Make Colleges Safe from Antisemitism
Urge the Department of Education to prioritize fulfilling its commitments in the National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism to protect students from antisemitism, including when anti-Israel rhetoric and activity crosses the line.
- Vilification of Zionists and expressions of support for terror against Israel defined anti-Israel activity on college and university campuses between June 2022 and May 2023.
- There is a growing, radical movement on many campuses in which opposition to Israel and Zionism is required to be fully accepted, effectively marginalizing campus Jewish communities.
This report is ADL’s annual assessment of anti-Israel activism on U.S. college campuses. For decades, a vocal segment of U.S. student groups and faculty have espoused anti-Israel and anti-Zionist views and engaged in related activism. This activism appears to have grown in prominence in recent years, including during the 2022-2023 academic year. Anti-Israel rhetoric and activism includes strident and biased criticism of Israel as well as antisemitism -- such as efforts by anti-Zionists to exclude Zionists from campus life.
Zionism, broadly defined as the movement for Jewish self-determination and statehood in the Jewish people’s historic homeland in the Land of Israel, is sometimes seen by left-wing campus activists as unjustifiable or illegitimate. A large majority of American Jews feel attached to Israel as the Jewish homeland or view a relationship with Israel as part of their Jewish identities, regardless of their views about Israeli government policies. As in previous years, the trend of targeting Jewish students who publicly express support for Israel’s existence as a Jewish state animated much of the worst anti-Israel activity during the 2022-2023 academic year. In particular, the acute vilification and stigmatization of Zionism and Zionists was a hallmark of anti-Israel activity.
The goal of this report is not to document or quantify criticism of Israel’s actions or policies, but to provide a snapshot of a more radical activist movement that seeks to make opposition to Israel and Zionism a pillar of campus life and a precondition for full acceptance in the campus community, effectively causing the marginalization of Jewish students.
This snapshot is composed of hundreds of individual incidents that have been documented by ADL. These incidents can include verbal or written harassment of Jews, Zionists or Israelis, anti-Israel demonstrations that affect the campus, events that feature radical anti-Israel messaging and programming and the dissemination of rhetoric or policies that marginalize, demonize or exclude Jews, Zionists or Israelis from campus life.
Many of the incidents described in this report are antisemitic in intent or in effect. While other incidents may not be antisemitic, collectively they may contribute to a more hostile campus environment for Jewish students.
Criticism and debate over the policies of the State of Israel—like criticism of the policies and actions of any country—is part of a healthy campus ecosystem. The First Amendment protects the right to boycott, as well as the right to engage in harsh and divisive rhetoric. The academy is strongest when it serves as a marketplace for the free exchange of ideas, and dialogue whenever possible is of paramount importance. Discomfort with new ideas may be unpleasant, but it is often a sign of intellectual growth. Yet, as antisemitic incidents have surged in recent years, it is important to be aware of possible links between hateful rhetoric, harassment and violence. Every member of the campus community should engage on issues related to Zionism and Israel with this reality in mind. Students and faculty of all political stripes must do their best to engage in healthy and respectful dialogue.
While concerning trends persist, there are vibrant Jewish communities on campuses across the United States which enable Jewish students to freely explore and express their Jewish identity. And while many administrations could do much more to counter the tide of anti-Zionist activity affecting Jewish students, those that have spoken up have addressed these issues effectively.
Most of the incidents featured in this report are legal expressions of First Amendment protected speech. ADL is a strong supporter of the First Amendment and does not advocate for restrictions on campus speech. We do, however, feel it important to document how anti-Israel activists are using their speech in ways that make aspects of campus life challenging for many American Jews.
Not everyone involved in the incidents described in this report may identify as part of an anti-Israel activist movement. But when they espouse rhetoric or tactics identical to those employed by anti-Israel activists, their actions can have the same devastating impact.
This report provides a detailed overview but is not comprehensive. It is also certainly an undercount. Many anti-Israel activists do not post their activities on social media; some victims of anti-Zionism-related harassment may have chosen not to report them; and some incidents may not have been covered by campus press. To form a complete picture of the state of anti-Israel activism on campuses, it is important to supplement this incident-based, open source-oriented report with other research, including public opinion polling and surveys of the lived experiences of American Jewish college students.
ADL researchers gathered the incidents featured in this report primarily using open-source research methods. Much of our data on campus anti-Israel incidents was compiled by monitoring publicly available information posted online by anti-Israel activists themselves. Other information came from incidents reported to ADL by students and faculty, as well as student newspapers and other news media. Important insights were also gleaned from the work of other organizations, including the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC), Hillel and AMCHA Initiative. In cases where we obtained information from the media or from third parties, we always sought out primary sources to substantiate the reporting. We did not include unsubstantiated incidents.
ADL tallied 665 campus anti-Israel incidents during the 2022-2023 academic year: zero instances of physical assault; nine instances of vandalism; 24 instances of harassment; 303 events; 326 protests/actions; and three BDS resolutions. Many but not all incidents may be characterized as antisemitic.
Although the total number of incidents nearly doubled from 2021-2022, they remained similar in two of the most important categories: the number of physical assaults declined from one to zero, and instances of vandalism declined from 11 to nine. However, the number of BDS resolutions surveyed across undergraduate institutions, faculty/staff unions and graduate student programs fell, from 20 to three. All three resolutions passed in undergraduate student bodies. Additionally, there was a small increase in instances of harassment, from 19 to 24.
The overall increase in anti-Israel incidents is likely due to various factors, including continued momentum-building in the anti-Israel movement generally. While assaults and vandalism dropped, the small increase in harassment could suggest that campus activists are becoming emboldened in other ways.
Further analysis of incidents reveals an uptick in explicit promotion of violence against Israel, as well as a coarsening of rhetoric attempting to vilify and ostracize Zionism and Zionists. Activist groups, in particular Students for Justice Palestine (SJP) (the largest and most active campus anti-Israel group in the U.S.), appeared to be less restrained in expressing support for U.S. State Department-designated terrorist organizations and individuals who are known to have killed Israelis. They also seemed to be more emboldened in calling for Zionists, Zionist institutions and organizations that associate with Zionists to be excluded from communal life and/or dismantled. Often, these messages were delivered as a call for “anti-normalization,” or the complete rejection of any cooperation or association with individuals or organizations who accept or support Israel’s existence (who they pejoratively label “Zionists”).
There were several defining developments related to this rhetoric and activism:
- In June 2022, The Mapping Project was promoted by National SJP and several of its campus chapters including Tufts SJP, Wellesley SJP, Rhode Island School of Design SJP and George Washington University SJP. On September 28, 2022, the editorial board of the Wellesley College student newspaper endorsed it (following pressure, they retracted). The Mapping Project is a website that contains an interactive map pinpointing the locations of many Boston-area Jewish communal and other organizations, including elementary schools, that the anonymous creators believe are responsible for the “colonization of Palestine” and other perceived “harms,” among which they include Zionism. The website includes a call to “dismantle” and “disrupt” all the named organizations and states: “Every entity has an address, every network can be disrupted.” (Full disclosure: ADL filed suit against the Mapping Project in Iceland, where its online hosting service is based).
- Resistance News Network (RNN), a radical anti-Zionist English-language channel on Telegram and Instagram that promotes violence against Israel, emerged in October 2022 and was disseminated by many anti-Zionist student groups, including Claremont SJP, Not In Our Name CUNY, Marquette SJP, University of Southern California SJP, California State University-Northridge SJP and Wellesley SJP. The channel’s posts include the explicit promotion of State Department-designated terror organizations such as Hamas and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), as well as many images of individuals with guns and the depiction of rockets being fired at Israel. RNN also occasionally posts communiques from Hamas’ Al Qassam Brigades and the Iranian-funded Hezbollah terrorist group.
- During the summer of 2022, a social media channel and website called Jisr Collective became increasingly popular among campus anti-Zionist activists and was promoted by some SJP chapters, including at Wellesley College, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Washington, California State University-Northridge and University of Southern California. Jisr Collective (now dormant after being banned from Twitter in November 2022) explicitly asserted opposition to Israel’s existence; conveyed support for all forms of “armed resistance” to Israel, including from terror groups Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and PFLP; and often expressed fierce opposition to “normalization,” which they defined as: “the endorsing or collaborating with an individual, ideology, or entity that carries, represents, or invokes ‘Israeli’ aspirations or sentiments.”
Each of these developments illustrate the state of radical anti-Israel activism on campus today. The embrace by many SJP chapters of RNN, Jisr Collective and The Mapping Project signals that explicit promotion of violence against Israel and calls to eradicate Zionism and dismantle Zionist institutions are accepted among large swaths of the campus anti-Zionist movement.
Indeed, the spread of more radical language and ideology that is exemplified by RNN, Jisr Collective and The Mapping Project may have translated into antisemitic calls and initiatives against Zionism and Zionists. One significant instance occurred in August 2022, when Berkeley Law SJP announced that they successfully convinced several campus affinity groups to adopt a bylaw pledging not to work with, invite to speak, or co-sponsor events with anyone who has, or continues to, “hold views in support of Zionism.” The adoption of the bylaw by groups representing various communities is an example of broad progressive support for anti-Zionist rhetoric and policies.
There were zero Israel-related physical attacks on campuses during the 2022-2023 academic year. Physical attacks are defined as acts of violence against one or more people during which the perpetrator mentions Israel/Zionism, or during which the perpetrator is acting as a member of an anti-Israel group or a participant in an anti-Israel event. Historically, there have been very few documented cases of Israel/Zionism-related physical attacks on U.S. college campuses.
There were nine instances of vandalism, defined as unauthorized destruction of property on campus in which Israel/Zionism are referenced in a derogatory manner or posting materials on campus that contain threatening messages against Jews, Zionists and/or Israelis. This does not include graffiti or art in campus areas designated for that purpose or, in general, chalking on property not owned by Jewish individuals or institutions. In three instances, campus Jewish institutions Hillel and Chabad were vandalized. Vandalism of campus Jewish institutions has a chilling effect on the Jewish community. Such activity is also antisemitic, as it holds the entire Jewish community responsible for the actions (perceived or actual) of the state of Israel. Instances of vandalism include:
- May 19, 2023: Graffiti reading “From the River to the Sea Palestine Will be Free” was spray-painted at the Chabad Center at University of California, Santa Barbara.
- April 11, 2023: A student tore down a banner in front of the Hillel building at Rutgers University that said: "Free Trip to Israel."
- February 9, 2023: Stickers were found across campus at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champagne (UIUC) with the message “exterminate Zionists.” The stickers contained insignia from the Coalition of Public Power, Students for Socialism and Liberation and UIUC Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA). UIUC YDSA denounced the stickers and denied involvement.
- October 11, 2022: An Israeli flag was torn from a Sukkah (a makeshift shelter built by many Jews in observance of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot) at University of Texas, San Antonio.
Targeted verbal or written harassment
The 24 recorded cases of Israel-related harassment against individuals or small groups were often characterized by individuals hurling incendiary, degrading and/or exclusionary language at those who self-identify as Zionist or pro-Israel. Targeted verbal or written harassment is defined as digital or in-person hateful language, including threats, that reference Israel or Zionism, and which target a specific person, group of people or Jewish institution. It also included the disruption of events that featured Israelis or individuals deemed by anti-Israel activists to be “Zionist.”
- May 17, 2023: As a student known on campus for being public about her Jewish and Zionist identities walked by an SJP table at the University of California, Davis, an SJP activist yelled, “Zio! Zio! Zio!”
- April 20, 2023: A talk on antisemitism at New York University by Israeli activist and former member of the Israeli Knesset Michal Cotler-Wunsh was disrupted by anti-Israel activists, and “Zionists not welcome” was chalked on the sidewalk outside the event.
- February 21, 2023: Anti-Zionist activists disrupted a Roots Initiative event bringing together an Israeli and a Palestinian to engage in dialogue. According to The Tufts Daily, the activists shouted, “Roots, Roots, you can’t hide, you’re protecting genocide.” The Tufts Daily added:
- “After a few minutes of chanting, one protester began to directly address Sayegh [the Palestinian dialogue participant]. Remarks included various profanity and insults in both English and Arabic. One of the protestors called Sayegh a ‘slut’ in Arabic.”
- February 2023: SJP chapters at Portland State University and Boston University shared a post on Instagram reading, in part: “Zionists need to be called out. Is your co-worker a Zionist? Your teacher/lecturer a Zionist? Campaign for them to be fired...Zionists are extremists [sic]. As no logical, sane or moral person is a Zionist.”
Student and university department events were the second most frequent form of anti-Israel activity in the 2022-23 school year, with a total of 302 such incidents. These included panels, speakers, conferences, webinars and more (rallies are included in the protest/action category). Some of the most popular events featured sessions advocating for BDS, promoting anti-Zionism or propagating the idea that Israel is an apartheid state akin to Apartheid South Africa.
Other events alleged that Israel engages in pinkwashing or greenwashing, terms that activists use to dismiss or deny Israeli society’s achievements in LGBTQ+ rights and environmentalism, respectively. While it is not inappropriate to argue that Israeli government officials occasionally highlight Israel’s accomplishments in these areas to curry favor in front of liberal Western audiences, anti-Israel activists make “washing” accusations to argue that all laudable aspects of Israeli society are disingenuous or worthless in light of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians. These activists refuse to recognize the intersectional identities, lived experiences and improved lives of Israelis – both Arab and Jewish – on their own merits.
Also popular were screenings of Farha, a controversial Palestinian film that was released on Netflix on December 1, 2022.
Farha is a highly decontextualized and skewed accounting of the 1948 Arab Israeli War told through the purported experience of a young Palestinian girl who hides in a cellar as her village’s population is driven out as a result of fighting between Israelis and Palestinians and the armies of several Arab states. One scene shows Israeli soldiers harassing a pregnant woman, and another scene suggests that Israel executed a family, including its young children. In another scene, an Israeli commander sees a newborn Palestinian infant and orders one of his junior soldiers, who is wearing a kippah (Jewish religious head covering), to kill the baby without “wasting a bullet.” The soldier puts the infant on the ground, raises his leg as if he's going to step on the baby's head, but ultimately cannot and leaves.
Other notable events include:
- March 13, 2023: Georgetown University co-sponsored a conference that featured academic David Miller, who was dismissed from his position at Bristol University in October 2021 over allegations of antisemitism. On a panel at the conference, he claimed that one of the main origins and pushers of contemporary Islamophobia are Zionists. Miller has a pattern of engaging in antisemitic rhetoric, including by accusing “Russian Chabadniks” of beginning Israel’s occupation of Palestine in 1777; declaring that the “Zionist movement” is “grooming Jewish kids;” and writing that "every single Zionist organisation, the world over, needs to be ended. Every. Single. One."
- February 14, 2023: Temple University SJP hosted “A Valentine for Palestine” during which activists wrote notes that were displayed on posters. Some included the messages “F*ck the IDF!” and one read “F*ck Israel 😊.”
- August 12, 2022: At an event co-sponsored by the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas (AMED) Studies department at San Francisco State University (SFSU), a speaker accused Israel of engaging in “four genocidal wars” against Gaza over the last 15 years.
ADL tracks BDS resolutions from undergraduate and graduate student bodies, as well as from faculty/staff unions. During 2022-2023, BDS resolutions were voted on at three universities (all within undergraduate student bodies): California State University, Fullerton; University of Texas, Dallas; and Case Western Reserve University. All passed. Continuing a historic trend, none were implemented by the universities.
The official BDS movement advocates for an economic boycott of Israel by targeting Israeli and non-Israeli companies they claim contribute to alleged human rights violations against Palestinians; an academic boycott of Israel, which objects to exchanges with Israeli educational institutions and affiliated academics; and a cultural boycott of Israel, which targets Israeli “cultural institutions,” such as Israeli artists and performers, and calls for musicians and other cultural figures to not perform or appear in Israel.
Support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel remains a central feature of the campus anti-Israel movement. 2023 marks the twentieth anniversary of the passage of the first divestment resolution in the United States, at Wayne State University.
Details of note include:
- Following the passage of the BDS resolution at Case Western Reserve University, the university president released a letter to the campus community condemning the resolution as antisemitic: “The foundation of this resolution is profoundly anti-Israel and anti-Semitic. Passing this resolution last night undermines the safety and comfort on our campus of members of our Jewish community.” The resolution’s text accused Israel of apartheid and of “contributing” to “the international military-industrial complex, and the international prison-industrial complex.”
- Each resolution targeted large corporations with ties to Israel, many of which are defense or technology companies, including Hewlett-Packard, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Elbit. Other targeted companies included Ahava (an Israeli skincare company), Sabra (which makes food products, including hummus), SodaStream and Puma (which is a major sponsor of the Israeli Football Association).
- In a new development, Google and Amazon were targeted in a BDS resolution. Their inclusion in the resolution at California State University, Fullerton, may be attributed to the No Tech for Apartheid campaign, an effort spearheaded by anti-Zionist groups Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and MPower Change. The campaign aims to persuade these companies to end their “Project Nimbus” (an agreement between Amazon and Google to provide technological capabilities to Israel) contracts with the Israeli government and cease cooperation with Israel more broadly.
While only three BDS resolutions were voted on, there were at least 10 additional BDS campaigns (none of which formally made it to student government) on campuses across the country. These included new BDS campaigns, often in the form of public petitions, sign-on letters or public statements. Old campaigns also resumed, such as the attempt to stop Pitzer College’s study abroad program in Haifa. Wayne State University SJP began a new campaign to mark the twenty-year anniversary of the passage of their divestment resolution in 2003 (the resolution was rescinded by the student government the following academic year).
Protests and actions by student campus groups or faculty were the most common type of anti-Israel activity, with 329 such events. These activities included classic protests and demonstrations in the campus quad and mock “apartheid walls” meant to replicate the Israeli security barrier that runs roughly along the so-called 1967 Green Line and within the West Bank. SJP chapters and other groups erected 29 such walls at universities, including at Ohio State, George Washington and Harvard universities.
Some apartheid walls featured messages supporting “intifada,” and at least one featured Leila Khaled. The promotion of an “intifada” recalls the First and Second Palestinian Intifadas. The Second Intifada (2000-2005) was one of the most violent and deadly eras of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during which over 1000 Israeli civilians were killed and many thousands more injured by terror groups. Leila Khaled is a leader of U.S. State Department-designated terror organization PFLP and is well-known for her role in the hijacking of two civilian airliners, TWA Flight 840 in 1969 (bound for Tel Aviv from Rome) and El Al flight 219 in 1970 (traveling from Amsterdam to New York City).
Protests and actions of note include:
- May 24, 2023: SJP of UC Riverside erected an apartheid wall with one panel depicting PFLP terrorist Leila Khaled carrying a rifle.
- March 30, 2023: Harvard University SJP displayed a mock Israeli “Apartheid Wall” on campus. Among messages included: “There is no Zionist state without racism.”
- August 13, 2022: In an off-campus chalking activity, members of Wayne State University SJP depicted Ibrahim al Nabulsi, who was a senior commander in the U.S.-designated terror group Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and allegedly involved in several shootings in the West Bank. Nabulsi died in a firefight with the Israeli military in 2022.
Themes and Trends
Vilifying and Ostracizing Zionists and Zionism
Zionists continued to be commonly associated with racism and bigotry by campus activists, including those affiliated with SJP and, to a lesser extent, JVP. But much of the messaging went beyond such rhetoric, devolving into outright calls to ostracize Zionists from all aspects of life, including calls for Zionists to be fired from their jobs, “confronted” and “disrupted,” effectively marginalizing the mainstream Jewish community. As mentioned previously, this phenomenon is often labeled by its advocates as “anti-normalization.”
Within SJP, the most active anti-Israel group on U.S. campuses, these sentiments appear to come from the top. On National SJP’s website, the registration page for its 2023 conference (held in February) promoted “agitation” against Zionism on campus: “As our universities continue to provide material and ideological support for projects of Zionism and U.S. Imperialism, the student movement for Palestine personifies grassroots power—transforming our campuses into bases for political organization and agitation.” Other examples of the vilifying and ostracizing of Zionism and Zionists:
- May 2023: During CUNY Law’s commencement ceremony, the student body commencement speech included language, such as
- “...may the rage that fills this auditorium...may it be the fuel for the fight against capitalism, racism, imperialism and Zionism around the world."
- March 2023: A description for an event cosponsored by JVP and the anti-Zionist young adult-centered group Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM) invited participants to learn how to “organize against Zionism and normalization on campus and in our communities.”
- March 2023: CUNY4Palestine and Wellesley SJP shared a post that rejected an Interfaith Iftar hosted by the Center for Religion and Global Citizenry (CRGC) at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, due to the Center's work with "Zionists." A section of the post read:
- “DO NOT BREAK YOUR FAST WITH ZIONISTS!... AND DO NOT ATTEND THIS EVENT!”
- February 13, 2023: An individual firing a slingshot featured on an online flier for an event entitled “Confronting Zionism on College Campuses” hosted by SJP at George Mason University. The depiction was seen by many observers as an endorsement of physical violence against Zionists on campus.
- January 2023: In an article in news and analysis site Middle East Eye, Columbia University Professor Joseph Massad stated:
- “These alleged 'historical and Biblical ties to the land' are indeed the crux of the Zionist claim to the homeland of the Palestinians and include the primary assertion that ‘the Jewish people’ lived in Palestine two millennia ago and were its sole occupants. But the people who lived in Palestine two millennia ago were the Hebrews and not ‘the Jewish people’ (a concept of much later coinage) and the Hebrews never lived there alone.”
- January 2023: On a webinar with Middle East analysis site Jadaliyya, Professor Zahi Zalloua of Whitman College stated:
- “...Zionism functions as a collective fantasy, right? Teaches Jews who to desire, who to identify with and what to hate. And any critique of Zionism has to confront its ideological face, but also its collective fantasy and its appeal. How do you disrupt that? How you disidentify with Israel, which many Jews around the world are starting to do?"
- December 2022: Language in an Instagram post shared by Tufts SJP included:
- “Dialogue legitimizes zionist [sic] perspectives. When zionists [sic] are invited to the table to share their opinions on an equal playing field, it reinforces the idea that their views are not harmful and racist, but legitimate and deserving of a platform to be considered.”
- September 2022: At University of Wisconsin-Madison, an unknown group or individual chalked on campus grounds that campus “Zionist” organizations have “blood on their hands,” explicitly naming Chabad and J Street. The messages “Zionism is racism” and “Zionism is genocide” were also chalked. The college's SJP chapter released a statement maintaining that such activity was acceptable discourse.
Support for Terror
Analysis revealed numerous expressions of support for violence against Israelis, including civilians, in 2022-2023. This encompassed explicit support for U.S. State Department-designated terror organizations such as Hamas, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Many such manifestations were due to Resistance News Network’s posts being frequently shared by anti-Zionist activists (mentioned previously).
Additionally, there were at least 10 instances when SJP chapters venerated Leila Khaled, a PFLP member who is well-known for her role in hijacking two civilian airliners decades ago.
Many expressions of support for violence/terror were accompanied by the slogan that “[armed] resistance is justified when people are occupied,” which is often used by activists to promote all violence against Israel, even against civilians, which they argue is a noble cause in an anti-colonial struggle – despite Jews (like Palestinians) being native and indigenous to the land.
Notable expressions of support for violence and/or terrorism include:
- May 2023: Multiple SJP chapters (University of Texas, Dallas, NYU Law, University of Massachusetts) shared images featuring guns and the PFLP logo on their Instagram stories.
- May 9, 2023: SJP Tufts and SJP of UIC shared posts commemorating PIJ leaders Khalil Al-Bahtini and Tarek Izz El-Din.
- May 9, 2023: An RNN post lauding the Al-Qassam Brigades, the wing of Hamas responsible for terror attacks, was promoted by Not in Our Name (NION), a student group at CUNY.
- March 2023: SUPER UW (an SJP affiliate) shared, and a number of SJP chapters “liked” a post from Palestinian Feminist Collective, a North American group of anti-Zionist activists and university professors, which praised Jamila al-Shanti, founder of the women’s sector of Hamas. See ADL Tracker’s thread on this problematic post.
- February 27, 2023: An Instagram account representing SJP chapters across southern California shared an RNN post venerating the firing of rockets at Israel and “revenge” against Israel.
- January 2023: In preparation for an “Honoring the Martyrs” event, SJP at University of Chicago posted a collage of Palestinians killed with the header “rest in power.” Included among the Palestinians depicted is Khairy Alqam, who shot and killed seven Israeli civilians near a synagogue in Jerusalem that month.
- October 2022: An article entitled "In Defense of Hamas" was published in a campus newspaper at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. It stated that "In any objective, ethical sense Hamas are less properly called terrorists than the IDF or its primary supporter, the United States....any violence that Hamas commits against Israel is far more ethically justified than violence the IDF commits against Hamas."
- September 2022: SJP at University of Wisconsin, Madison shared an Instagram story venerating a number of terrorists, including Leila Khaled and Yahya Ayyash. Ayyash is well-known for his role making bombs for Hamas, many of which were used in suicide bombings that killed scores of Israel civilians in the 1990s (he was killed by Israel in 1996).
Classic Antisemitic Tropes
While not a pillar of campus anti-Israel organizing, there exists a pattern on campus of classic antisemitic themes being espoused by both student activists and professors. These include the promulgation of the idea that “Zionists” or Israel have inordinate influence or power. On occasion, there is rhetoric that plays into the historic blood libel against Jews.
- April 23, 2023: “You blood thirsty baby killers” was written by an unknown individual on an advertisement for an Israel Independence Day party at Pomona College.
- March 19, 2023: In a speech, Professor Khaled Beydoun of Wayne State University (Detroit) perpetuated themes about Jewish/Zionist control.
- "I've been teaching within legal academia, the belly of the beast, for a decade now. I see on a daily basis, on a routine basis, the entrenched influence, the institutional stranglehold, that Zionists, that atheists, that Islamophobes have within these institutions and within the most elite institutions in the United States that we send our children to learn at, to get degrees from and to prepare their careers and their lives moving forward."
- October 19, 2022: On Instagram, Temple University SJP posted a story with the text "Zionism probably owns social media now."
- August 23, 2022: Nader Hashemi, the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver, suggested that the stabbing of novelist Salman Rushdie may have been orchestrated by the Mossad, playing into historic themes about Jewish control over political developments around the world.
- August 2022: On a re-post from Jisr Collective on Instagram, SJP at University of Wisconsin at Madison alleged that their “main account has been removed by zionist [sic]-owned Instagram for saying exactly what needs to be said.”
Funding and Capacity Building of Campus Anti-Israel Groups
As official student clubs, SJP and JVP receive much of their funding from student government resources, which generally are funded by student activity fees. They also are supported by outside donors, including foundations. For example, Sparkplug Foundation gave National SJP $20,000 in the Spring and Fall of 2022 to help launch their new “National Network.”
WESPAC (Westchester Peace Action Committee) Foundation is a New York based nonprofit organization that funds and supports community-based and activist initiatives. Acting as National Students for Justice in Palestine’s fiscal sponsor allows for WESPAC's relationship with NSJP to remain opaque/secretive, and it is unclear how gifts to the group are released to chapters around the country, unless they are explicitly named in grants. As SJP’s fiscal sponsor, WESPAC offers its legal and tax-exempt status to SJP. SJP’s activities must be engaged in activities related to the sponsoring organization's mission.
WESPAC receives grants from the Sparkplug Foundation, the Elias Foundation, Cultures of Resistance, Bafrayung Fund and the Violet Jabara Charitable Trust, all of whom fund other anti-Israel organizations. It also receives grants from the Yonkers City Government, though it appears those grants are oriented towards projects improving the local Yonkers and Westchester community.
It has explicitly endorsed the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and is the fiscal sponsor of several other anti-Israel groups, many of which routinely cross the line into antisemitism, engaging in inflammatory and derogatory rhetoric. These groups include Adalah NY, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Palestinian Youth Movement, US Palestinian Community Network and Within Our Lifetime. In the past, it has sponsored and participated in Israel Apartheid Weeks.
American Muslims for Palestine
AMP, founded in 2005, was for many years a major organizer of SJP’s activism. Though it has expanded its mission to focus more on other areas off campus, it remains invested in campus activism, with speakers such as Taher Herzallah giving talks at AMP regional conferences for students, hosting a "Campus Activity Track” at their annual conference, and initiating a fundraising drive in 2022. A statement for the fundraising drive announced that “we at AMP are increasing our support for student organizing and are working with student leaders on developing their skills to enhance the work for Palestine in America.”
- In January 2023, the NJ chapter of AMP hosted a campus track with speakers Nerdeen Kiswani and Mohamad Habehh, both known for their inflammatory rhetoric that occasionally crosses the line into antisemitism.
- In November 2021, AMP released a report on working with Zionist institutions, stating their intention to equip the "American-Muslim community with a set of criteria by which to determine whether or not to work with various Jewish organizations [emphasis added].” Organizations that fail these criteria are ADL, Hillel International, American Jewish Committee and Jewish Federations. Most synagogues would not meet their criteria, as they self-identify as Zionist or pro-Israel. The report claims Zionist organizations that engage in interfaith dialogue are not interested in building relationships but rather in gaining “cover for their bigotry” or in pursuing “opportunities to infiltrate the Muslim community,” or, more often than not, “to work towards defusing American Muslim commitment to Palestine,” echoing well-worn accusations of Jewish dishonesty.
- In a 2023 essay published on Medium, Professor Hatem Bazian of UC Berkeley (who serves as chairman of AMP’s board) inaccurately suggests that the actions of Jewish Zionists are no different than those of their genocidal oppressors in Europe.
Fiscally sponsored by the Tides Foundation, one of the largest fiscal sponsors of progressive projects and advocacy in the United States, Palestine Legal provides legal aid to students, community members and others who feel they have been persecuted for their Palestine advocacy. This ranges from pro-Palestinian solidarity to outright antisemitism.
To be fiscally sponsored by Tides, "you must have an expected annual budget of at least $250,000 with confirmed support and formal grant commitments for 100% of your budget for the first year at Tides.” According to Tides, Palestine Legal's donor base has grown dramatically in the last five years, and the group is able to fundraise thousands of dollars very quickly, thanks to their social media network.
Palestine Legal offers a variety of “know your rights” sessions on campus, which offer objectively useful overviews of one’s rights on campus. They also have a toolkit with a variety of resources for what to do if one is harassed or attacked for Palestinian advocacy. Danya Zaytuni in a Palestine Digital Activism Forum panel noted that “Campus-based organizing and student movements for Palestine is incredibly powerful in the United States,” and this belief clearly informs the organization’s approach to campus.
Palestine Legal Activity on Campus
- The organization “has proudly supported Nerdeen [Kiswani] since she was co-president of Students for Justice in Palestine at CUNY-Staten Island in 2014.” Kiswani is a co-founder and leader of Within Our Lifetime, a vitriolic anti-Israel organization that routinely crosses the line into antisemitism. Palestine Legal also firmly support CUNY Law School’s controversial 2023 commencement speaker.
- Palestine Legal facilitated “Know Your Rights” workshops at the 2023 National Students for Justice in Palestine conference, where participants shared their experiences with campus activism, and discussed legal and advocacy strategies for handling various situations that may arise on campus. While not inherently problematic, it is another node in the broader support network for Palestine activism on campus.
- In 2023, Palestine Legal lawyer Dylan Saba, in response to DSA BDS Working Group thread defending the murder of Israeli civilians, tweeted, “people should really try explaining in their own words why the principle of non-combatant immunity should carry a huge moral weight in a settler state with a conscription military.”
Main Anti-Israel Campus Groups
Several anti-Israel organizations are active on campus, but the most visible and organized is Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and the Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM) also play a role, though much more minor. On occasion, the campus Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) chapters also engage in anti-Israel activism. During the 2022-2023 academic year, 423 anti-Israel incidents originated from SJP, by far surpassing JVP’s 23 and PYM’s 19.
- Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the most prominent and active anti-Israel and anti-Zionist student group, consists of 204 chapters across the country, mostly concentrated in the Northeast, Midwest and California (some chapters are based in Canada). This represents a loss of two SJP chapters since 2022 and stands in contrast to the group adding about 25 chapters over the course of 2020-2021 and 2021-2022. SJP organizes lectures and rallies; disseminates materials via its social media accounts and campus newspapers; organizes anti-Israel BDS resolutions and petitions on campuses, and more. A significant segment of SJP’s rhetoric and activism aims to stigmatize and ostracize Zionism and Zionists from campus life. Several chapters habitually share messages that express support for armed conflict against Israel. Some chapters have at times promulgated antisemitic tropes.
- Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) is an anti-Zionist activist group with several campus chapters which often work closely with SJP to organize some of the activities outlined above. JVP strenuously advocates for Jews to eradicate Zionism and a connection to Israel from their lives and promulgates the view that Jews who identify even tangentially with Israel are motivated by white supremacy, Jewish racial chauvinism and religious supremacism. They find it unacceptable that fellow Jews identify with Zionism, which they see as racist and a form of “Jewish supremacy.”
- The Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM) is an anti-Zionist activist organization with chapters across the U.S. and Canada. The group has expressed support for terrorism against Israel and frequently engages in inflammatory rhetoric about Zionism, including calls to stigmatize and ban Zionists from community spaces. They often partner with SJP and JVP.
The work of the ADL Center on Extremism is made possible by the generous support of:
The ADL Lewy Family Institute for Combatting Antisemitism
Crown Family Philanthropies
Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation
Lillian and Larry Goodman Foundations
Morton H. Meyerson Family Foundation/Marlene Nathan Meyerson Family Foundation
The Charles and Mildred Schnurmacher Foundation
The Nancy K. Silverman Foundation
The Tepper Foundation
The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation