In a bold move, the esteemed Israel Institute of Technology (Technion) has unveiled a rapid integration program, extending a lifeline to those “seeking academic refuge in these tumultuous times.” This initiative opens its doors to students, researchers, and educators worldwide who have encountered the harsh realities of anti-Semitism, offering them a sanctuary to pursue their studies or professional endeavors. Behind this gesture lies a troubling trend—the surge of anti-Israel sentiments sweeping through numerous Western universities, penetrating the very fabric of renowned institutions, including Ivy League universities. On these campuses, anti-Israel rallies unfold, sit-in strikes disrupt the normalcy, and collective letters articulate dissent. Shockingly, some professors from esteemed establishments such as Harvard and Columbia boldly voice support for Hamas terrorists, openly endorsing their brutal assault on Israel that unfolded on October 7. Despite condemnations from university administrations, these professors cling to their positions, albeit with a financial toll as some Harvard donors withdraw their support. Delving into the heart of this matter, The Insider has engaged with professors and staff from these universities to unravel the perplexing question of why anti-Israel sentiments persist in academic circles, even in the aftermath of one of the most harrowing terrorist attacks in history.
Jews as “white oppressors”
Media war lost voluntarily
“The Left” versus “The Right,” or “Blame Netanyahu for Everything”
Anti-Semitism: true or “imaginary”?
On October 7, 2023, when Hamas terrorists orchestrated a brutal massacre in Israel, claiming the lives of hundreds, abducting, and subjecting numerous civilians to violence, Yale University professor Zareena Grewal took to social media, stating, “Prayers for Palestinians. Israel is a murderers, genocidal settles state and Palestinians have every right to resist through armed struggle, solidarity.” A petition calling for Grewal's dismissal swiftly garnered 56,000 signatures, but it appears no action is being taken to terminate her employment. Russell Rickford, a professor at Cornell University, part of the Ivy League, dubbed the October 7 attack, in which over a thousand people, including young children, lost their lives, as “invigorating and charged with energy.” Despite condemnation from the university, Rickford retains his position. Joseph Massad, a professor at Columbia University (also part of the Ivy League), described the October 7 massacre as “awesome.” A petition urging his dismissal amassed 78,000 signatures, yet he remains in his role.
Columbia University in New York stood out among others, with anti-Israeli student rallies erupting immediately after the October 7 pogrom. When these demonstrations sparked public outrage, many professors rallied behind the students. Over 100 Columbia University faculty members signed an open letter explaining that the events of October 7, 2023, should be viewed differently, asserting it was a “response to years of occupation.”
“In our view, the student statement aims to recontextualize the events of October 7, 2023, pointing out that military operations and state violence did not begin that day, but rather it represented a military response by a people who had endured crushing and unrelenting state violence from an occupying power over many years.”
The term “occupation” is mentioned ten times in the professors' statement, while the terrorist organization Hamas is not mentioned once. The exact details of what transpired on October 7 are unclear from the professors' statement.
Columbia University was not an exception. For instance, 31 Harvard student organization members released a statement blaming the “Israeli colonial regime” as the “sole perpetrator of violence” and urging the student community to “make every effort to stop the destruction of the Palestinian people.” Similar appeals came from student organizations at Yale, Michigan, and other Ivy League universities. The university administrations distanced themselves from such statements and condemned the Hamas attack, but took minimal action to halt the anti-Israel campaign. However, some Harvard sponsors, like the Vexner Foundation, announced the cessation of financial support, and donors from other Ivy League universities made similar threats.
Anti-Israeli demonstration by students of Columbia University in New York
Anti-Israel protests on university campuses erupted almost immediately after October 7, but intensified significantly after a rocket hit the parking lot of Al-Ahli Hospital. Hundreds of Harvard students even declared a “die-in” protest, demanding an immediate ceasefire in the autonomous territories. When it was later revealed that Hamas had significantly exaggerated the number of casualties in the hospital parking lot and failed to produce remains of the “Israeli” rocket (Israel claimed that the terrorists accidentally hit the hospital with their own rocket), it did little to diminish the fervor of anti-Israel rallies.
Participants of such protests took offense when labeled as anti-Semitic, but there were, of course, incidents of anti-Semitism. For example, Jewish students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) complained to the administration that they were facing harassment based on ethnicity from an aggressive group calling themselves the CAA. Members of the group disrupted classes and barred Jewish students from entering lecture halls, causing them to fear leaving their dormitories. Instead of punishing the anti-Semitic group or restoring order on campus, the MIT administration advised Jewish students to use alternative routes when visiting academic buildings.
Experts, professors, and researchers from leading universities in the United States and Europe see several reasons why citizens of a country that experienced the unprecedented terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, are willing to “understand and forgive” terrorists who orchestrated a ruthless massacre on the southern borders of Israel.
Jews as “white oppressors”
One of the main reasons explaining anti-Israel sentiments in university circles is the popular trend in Western academic circles known as “decolonialism.” Advocates of this movement view everything through the lens of history, where there must always be incoming oppressors and local oppressed populations. While finding a more historically oppressed people than the Jews is challenging, and Palestine is not an entirely foreign land for Jews in this conflict, in the left-leaning university environment, Israel is perceived as the strong party infringing upon the rights of the weak. All other aspects of this multifaceted problem are often set aside.
Eugene Ostashevsky, philologist, professor at New York University:
“The decolonial theory plays a huge role in education. Within this paradigm, there are always 'oppressors' and 'oppressed'—a very clearly defined opposition where the 'oppressed' can never do wrong to the 'oppressor.' They can only defend themselves. Therefore, protesters use the word 'resistance.' Everything the 'oppressed' do, by definition, is considered good and right. Everything the 'oppressor' does is considered bad. Many Americans believe that white Jews 'oppress' colored Palestinians. It's very difficult for them to explain that Jews and Arabs are related peoples.”
Everything the 'oppressed' do, by definition, is considered good and right and everything the 'oppressor' does is considered bad
“People, especially students, have a very narrow outlook. No one, especially students, will bother to delve into the Israel-Palestine conflict. Especially now, as we are experiencing the 'new 18th century,' a new sentimentalism where emotions matter a great deal. What I feel, what you feel. Arguments do not interest anyone, especially activists. The fact that after October 7, left-wing organizations either did not notice the killed Jews or said that Israel was 'at fault itself' is a symptom of this absurd polarization and the equally absurd 'focus on feelings.'
This is how protesters, especially students, see it. They simply don't know anything. They don't know how Israel ended up there, how complex the situation really is. They don't understand what happened, and they don't want to understand. It's not interesting to them. Because 'look at point one'—the truth is already there. And these are my feelings.
Ksenia Krymer, PhD in History (Central European University, MA in Judaic Studies from the University of Michigan), Holocaust historian:
The level of awareness about the 'Palestinian issue' categorically lags behind the level of involvement in this issue. People cite certain incidents without understanding, for example, that the West Bank and Gaza are different things. For them, this is just a 'case'—very convenient, emotionally charged, reduced by social media to a set of hashtags and memes. Therefore, to the layman, it looks like 'Israel against the Palestinians,' not 'Israel against the Palestinians, as well as Iran and Qatar as sponsors of the Gaza Strip, and other Arab countries, and also Hezbollah and Hamas.' When we disregard all these other players, we are left with 'Palestinians' vs 'Israeli military.'
This fits very well into the existing left discourse of 'colonialism'—subjugation and exploitation, the narrative that Israel is nothing but colonial settlements, an illegitimate state, an 'aggressor state.' Israelis are treated not as a people facing a threat to their existence, but as part of the 'white hegemony,' which Jews are not. A significant part of academic America sees Jews exclusively as 'white capitalists'—rich and powerful.
Consequently, Israel faces censure and demonization. In open letters, even from figures deemed intellectual icons, such as Judith Butler or Slavoj Žižek, people, either on the day of the massacre or shortly after, seem to find it acceptable to downplay and obscure the central narrative: the tragic events of October 7. Many express sentiments like, 'Yes, Hamas may have gone too far, BUT. The responsibility lies with you; what else did you expect?'“
Media war lost voluntarily
Since October 7, the information space is torn apart by news from Israel, where reality is so delicately interwoven with falsehoods that even well-known politicians and major international media, let alone ordinary internet users, are not always able to distinguish one from the other.
Neural networks are actively used to generate fakes, but even resonant exposés, such as the sensational photo of the “Palestinian boy with six fingers,” haven't necessarily taught the audience to perceive information from social media more critically. This applies even to what seems like a sophisticated audience, including students and professors at American universities.
“On the 'other side,' there exists an entire visual culture that transmits Palestinian suffering to Western viewers. Hamas cultivates this 'death pornography.' Public funerals, bloodied children. Mandatory 'sentimental' details—blood-soaked toys, a child's sweater in the colors of the Palestinian flag. And there are millions of likes, despite the fact that this 'operation' has been exposed many times.
In Israel, it is not customary to display dead bodies after terrorist attacks—it's a cultural taboo. The bodies of victims are usually covered and never shown in news reports because it can stir up images of past historical traumas and undermine the thesis that Israel is a refuge where Jews can finally feel safe.
In Israel, it is not customary to display dead bodies after terrorist attacks—it's a cultural taboo
What the Israeli intelligence agencies showed in an almost hour-long video for the press is a giant step beyond the comfort zone for Israelis <at the press conference held by the employees of the Israeli Ministry of Security for journalists from leading global media, unedited footage of the terrorists' atrocities against peaceful Israelis was shown—The Insider>.”
Anna Fyenko, communications specialist, lecturer at the University of Amsterdam:
“I work in the faculty of communication. We all professionally deal with the tools of information, propaganda, persuasion, and behavior change. All my colleagues have defended dissertations and written hundreds of scholarly articles on how to combat fake news and resist political propaganda. But none of them, for a moment, doubted the truth of Hamas' statements and their propaganda channels (which were echoed by, among others, BBC and Dutch NRC broadcasts) about, for example, the 'deliberate shelling of Al-Ahli hospital.' Even after the official refutation appeared. Propaganda affects everyone, even those who are professionally obligated to understand how it works.
Lately, there have been timid attempts on BBC and CNN to give a voice to the 'other side.' Recently, CNN tried to talk to an Israeli doctor who treats Palestinian children. BBC aired an interview with the father of an eight-year-old girl who died in Kibbutz Be'eri; he didn't know about her fate for several days, and when they found her body, he was relieved that she wasn't kidnapped by terrorists, meaning he no longer had to imagine the torture she might have faced in captivity. But then they switched back to the Hamas press attaché.
But the fact that Israel is losing the PR war to terrorists is not a coincidence or the result of an inept press office. The State of Israel itself is based on a deeply rooted consensus that, having survived the Holocaust, the Jewish people now refuse to be victims. Hence, the militarism, the reluctance to take on the role of a victim and to openly demonstrate their grief to avoid showing weakness to enemies.”
Having survived the Holocaust, the Jewish people now refuse to be victims; hence, the reluctance to openly show their grief
From a public relations standpoint, this is undoubtedly a failed strategy. Sympathy is extended only to the 'weak' who openly showcase their 'helplessness.' The impoverished must continually emphasize their destitution to receive assistance. The strong, on the other hand, receive neither sympathy nor support. Compassionate left-leaning intellectuals are ready to empathize with grimy Palestinian children and their loudly lamenting mothers, just as they sympathize with emaciated polar bears affected by global warming. They are not inclined to empathize with those who do not expose their pain for public display.”
“The Left” versus “The Right,” or “Blame Netanyahu for Everything”
By the time Hamas attacked Israel, a strong aversion to the policies of the Israeli authorities had already solidified in left-leaning academic circles. This aversion is a consequence of the “right-wing” policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Although Netanyahu himself has lost former support within Israel and is likely to step down immediately after the Gaza operation concludes, in left-wing circles, Israel continues to be associated with conservative right-wing elements.
“At our Amsterdam University, there was recently a demonstration in support of Palestine. The administration kindly allowed teachers who had classes scheduled at that time to finish their lectures half an hour early or to ask coordinators to find replacements for them. In two years of the pandemic, I can't recall a single instance where a sick teacher was allowed to end their Zoom session half an hour early, let alone offered a replacement.
On my faculty's chat, there are 77 lecturers. Most of them placed hearts under the message about the demonstration. Some added a link to a collective letter condemning 'Israeli militarism.' Only one colleague of mine asked, 'When will there be a demonstration in support of Israel? I would attend.' She was told that our government already supports Israel, so a demonstration is not needed. This is, to put it mildly, disingenuous because when the war in Ukraine started, everyone—both students and teachers—carried Ukrainian flags, regardless of state support.”
Pro-Palestinian activists at a protest near Columbia University
AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura, File
Evgeny Roshchin, political scientist and researcher at Princeton University:
“Israel has always been a prominent topic in U.S. media, long before the recent events. Throughout the summer, the news portrayed Netanyahu undermining democracy in Israel. There was a certain perception of the current Israeli government as extremely 'right-wing,' which, of course, does not align with the left-liberal values of the modern youth in both Europe and the United States. This is one context of perception. Another is the continuous coverage of Israel's response to rocket launches and terrorist attacks. The bombings in Gaza do not go unnoticed. There is already a certain background to this as well.
The youth is always inclined toward protest, especially among students. Perhaps the youth's reaction is linked to the unambiguous position the White House and Biden have taken. Even though the White House, despite unequivocal support, sends a clear signal to Israel that many disapprove of the 'disproportionality' of retaliatory strikes.”
“Trump's support for Israel also played a role: Jews are still perceived by society as closely tied to Israel, hence associated with the right-wing, reactionary, 'Trumpist' agenda. There has been an uncritical merging of Israel, Judaism, academia, and other establishments. All of this is labeled as 'right-wing,' 'reactionary,' something to be fought against. Recently, this perception gained new momentum in connection with the public opposition to Netanyahu's reforms during months of demonstrations.
Jews are still perceived by society as closely tied to Israel, hence associated with the right-wing, reactionary, 'Trumpist' agenda
However, Israel is not just Netanyahu. The Israeli 'left camp' has a very powerful tradition. This includes university intellectuals and a vast number of grassroots organizations such as groups like 'B'Tselem,' a former participant of which was among those kidnapped. There's 'Breaking the Silence,' collecting soldiers' testimonies. There are groups like 'Shalom Achshav' ('Peace Now') and 'Neshim Ba-Shachor' ('Women in Black'), protesting against the abuse of Palestinians at checkpoints, among others.
These groups have been active since the late 1980s, consistently asserting that settlements are a 'festering sore.' The 'right-wing' in Israel, advocating for a messianic settlement concept in the West Bank, hinders the development of Palestinian society and the establishment of economic and political presence for Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank. Significant financial resources are diverted to the protection and construction of state-subsidized settlements. The army defends settlers, who often attack Palestinians, diverting their forces from protecting, for example, southern kibbutzim or controlling the situation around the Gaza Strip.
At the same time, you see the rhetoric of the right, particularly the language used by the most odious members of Netanyahu's Likud party. Representatives of the ruling coalition label the left as 'traitors,' the 'fifth column'—a language familiar to us and utterly repugnant in the Israeli context. The left in Israel finds itself in a very difficult position. Among them, there are many who have suffered, died, or been taken captive because traditionally, kibbutzim are predominantly inhabited by left-leaning people. They have become the main victims.
Despite the severe blow to the humanistic ideals of these people, many are now urging the IDF to show restraint and avoid casualties among the peaceful Palestinian population. Representatives of both 'B'Tselem' and 'Breaking the Silence' continue to assert that it is the Netanyahu government's responsibility for not protecting the people in the kibbutzim. The army took hours to reach the affected areas, and people had to defend themselves. It is Netanyahu who bears responsibility for the priorities set in national security.
“It is believed that Netanyahu's ruling coalition had a favorable attitude toward Trump and, conversely, a negative one toward Obama. This automatically makes Israel a 'persona non grata' among American 'leftists.' Additionally, Americans often project their worldview, their political agenda onto the rest of the world. Hence, many think that if you remove Netanyahu and all this 'apartheid system,' everyone will live together happily and harmoniously, like in Brooklyn.”
Anti-Semitism: true or “imaginary”?
Representatives of the “left camp” in the West categorically deny the presence of an anti-Semitic agenda in pro-Palestinian protests. They assert that their ideological opponents manipulate the issue of anti-Semitism to discredit criticism of Israel's policies towards Palestinian Arabs. Those sympathetic to Israel believe that the “leftists” turn a blind eye to the obvious and show solidarity with Hamas, whose dominant ideology is the destruction of the state of Israel.
Ilya Matveev, invited research fellow at the University of California, Berkeley:
“I don't get the impression that antisemitism is involved here. I think 99.9% of it is genuine support for Palestine and criticism of Israeli policies. It's not antisemitism, if only for the reason that Jews themselves are among the critics. The problem of antisemitism, of course, exists because there are 'right-wing' conservatives and 'right-wing' conspiracy theories. For example, in 2017 in Charlottesville, U.S.A., there was a torchlight march — various Trump-supporting nationalists first chanted, 'You will not replace us,' and then — 'Jews will not replace us!' In very rare cases, 'left-wing' statements in support of Palestine may border on antisemitism when it turns into a conversation about the 'Jewish conspiracy,' that Israel controls the whole world. But 99.9% of what is happening is support for Palestine. And from here, one must conclude that accusing those who criticize Israeli policy of antisemitism is manipulation. The issue of antisemitism on campus is highly exaggerated. And most importantly, universities will address each such case. And I am confident that in all cases where it actually occurred, all individuals who allowed themselves harsh antisemitic statements will be punished.”
“In the 1940s and 1950s, American Jews were a crucial part of the progressive camp, active allies and participants in the African American struggle for civil rights. During the era of segregation, for example, black colleges often hired Jewish refugees as professors because they were denied entry to white colleges due to prevailing antisemitism. American Jews actively participated in marches supporting the 'black movement,' and so on.
After the Six-Day War (1967) and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. (1968), antisemitic sentiments became more audible within the 'black movement' — Malcolm X, for instance, did not hide them at all. Today's BLM movement, a significant element of the American 'progressive' camp, openly inherits this antisemitism and openly expresses solidarity with Palestinian Arabs.
At the same time, in the 'left' university environment, the issue of Arab nationalism, which discriminates against and hates not only the Jewish minority but also any others such as Bedouins, Druze, Kurds, is strangely ignored. Numerous minorities suffer under the doctrine of Arab nationalism, and where are the voices condemning this?”
The issue of Arab nationalism is strangely ignored in the 'left' university environment
And I can't explain it with anything other than a consciously chosen, ideologically driven ethical deafness. I really don't want to resort to this explanation, but now simplified, primitive concepts come to the forefront, without understanding that the Israeli and Jewish experience is linked to a constant threat to life. It is impossible to explain to someone who has never lived with this. It's very difficult to convey what citizens of Israel and Jews in the diaspora feel when they see the scenes from the kibbutzim. The first thought, the 'natural trigger,' is the Holocaust, pogroms, a repetition of eternal antisemitic plots and forms of violence.
And these very people, who, through their own experience and historical memory, know what genocide is, now look ridiculous, annoying, and intrusive. 'Here they go again with their antisemitism! How much longer can this go on?' This is genuine gaslighting — for some reason, they understand the impossibility of a white person speaking for black people, a healthy person speaking for a person with disabilities, or mansplaining, but they consider it acceptable to tell Jews that antisemitism is their imagination.
For me, it's evident that in the current academic discourse on Palestine, there is a significant blind spot concerning violence. People who carefully track others' 'microaggressions' towards them, condemn the infamous 'toxicity,' monitor boundary violations, violence, and harassment — somehow overlook super-aggression, super-violence committed by Hamas. Severed limbs, decapitations, raped women, murdered children — for some reason, these incidents don't scare or embarrass these people, nor do they evoke a need for solidarity.
You guys, with your feminism, your love for the LGBTQ+ and other minorities, take a leap into the Arab world and observe it around you, how much it aligns with your aspirations. Granted, you have a common enemy with these guys — Israel. But Israel is a democratic state, no matter how you feel about it. The situation with women's rights, ethnic and sexual minorities in Israel is entirely different from Palestinian society and the Arab world.
And most importantly, the 'left' narrative conveniently puts aside the fact that Hamas and many others demand the complete destruction of the state of Israel itself, denying its right to exist. If you set this aside, you can shout slogans like 'From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free!' with a clear conscience and absolutely ignore that this slogan is a call for genocide, for the destruction of Israel, not the 'genocide' imagined by the 'left.' This is evident from the Hamas emblem, clearly indicating the desired state on the depicted territory. There's no room for interpretation there.
It's very sad when, in pursuit of their intellectual ambitions, detached from this country, its people, and culture, people align themselves with forces that are very dangerous, including to themselves. They provide them with a platform on social media, broadcast their slogans and spread them themselves. And these forces use them as an informational shield.
If massacres, torture, rapes, abductions of infants and the elderly are considered 'emancipation,' 'decolonization,' 'struggle for freedom,' we need a new ethics vocabulary.”