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Wed Oct 18, 2023, 11:14 AM Oct 2023

War in Mideast inflames college campuses and raises fears of antisemitism


War in Mideast inflames college campuses and raises fears of antisemitism

Jewish students say they have felt increasingly isolated since Hamas militants attacked Israel

By Nick Anderson
October 18, 2023 at 6:00 a.m. EDT

A man holds up an Israeli flag as Columbia University students participate in a rally in support of Palestinians on Thursday at the university in New York. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Someone scrawled “Free Palestine” on the exterior of a Jewish fraternity house at Georgia Tech over the weekend, next to a large image of a menorah. A Stanford University instructor reportedly asked Jewish and Israeli students to stand in the corner of a classroom. A Cornell University professor declared at a rally Sunday that, while he abhors violence, he felt “exhilarated” after Hamas militants from Gaza attacked Israel.

These and other incidents have rattled Jewish communities on campuses across America as they mourn victims of the Oct. 7 massacres and kidnappings. For decades, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has stoked passions and divisions over the rights of Palestinians and the security of the Jewish state. But the outbreak of war has elevated those tensions even further in recent days and raised new alarms about intimidation and antisemitism on campus. ... “Jewish students are fearful and isolated,” said Melanie Schwartz, 20, a junior at Cornell.

Colleges and universities usually take pride in hosting demonstrations and debate, as long as no one gets hurt. Fiery rhetoric is tolerated and often encouraged as students and faculty members engage on politics, the climate, the economy, racism and war. But Jewish leaders say that too often debates over the Middle East take a problematic turn, leading to a threatening atmosphere for Jewish students. For them, that phenomenon is not new.

“The campus climate for Jewish students has been degrading over several years, and that has been aggravated by broader increases in antisemitism and virulent demonization of Israel on campuses,” Adam Lehman, president and chief executive of the Jewish organization Hillel International, said in an interview. Lehman said the climate in recent days has worsened.


By Nick Anderson
Nick Anderson covers higher education and other education topics for The Washington Post. He has been a writer and editor at The Post since 2005. Twitter https://twitter.com/wpnick
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