December 4, 2023 | Insight

7 Things to Know About Campus Support for Hamas and Antisemitism

December 4, 2023 | Insight

7 Things to Know About Campus Support for Hamas and Antisemitism

College campuses across America have devolved into open displays of support for terrorism and antisemitism since October 7. The barbaric attack by Hamas on Israeli civilians and soldiers has resulted in widespread intimidation of Jewish students and energized groups like Students for Justice in Palestine, which openly sympathizes with Hamas. For example, federal agents arrested a Cornell junior who threatened to massacre and rape Jewish students at his school’s kosher dining hall in late October. Earlier that month, a Cornell history professor described Hamas’s deadly assault on Israel as “exhilarating” and “energizing.” Some of the antisemitism on American campuses emerges from an ideological climate in which terrorism is rebranded as “resistance.” 

1. Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) leads most anti-Israel campaign on campus

Berkeley professor Hatem Bazian launched Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) in 1992. The group became increasingly active around 2002, during the Second Intifada, and now boasts around 200 chapters, making it the largest Palestinian activism group on American campuses. Under the guidance of American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), another organization chaired by Bazian, SJP formed National SJP, an umbrella organization, in 2010 to coordinate activity across the nation. AMP staff have since helped guide SJP’s pro-Palestinian campus activism. AMP and two SJP chapters cohosted an event in May 2023 featuring Mohammad el-Mezain, one of five individuals arrested and convicted as part of the federal case against the Holy Land Foundation for funding Hamas.

2. SJP supports and glorifies Hamas’s October 7 massacre

    On October 12, five days after Hamas butchered 1,200 people and kidnapped 240 more, National SJP published a toolkit to help its chapters organize a “national day of resistance” against Israel. The toolkit praised Hamas’s massacre, crowing that “the Palestinian resistance stormed the illegitimate border fence” and reentered “1948 Palestine,” and calling it a “historic win.” SJP groups have decorated event fliers with images of hang gliders, referring to the method by which some Hamas fighters crossed the border and murdered 1,200 men, women and children. The toolkit also claims that “the existence of Israel is not peaceful; there is no ‘maintaining the peace’ with a violent settler state,” and that civilians are legitimate targets: “Settlers are not ‘civilians’ in the sense of international law, because they are military assets used to ensure continued control over stolen Palestinian land.” George Mason University SJP declared its “support [for] all forms of resistance,” which includes the atrocities of October 7.

    3. SJP has a history of antisemitism and violence

      A 2016 Brandeis University study concluded, “One of the strongest predictors of perceiving a hostile climate toward Israel and Jews is the presence of an active SJP group on campus.” The study included an anecdote from Rutgers University in which the SJP club spattered fake blood on their clothes with a sign reading “this is what the Jews did to us.” At Stony Brook University in 2018, the SJP chapter campaigned to expel the Jewish student group Hillel, posing a serious threat to Jewish life on campus. SJP activists have also used violence and intimidation against other students, Jewish ones in particular. In 2002, 79 members of SJP at Berkeley were arrested for disrupting a Holocaust memorial event. In 2010, the head of Berkeley’s SJP chapter allegedly rammed a Jewish student with a shopping cart. In 2014, an alleged SJP member directed antisemitic slurs at a Jewish student and punched him in the face, though the chapter claims he was only a friend of other SJP members. And in May 2021, several individuals participating in a protest organized by an SJP offshoot brutally assaulted a Jewish man in New York City near Times Square.

      4. SJP promotes genocidal chants

        SJP activists frequently chant, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” at their rallies and profess their support for this objective. Hamas has endorsed this message, calling for the “full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea.” The practical effect of this would be the annihilation of the Jewish State of Israel and genocide against Israel’s 7 million Jews.

        5. Pro-Palestinian campus activism features violence and intimidation

          SJP’s activism contributes to a campus climate of violence, intimidation, and glorification of terrorism, endangering Jewish students. An anti-Israel protest at Tulane University, where nearly half the student population is Jewish, devolved into violence. Jewish students at Columbia University and University of Massachusetts were physically assaulted. At Harvard, protesters surrounded a pro-Israel student, shouted at him, and forcefully redirected him from a public space.

          6. An SJP offshoot also engages in and supports violence

            NYC Students for Justice in Palestine rebranded in 2018 as Within Our Lifetime (WOL). In 2021, WOL launched a campaign to “Globalize the Intifada,” which “comes from the urgent need to defend our lands, resist our oppressors, and break free from the genocidal grip of U.S. imperialism and Zionism.” WOL activist Saadah Masoud repeatedly attacked Jews in New York City between 2021 and 2022, leading to an 18-month prison sentence. Following Hamas’s attack, WOL published a map of New York City with specific targets for its “Globalize the Intifada” campaign without specifying why these locations were on the list. Just after the October 7 attack, WOL posted a message on its Instagram account to “Support Palestinian Resistance,” in line with its call to use “any means necessary” to attack Israel. In its toolkit for protesters, WOL included the less palatable version of the “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” chant, saying, “From the water to the water, Palestine is Arab.”

            7. Universities have responded by suspending SJP chapters

              Amid the heightened activism and antisemitism since October 7, several universities have suspended their SJP chapters. In late October, the State of Florida deactivated SJP chapters at its public universities; however, the state modified the ban to focus on getting its SJP chapters to renounce Hamas. Brandeis University banned SJP on November 6 due to National SJP’s support for “Hamas in its call for the violent elimination of Israel and the Jewish people.” After Columbia University’s SJP ignored warnings not to hold unsanctioned demonstrations shutting down academic buildings and interfering with students’ learning, the university suspended SJP for the remainder of the semester. After George Washington University students projected “glory to our martyrs,” presumably including those who raped, murdered, and beheaded Jews and others on October 7, and other incendiary slogans on the library building, the university served SJP a 90-day suspension.


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