US College Campuses Witness Tensions Amid Israel-Hamas Conflict

US College Campuses Witness Tensions Amid Israel-Hamas Conflict

The ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas has deeply affected US college campuses. Student organizations have vocalized starkly contrasting views, with some condemning Israel and others expressing their fears over potential antisemitic incidents.

Harvard witnessed a significant fallout when over 30 student groups declared Israel entirely responsible for the recent violence. The declaration faced heavy criticism, leading to the removal of the original signatories. Harvard Hillel expressed distress over encountering heightened antisemitism in the aftermath of the recent violence.

Just yesterday, the president of NYU Law School Bar Association, Ryna Workman, sent out a message in an NYU Law newsletter in support of the vicious terror attacks against Israel, and placed the blame of the terror attacks on Israel. However, in the time since she released that message,  NYU Law Dean Troy McKenzie came out against the terror attacks, and the law firm of Winston & Strawn made public their rescinding of their hire offer to Ryna.

While Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) stressed the importance of distinguishing between Hamas’ actions and broader support for the Palestinian people. She emphasized that promoting hate and antisemitism is not reflective of genuine solidarity with the Palestinian cause. Julia Jassey, CEO of Jewish on Campus, a national student-led organization to uplift the experiences of Jewish students, responded to the hate on campus with: “Antisemitism takes on many different forms, and it can often be hard to identify. Not here. By seeking to justify or even praise the deadliest single day for Jewish people since the Holocaust, several campus groups are carrying on the millennia-long tradition of antisemitic hate. 

Micah Gritz of Jewish on Campus described the current campus environment as distressing, with many Jewish and Israeli students feeling deeply anxious. He pointed out that while many are grieving the loss in Israel, certain campus groups appear to be glorifying or justifying the violence.

Historically, US campuses have been a battleground for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict debate, with any Middle East violence reigniting tensions. Recently, Students for Justice in Palestine at Arizona State University rallied in support of Palestine. On the other hand, Abed Ayoub of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee highlighted a concerning rise in anti-Arab sentiments.

According to the ADL, “SJP is planning a National Day of Resistance for its campus chapters for October 12, and at least six SJP chapters have announced campus events on that date, including: Arizona State University, University of Arizona, Butler University, University of Louisville, University of Binghamton and the University of Virginia. At least two other chapters are convening events at off-campus locations: Michigan State University and University of Mary Washington”

Indiana University observed a face-off between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian protests, with police separating the two sides. The Palestinian Solidarity Committee at IU clarified they neither represent nor condone Hamas and urged for peace.

As the conflict continues, colleges are grappling with how to best support their students. Debbie Yunker Kail of the Hillel Jewish Student Center at Arizona State University emphasized the need to offer solace and space for students to process their emotions during these trying times. An Ipsos survey highlighted that a significant majority of Jewish students have either witnessed or personally experienced antisemitism.

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