On October 11, a number of students gathered outside the George Washington University’s Jewish student center in protest of a routine event held by the student group GW for Israel. The event, focused on Israeli innovation and start-ups, was not expected to elicit controversy, let alone national media attention. The protest featured the typical (and falsely predicated) slogans often chanted by anti-Israel groups: “war criminals,” “ethnic-cleansers,” and “child murderers.” But the protesters also engaged in a chant that had not previously been heard on the George Washington University campus: “There is only one solution, Intifada revolution!”
The word “Intifada” refers to two periods in Israeli history, 1987-1993 and 2000-2005, when thousands of Israeli men, women, and children were murdered by hundreds of Palestinian terrorists. During the Intifadas, it became routine to hear weekly about buses blowing up, stabbings and shootings at marketplaces, suicide bombings in popular restaurants, and explosions at weddings and other celebratory events. When GW students call for the renewal of the Intifada, they are not offering a nuanced discourse on a complex geopolitical conflict. Rather, a call for the renewal of the Intifada is a clear endorsement of the indiscriminate murder of innocent civilians, solely for being Jews.
Antisemitism on campus has left Jewish students unsettled, worried, and often fearful.As a senior at the George Washington University, I found this episode shocking but not surprising. The steadily increasing prevalence of antisemitism on campuses across the country has left Jewish college students unsettled, worried, and often fearful. In my three and a half years in school thus far, incidents of antisemitism have become routine and have left Jewish students on my campus wondering not if a subsequent incident will occur but when. These incidents are sometimes (subtly) manifested as criticism of Israel, Israel’s existence, or Israeli policy, but they can also be overt, heinous acts of hate.
When I arrived at the George Washington University in the fall of 2019, I was fresh off a gap year in Israel, where I spent one semester learning about the country and the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and another volunteering daily with Israel’s national ambulance service. I had previously been national vice president of the Zionist youth movement Young Judaea in high school, and my older sister was extremely involved in the leadership of the pro-Israel student group at New York University at the time. I had thus heard for several years about the hostile environment I was to expect at American universities as a Jew and an openly pro-Israel student. But the warnings and stories I had heard did not fully prepare me for the reality of what I was about to face.
Within my first couple of months in college, a classmate of mine was videoed walking down my dorm hallway, saying, “We’re going to f**king bomb Israel bro, f**k outta here Jewish pieces of s**t.” This was followed by several more incidents. A Jewish peer of mine found a swastika on his dorm door. Social-media posts from dozens of students suggested Zionists at my school were responsible for the spread of Covid. A student group blamed Zionism for rape and sexual assault in a long post to its social-media account, a post that was then shared by the newly elected student body president. An official counseling office of the school publicly accused Israel of apartheid. The university then rounded out that year by appointing as interim dean of its international affairs school a professor who is a well-known leader in the anti-Israel “Boycott, Divest, and Sanction” movement. These were just the most high-profile incidents that happened in my freshman year on campus. They do not include the near-daily harassment of Jewish students that does not make the news.
According to the FBI, Jews are the targets of 63 percent of religion-based hate crimes while comprising only 2 percent of the United States population. We have become all too familiar with stabbings of Jews in places like New York and Boston, shootings at Jewish community centers and synagogues in Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, and Kansas City, and the recent synagogue hostage situation in Texas.
This Jew-hatred hides behind anti-Zionism as a means of maintaining legitimacy and impunity.These events are not isolated and do not appear out of nowhere without explanation. While society has been complacent, antisemitism has found a new refuge on college campuses. This Jew-hatred hides behind the guise of anti-Zionism as a means of maintaining legitimacy and impunity.
In many left-wing circles, particularly on college campuses, pledging opposition to the Jewish state has become a litmus test for acceptance. Such a stance has become so closely associated with the values of social justice that support for Israel—or even the idea of a Jewish state in the Jewish indigenous homeland—is viewed as inherently immoral. Zionism, a concept that many consider to be a key tenet of their Jewish identity, has been hijacked by social-justice warriors and woke student panjandrums.
Those propagating this anti-Israel vitriol would have us believe that there is no correlation between the increasing prevalence of their ideology and the fear that Jewish-American college students must grapple with. In the 2021-22 academic year, the Anti-Defamation League tallied 359 anti-Israel incidents on American college campuses. The reality is that this rise in campus anti-Israel sentiment does have Jewish students worried and does contribute to an environment where antisemitism is increasingly normalized and tolerated.
The George Washington University, a school to which I have devoted my last four years, was recently awarded a “D” on the StopAntisemitism “report card.” After my tumultuous freshman year, the hate has not subsided. In addition to the recent Intifada endorsement by my peers, my junior year was lowlighted by the desecration of a Torah scroll on campus.
This is not normal. This cannot be accepted as normal. Academia is supposed to provide education and optimism for the future. Unfortunately, today’s American colleges often contribute to our societal problems rather than constructively addressing them. Antisemitism is an epidemic in our society, and the root of the issue can be found amongst our nation’s youth at some of our nation’s most revered institutions.
Ezra Meyer is a senior at The George Washington University studying economics and public policy. He is chairman of GW College Republicans and previously served as president of the student group GW for Israel.