish student a “dirty, racist Zionist” and saying “Zionism is inhuman.”

Some of the antisemitic tropes in the report included an image depicting a Jew as a parasite, saying Jews controlled the media and saying Jews used their wealth to “promote Islamophobia” and “maintain their control” of government.

The ADL collated the report through social media, tracking anti-Israel groups, monitoring college newspapers and other media, working with partner organizations and reports from victims of harassment.

The ADL said it had expanded an online resource tool for Jewish students.

Separately, the advocacy group Alums for Campus Fairness released a report late last month that said student newspapers were disproportionately critical of Israel, and devoted far more coverage to the Jewish state than they did to local antisemitism.

Illustrative: Brooklyn College students walk between classes on campus in New York, on February 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

There has been a rash of anti-Israel and antisemitic incidents on US campuses in recent weeks, during the Jewish holiday season.

At George Washington University, anti-Israel demonstrators called for an intifada outside a Hillel building during the Sukkot holiday.

The university’s president expressed concern over the protest, as well as “disturbing and profane posters” that “included antisemitic language” on campus this week. Students reported flyers that said, “Zionists fuck off.”

Swastikas were drawn in recent weeks at Ithaca College, the University of North Florida, American University and California State University, Sacramento.

The Wellesley College student newspaper endorsed the anti-Jewish Mapping Project, which targets Jewish organizations in Massachusetts, then walked it back after harsh criticism, including from the college president, who said the project promoted antisemitism.

Anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian activists burn an Israeli flag in New York City, May 15, 2021. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

The Tufts University president said this week that a club sports team had been suspended for an “appalling” antisemitic incident that was under investigation.

Jewish students were targeted around the Rosh Hashanah holiday with eggs thrown, antisemitic flyers, swastika graffiti, and vandalism of mezuzahs.

New York City’s public university system late last month committed to countering antisemitism on campuses after allegations of widespread harassment against Jewish students and a long pressure campaign from Jewish advocates.

A survey by Hillel and the ADL last year found that one-third of Jewish students experienced antisemitism on campus, mainly via verbal harassment in person and online, as well as property damage.

Federal probes are investigating antisemitism at the University of Vermont, the State University of New York at New Paltz, the University of Southern California and Brooklyn College.

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