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Editorial: Campus protests leave Jewish students with little safety to speak their minds

Increasingly tense protests have seen a rise in antisemitic phrases.
Image by Sarah Mai

Since Oct. 7, 2023, I have seen protests across the nation showing solidarity for both Israel and Arabs, both in the West Bank and in Gaza.

In recent weeks, I have seen an escalation of protests on campuses across the United States in support of Gaza and the West Bank. 

This escalation includes encampments at major universities, rallies and other means of protest. 

While I am pro-Israel in this conflict and am horrified by the message being spread at many of these protests, I believe many attendees of the protests are good people. 

It is easy to only see the negative in this situation, but knowing several people who have attended these protests, I can tell they are passionate about preventing further civilian deaths in Gaza.

With that said, bad actors who have organized many of these protests have spewed antisemitic rhetoric as well as encouraging violence on college campuses. 

The use of chants like “Intifada revolution” and “Death to Zionists” represent the lack of knowledge of many of protestors as well as the antisemitism currently seen on college campuses. 

I can see antisemitism clearly in elite universities such as Yale, UCLA and Columbia as protestors block students (particularly those who outwardly express their Jewishness) from entering campus or even participating in rallies in support of their cause.

Verbal antisemitism is also seen at these protests through conversations between protestors. 

While observing the protest on April 29, I witnessed protesters surrounding one of the counter-protests, while yelling the United States and British governments are owned by Zionists, and that Zionists control Hollywood and the news media. 

It is clear to Jewish students and Israeli supporters that the word “Zionist” has become synonymous with “Jew,” and the only distinction is the word “Zionist” can be used to deny participating in antisemitism.

Not only have I seen a rise in antisemitism through verbal means, but it is also clearly seen through violence towards Jews.

On Monday, a counter-protester who supported Israel was violently dragged across the field of Coffman Memorial Union at the University of Minnesota and pulled down to the ground.

While according to the organizers’ claim to be against any violence at rallies, I believe the ambiguity of their messaging, including the ‘escalation’ statement, encourages students to commit acts of violence while also giving organizers an opportunity to claim no responsibility for violence occurring at these rallies. 

Further, WhatsApp messages in the SJP-UMN put unjust pressure on student organizations to support their cause. 

Organizer Omar Aly said, “Some student groups have been embarrassingly quiet, and we see that… Hold your ‘cultural’ groups accountable.”

The pressure on student groups for not supporting the SJP mission, only continues to show they have no interest in having an open discussion.

They solely care about invalidating University cultural groups and bullying them into supporting their cause. 

Antisemitism within the United States is as strong as ever, and I have seen protests and insinuations in every generation that affirms this belief.

Pro-Israeli students no longer have the opportunity to share their perspectives due to the threat of violence and antisemitism across universities.

Colby Pitzenberger, a senior at the University of Minnesota, has worked with several campus groups–including coordinating Greek-based safety initiatives with USG’s Sexual Assault Task Force. He is graduating May 2024 with a degree in Political Science and a minor in Business Law.  

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  • student
    May 2, 2024 at 9:22 pm


  • student
    May 2, 2024 at 12:35 pm

    While well written, the justification of your opinions expressed in the article is predicated on a fallacy: anti-zionism is not inherently antisemitism. While well organized, the demonstrations also assume a similar fallacy: anti-Hamas is not inherently anti-Gaza.

    This discourse is fundamentally centered on the rights of self-determination of two groups, on a territory over 6000 miles from campus. Very few if any of the demonstrators have been to Gaza, and I would venture to guess that you have never been to Israel. The demonstrations and the resulting articles such as yours are nothing more than purely performative, an expression of an opinion on a topic distant and disconnected from all but very few students at this University.

    Humans are inherently hypocritical, only focusing on the direct results of our actions. White girls in the encampment drinking Starbucks paid for by their father who works at Lockheed Martin. A man in tefillin eating a cheeseburger. All we must do is acknowledge that all parties are purely scratching the itch of our romanticized version of social resistance and the ensuing pandering in opposition.

  • student supporter
    May 2, 2024 at 6:54 am

    The use of chants like “Intifada revolution” and “Death to Zionists” represent the lack of knowledge of many of protestors.

    I agree. Chants like “from the river to the sea” are also inappropriate and show a lack of knowledge and analysis. I can see why Jewish students would feel unsafe hearing that.

    You’re complaining that a pro-Israel protester was kicked out of a protest in support of human rights in Gaza. The protester you’re describing didn’t go to the student protest in solidarity so they were made to leave. That’s exactly what they wanted so they could discredit the activism. That’s called being obtuse.

    You’re right about there being anti-semitism on campus. You’re right it’s gotten more overt recently. You’re right that we need to all self-edúcate so we can better understand and be in proper solidarity with each other. You’re a pro Israel CSOM frat boy. You’re one of the most protected people on campus though sounds like you didn’t actually learn much during your time here. You could be an instrument of peace but you’ll have to be way more honest with yourself to accomplish that.