Tools and Strategies

How Can I Be Prepared for Antisemitic and Anti-Israel Bias on Campus? Scenarios and Best Practices


From academics to social life to extracurriculars, your college experience will offer an exciting menu of activities, some familiar and some new. One thing you’ll probably encounter on campus that may be new to you is vigorous discussions about hot-button issues. You’ve probably heard that one of those issues is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Sometimes, when issues heat up in the Middle East, there is an increase in discourse, protests and anger around those Israeli-Palestinian issues. And you may be concerned that you’ll encounter some challenging situations on your campus.

If you do, the most important thing to remember is that you’re not alone. You have many resources available to help you deal with whatever situations you face, from Jewish student organizations like Hillel and others, to your school’s student life professionals and other off-campus Jewish community organizations like ADL. Maybe you’re an activist, eager to take on challenging situations and engage in intense discussions with your peers. Maybe you’d rather focus on your studies and your social life. Or maybe you’re somewhere in between.

Whatever your inclination, you may find yourself in a position where you want some guidance on how to respond. Sometimes antisemitic or extreme anti-Israel language and actions is really obvious — you can’t miss it. Other times, the situation is more nuanced. That’s why it’s important to be informed. We’ve put together some scenarios you might face that represent situations that have already happened on American campuses, along with suggested steps you could take to prepare beforehand, or to take action at that time.

Of course, it’s important to remember every situation is different, and there’s no one-size-fits-all response that will always work. What is always true is that your personal safety comes first. Your next steps could be reaching out to your campus Hillel, campus administration, ADL or another organization to discuss the specific set of circumstances you’re facing and get advice on a potential plan of action.

More ADL resources:

ADL monitors antisemitic, anti-Israel and anti-Zionist attitudes and trends in the U.S.


Scenarios:  Antisemitic and Anti-Israel Situations on Campus

Mock Anti-Israel Demolition Notice

As you leave your room one morning, you notice a flier taped to your door warning that your residence hall will soon be demolished. The rest of the flier contains the “facts” about how many Palestinian homes have been demolished by the Israeli military to collectively punish and “ethnically cleanse” Palestinians.

What is this about?

The flier refers to incidents involving the Israeli military demolishing Palestinian homes. Some have been the homes of Palestinians who carried out terror attacks against Israelis, to deter others from terrorist action. Israeli authorities have also demolished some Palestinian homes in Jerusalem and the West Bank if they are found to have been built without proper permits. While you may agree or disagree with these Israeli government actions, the charge that Israel has demolished these homes to “ethnically cleanse” Palestinians is inaccurate and inflammatory. The message in the flier, and others like it, could represent legitimate political discourse. Students on your campus are allowed to try to raise awareness about an issue they perceive to be unfair. There are, however, some factors that would make this action far less acceptable: 

  • If the university sanctioned/endorsed the message in the fliers.
  • If the fliers specifically targeted Jewish students and/or Jewish residence halls or Jewish-affiliated organizations on campus.
  • If the fliers contained messages threatening harm.
  • If the fliers feature antisemitic images or phrases, or you think they might. (Always take a screen shot or a photo noting the location and time of incident.)

What can I do? 

  • As much as you may want to tear the flier down, please don’t, because that may be a student code of conduct violation. Instead, you can find other opportunities to counter this speech with more positive engagement and education.
  • If the flier calls for violence, inform campus police and administration officials through your school’s bias incident reporting system, and report the incident to your Hillel or on
  • Many schools have policies that prohibit placing fliers without prior permission and/or outside of designated locations on campus. If that’s the case on your campus, you could have them removed quickly.
  • Strategize with your friends, campus Hillel and/or representatives of the pro-Israel community about countering the false allegations made in the flier and further educating about Israel’s security challenges. You may want to respond directly, via the campus newspaper, or use the opportunity to present other viewpoints at an event you’re planning for later in the semester.

Questioning The Fitness of Jewish Students for Campus Office

You are running for a student government position or have been elected and started your term. At a meeting to consider your candidacy, members of the student government and the student body raise questions about whether your being Jewish and your association with Jewish student groups constitutes a conflict of interest that would prevent you from being faithfully representing the interests of the student body and the institution you are/will be elected to serve, particularly when it comes to issues related to Zionism and Israel.

What is this about?

The implication that a student’s Jewish identity, including their support for Zionism, makes them biased or even racist is fundamentally antisemitic. Every person has a background and belongs to an ethnicity, race or gender, and many people have religious affiliations. Any argument that states that your background or another aspect of your identity automatically affects your objectivity is offensive and demeaning.

Questioning a Jewish student’s ability to fairly govern invokes an age-old antisemitic trope claiming Jews have “dual loyalty” and are more loyal to Jews/Israel than to the country they live in or the movements, institutions or social groups they belong to. In this case, the Jewish candidate is suspected of putting Israeli or Jewish interests above the interests of the university and the student body.  

This scenario is sometimes similar to excluding Jewish students from campus groups because of a perceived association with Israel and/or Zionism. 

What can I do?

  • Inform the faculty advisor to the student government, student life administrator or even the university president and urge them to speak out against the unfair assumptions raised by the student government members. In one instance, USC President Carol L. Folt issued a statement after a student resigned from her leadership position following harassment for self-identifying as Zionist:

As you may know, our Vice President of Undergraduate Student Government, Rose Ritch, resigned yesterday from her position in student government. In her heartbreaking resignation letter, Rose described the intense pressure and toxic conditions that led to her decision — specifically the anti-Semitic attacks on her character and the online harassment she endured because of her Jewish and Zionist identities. She also challenged all of us to do better in aligning our actions with our stated desire to have a campus culture that is truly inclusive and respectful of racial and religious diversity, and of different cultural backgrounds and beliefs.

As president of USC, I believe it is critically important to state explicitly and unequivocally that anti-Semitism in all of its forms is a profound betrayal of our principles and has no place at the university. We must condemn any bias or prejudice that is based on a person’s race, religion, sexual orientation, or other personal characteristic. What happened to Rose Ritch is unacceptable, and we must all take up her challenge to do better.

  • Work with campus officials and partners to provide educational workshops on antisemitism for student government members and other student leaders on campus. These workshops can educate and engage on Jewish identity and how antisemitism manifests today, and can further expand on how questioning Jewish impartiality can reflect bias and age-old antisemitic tropes.   (ADL has provided such training to student governments in coordination with university administrations. Please be in touch with ADL to arrange such a program.) ADL and Hillel International’s Campus Climate Initiative also offer informational trainings for campus administrators.
  • Seek support from other student leaders on campus and issue a joint statement condemning the idea that anyone’s intersectional identities or affiliations prevent them from making effective and responsible decisions in the best interests of the student body.

Swastikas On A Jewish Fraternity

You are a member of a Jewish fraternity. When leaving the building late one evening, you are shocked to find several swastikas on the outside of the frat house.

What is this about?

The image of the swastika, used by the Nazi party in Germany before and during the Holocaust, is by far the most infamous and shocking antisemitic symbol in history. Today, it is often used in acts of vandalism targeting Jews and Jewish institutions around the world, and it invokes extremely painful memories for Jews. Even in the decades after the Holocaust, this symbol has been used in the U.S. and around the world to terrorize and intimidate the Jewish community. 

In recent years, the swastika has also been used by anti-Israel activists to accuse Israel and its supporters of Nazi-like practices. This fundamentally antisemitic accusation associates the victims of Nazi crimes with the Nazi perpetrators. And it also minimizes the impact of the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis against Jews and other minorities during World War II.

What can I do?

  • Call campus security immediately.
  • Document the entire scene, taking pictures or video with your phone before the vandalism is removed.
  • Notify the administrator who oversees fraternities and sororities on campus. Get in touch with your Hillel. Report the incident to to ensure that this incident is documented and addressed as part of country-wide campus issues.
  • Write an op-ed in your campus newspaper or online blog about the emotional and triggering impact of seeing a swastika on a Jewish building.
  • Organize a campus-wide event to condemn this act of hate. This can be coordinated through your student life office.
  • Urge the college administration to publicly condemn the incident as an act of antisemitism and to reiterate that incidents like this will not be tolerated. Hillel, Chabad, ADL and other organizations can provide you with support and strategies to use when approaching campus officials. 

Here’s an example of a statement from the University of Wisconsin-Madison after a series of antisemitic incidents, including the etching of a swastika on a residence hall bathroom stall:

...Antisemitism is wrong and it will not be tolerated at UW–Madison.

We are working to support all community members and increasing our educational efforts to prevent bias incidents from happening in the future.

We are committed to creating a campus where everyone feels valued and knows they belong.

UW has a process for responding to hate and bias incidents that affect students and urges those who witness or experience incidents to issue a report as soon as possible at

Our first priority is to respond to those who are most directly affected. The Dean of Students Office follows up on all reports involving students. The university may also engage in outreach efforts more broadly on a case by case basis...

Jewish and Zionist Students are Excluded from Campus Activist Group  

Eager to get involved in causes you care about and join communities you identify with, you attend the first meeting of the semester of the main LGBTQ+ activist group on campus. At the meeting, the president announces that the group’s mission is committed to fighting against oppression of all kinds, including Zionism. As a Jew who feels a strong connection to Israel, you feel like this policy means that, although you are deeply committed to advancing LGBTQ+ rights, there is no place for you and other like-minded students in this club.

What is this about?

There have been incidents in some campus circles where organizations involved in a range of national and local issues (unrelated to Israel) declare themselves to be opposed to Zionism, often alleging that it is a form of oppression akin to racism, homophobia or ableism. In some cases, these groups have refused to work in coalition with organizations they deem to be Zionist (like Hillel or an Israel-focused campus organization) or engage with Israel, and in some cases, they have even demanded that those who join their cause explicitly disavow Zionism (and a connection to Israel) and commit to opposing it. 

Singling out Zionism, and those associated with it, not only misrepresents what Zionism in fact is, but on a practical level serves to target and exclude the vast majority of Jews around the world (and certainly on campus!) for whom a connection to Israel is part of their Jewish identity.

Indeed, this targeting and exclusion of Jews is fundamentally antisemitic and is distinctly different from criticisms of Israeli government policy or advocacy for a different future for the Palestinian people.

While individuals and groups are free to express their opinions and advocate on issues of their choosing, the above actions are of concern and misalign with a campus’s inclusive campus climate values if:

  • This is a recognized campus group that receives university funds for operation; and
  • The organization effectively excludes Jews, for example by requiring a “litmus test” for their participation. This exclusion or litmus test, along with holding all Jews responsible for policies of the Israeli government, is antisemitic.  

Some Relevant Context — Defining Zionism:

  • Zionism is the movement for self-determination and statehood for the Jewish people in their ancestral homeland, the land of Israel. A Zionist is someone who supports that movement and the existence of the State of Israel. This support for the existence of Israel is not synonymous with supporting policies of a particular government, nor does it contradict supporting the right to self-determination for the Palestinian people.
  • The connection between Jews, the land of Israel, and the hope for repatriation to the Jewish homeland is millennia-old and deeply embedded in Jewish history, religion and culture. Jewish self-determination is also a response to a long history of intense anti-Jewish hatred, persecution and discrimination in countries and societies across the world where Jews lived, including in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Zionists believe a sovereign Jewish state will provide Jews with the means for refuge, rescue and self-defense from the bigotry and systemic violence they have suffered perennially as a minority culture among non-Jewish majority cultures, and will ensure that Jews have the same right to nationhood and self-determination as any other people, along with the same protections that are typically afforded to other nations. It is in the context of the historic Jewish connection to this land, and the millennia-long experience of Jewish vulnerability, that most Jews around the world support Israel’s right to exist.

More Context — Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism:

  • Those who attack and exclude “Zionists” often claim they aren’t anti-Jew, or opposed to Judaism, but “only” against Zionists. To be clear, they are excluding Jews and using the word Zionism as a pejorative, which is a gross distortion of the meaning of the word. This is antisemitic behavior. Excluding Jewish students from campus organizations solely because of their Zionism is discriminatory. Discrimination is wrong no matter who it is directed towards.
    • No other such litmus test is demanded of any other community, or any other person with familial or communal ties to any other nation or state on earth.
    • Excluding Zionists effectively and arbitrarily divides Jews into the categories of  “good” and “bad” Jews based on their feelings toward Israel.
    • This exclusion is further based on the premise that Israel is uniquely problematic or evil. In other words, if Jews support a Jewish state in part of our ancestral homeland, they are accused of supporting a unique evil, are considered racists and must be shunned.  
    • And, it should be noted, non-Jews who support Israel or consider themselves Zionists are rarely subjected to similar litmus tests.
  • Criticism of specific Israeli policies isn’t necessarily antisemitic. But anti-Zionism isn’t limited to a critique of Israeli policy. It opposes the existence of the state itself. Anti-Zionist activists often link Zionism and Zionists to a host of societal ills such as systemic racism, anti-LGBTQ+ animus, exploitation, militarism, gentrification and police brutality, in the same way that classical conspiracy theories scapegoat Jews for a range of social, political, economic and other harms/ills/problems. 
  • Social justice is for everyone, as is inclusion. People cannot claim to be fighting for justice and against oppression while also excluding and demonizing the vast majority of Jews.
  • No individual Jew, and certainly no Jewish student on a campus, is responsible for actions of the government of Israel simply because they believe in the legitimacy of the state itself. Further, no Jew should have to answer any questions about Israeli policies as the price of inclusion, nor should they be required to choose between the Jewish elements of their identity and other elements of their personal identity.

What can I do? 

  • Contact campus officials responsible for student life or others in the administration to share concerns that the actions of this recognized student group are serving to isolate and exclude Jewish students. Explicit or even implicit exclusion of students from funded groups can violate university guidelines or be considered inconsistent with campus values. Other stakeholders, such as Hillel, a faculty advisor or off-campus organizations such as ADL, can provide guidance and support. 
  • Have one-on-one conversations with others in your network and with friends in this campus group to share how and why this approach is misguided and is forcing you to choose between your deep commitment to this issue and your Jewish identity.
  • Ensure that campus DEI staff understand what antisemitism is; how antisemitism shows up on campus, including through anti-Zionism; and what the lived experience of antisemitism is for Jewish students. Confirm that DEI staff are prepared to address these manifestations. Here again, Hillel and ADL can be helpful in advising these officials and conducting appropriate trainings. 
  • Develop educational programs for the wider campus about everyday antisemitism, or organize events that feature speakers representing diverse expressions of Jewish identity and activism.
  • Bolster your learning about Zionism and antisemitism, develop skills on navigating tough conversations about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and delve into the principles of free speech on campus.
  • Consider sharing these and other thought pieces that might further inform this issue:

Anti-Israel Divestment Resolution Introduced

A member of the student government introduces a resolution calling for the university to divest from several multinational companies that do business with Israel, arguing that these companies are perpetuating Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and alleging that Israel is practicing apartheid policies  throughout Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

What is this about?

Resolutions like this have been introduced at scores of campuses and are a mainstay of BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaigns, which aim to delegitimize and pressure Israel through, among other methods, the financial isolation of Israel. On campus, where the impact of such divestment efforts is minimal, these campaigns are primarily used to draw attention to Israel’s alleged singular culpability for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

There are a wide variety of such resolutions, some focused on Israel directly, some listing a group of companies to be targeted that are linked to Israel and possibly other countries, and some ostensibly focused on broader human rights issues but implicitly directed at Israel. 

Many campus supporters of BDS action may be unaware of the broader goals and implications of the BDS movement, and instead believe it is a vehicle to promote a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to support Palestinian rights. In reality, the BDS movement does not support constructive measures to build Israeli-Palestinian engagement, nor does it promote peace negotiations or a mutually negotiated two-state solution to the conflict.

While these divestment resolutions often do not pass, and do not have an on-the-ground impact on Israelis or Palestinians, they can still create a lot of tension on campus. Often, the campaigns’ vilification of Israel and its supporters create an atmosphere that makes Jewish and pro-Israel students feel isolated, or that might embolden antisemitic actions or expressions.

Even in cases when such resolutions have passed student government, the university does not have an obligation to implement these actions. Often, the president or chancellor will publicly declare (sometimes even before the vote) that they reject BDS and will not carry out this call for divestment. In fact, to date, virtually no university has divested its funds from companies that work with Israel.

What can I do?

Countering BDS campaigns requires short-term and long-term strategic planning. Building successful coalitions against BDS can help defeat a resolution if and when it is introduced. The suggestions below incorporate both year-round strategic steps to counter BDS and immediate actions you can take if a divestment resolution is introduced.

  • Be proactive. Consider helping to organize events throughout the year that showcase multiple narratives and projects dedicated to promoting Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and understanding.  Highlighting constructive initiatives can provide alternative understanding and approaches to the divisive and one-sided nature of BDS.  
  • Mobilize like-minded students to launch a campaign against a brewing divestment initiative. Work with Hillel and other pro-Israel groups on campus to develop a unified strategy to respond. Testify before student government, write an op-ed for the campus newspaper, explain your concern to your friends and acquaintances. Pro-Israel campus groups can help you develop talking points and arguments to refute specific allegations in the resolution.
  • Monitor the ongoing social media conversation during the divestment campaign. It’s important to know when a resolution will be introduced so you can attend the Student Council meeting and advocate against it (although some of these resolutions pop up on the agenda unexpectedly). Document any antisemitic or threatening rhetoric that appears in online or in-person comments. Notify campus personnel if any of the language used to advocate for the resolution or within the resolution itself makes you feel threatened or unsafe.
  • Call on the administration to publicly reject the divestment resolution, if passed. For example, in September 2020, Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University, issued this statement rejecting a BDS referendum: 

I made clear earlier this year that I do not support the referendum. To do so would contradict a long-held understanding that the University should not change its investment policies on the basis of particular views about a complex policy issue, especially when there is no consensus across the University community about that issue. Furthermore, in my view, as I have expressed many times over the years, it is unfair and inaccurate to single out this specific dispute for this purpose when there are so many other, comparably deeply entrenched conflicts around the world. And, finally, I have also raised concerns about how this debate over BDS has adversely affected the campus climate for many undergraduate students in our community.

Of course, I remain an unflinching proponent of robust debate over contested issues such as the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Such discussions and debates are part of the essential purpose of the University, and we should all welcome the critical thinking that so often emerges and leads to improvements in our world. But altering our endowment in order to advance the interests of one side is not among the paths we will take.

Co-Sponsors Are Pressured to Pull Out of An Event Featuring An Israeli Speaker

You are part of a group of students organizing an event about environmental entrepreneurship, and one of the speakers on the panel is from Israel.  The program is sponsored by a wide range of groups on campus, including Hillel, the campus environmental club, the Black Student Union, and the Entrepreneurship Club. Several days before the event, a friend forwards you a petition that urges the co-sponsors to pull out of the event, alleging that Israel is inflicting environmental damage on Palestinian land and that in featuring an Israeli speaker, the program “greenwashes” these actions and policies. 

What is this about?

In recent years, activists hostile to Israel, including BDS activists, have frequently tried to block Israeli voices from being heard on campus, whether the speaker is addressing the conflict or not. Sometimes campus groups are urged to pull out of programs featuring experts from Israel, even if the event has nothing to do with Israel or the Palestinians. Even if the Israeli speaker is critical of Israeli government policy, BDS activists will campaign for their complete shunning unless BDS is endorsed. They often allege that Israel and supporters of Israel try to present Israeli expertise in these areas to deflect attention from Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Such insinuations invoke age-old antisemitic accusations that Jews have a “hidden agenda” and cannot be trusted.

There are even cases where anti-Israel groups have gone farther and called on campus organizations to refuse to partner with Jewish groups or join programs that they claim “normalize or benefit” Israel. 

Most of the campus groups that are pressured to pull out of co-sponsorship of these events have no policy or history of activism on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but they are told that their involvement will serve to validate Israeli racism, apartheid and occupation. 

What can I do?

  • Explain the goals of the event to partner organizations, and emphasize the importance of respecting expertise, diverse voices and the free exchange of ideas on campus. Encourage students to attend the upcoming event instead of making assumptions about what it will or will not be about. 
  • Proceed with the planned event — with or without the cosponsors — and make sure the program is covered by the campus newspaper. 
  • Write an op-ed stating that trying to sideline or exclude Israeli voices is biased and unconstructive and is counter to the bridge-building and dialogue necessary to build a better future for Palestinians and Israelis. 

A Professor Appears to Only Present One Perspective on The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

You are taking a class on the modern Middle East. In a lecture, your professor asserts that Israel is foreign to the region and irreversibly racist, arguing that Israel is a European colonialist entity that seeks to supplant the land’s indigenous population. In another lecture on U.S. Middle East policy, the professor further claims that the “Zionist lobby” in the U.S. advocates and is responsible for policies that undermine America’s core interests, naming Jewish or Jewish-led groups. The reading materials for the class present similar views. During class discussions, when you try to raise another perspective in class, the professor cuts you off.

What is this about?

There’s nothing wrong with professors (or students) sharing scholarship or expressing views supportive of Palestinians and conveying Palestinian voices and narratives about 1948 and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or being critical of Israeli policies or of U.S. engagement in the region. While professors have every right to express their views and present their scholarship, such views should not be imposed on students, and alternative perspectives should not be silenced in an academic discussion or in a student’s academic work. Moreover, it is never okay to present antisemitic tropes, such as dual loyalty or Jewish power, as “fact” in the classroom.

What can I do?

  • Talk to other students in the class to find out if they feel the same way. Discuss among yourselves whether you or they feel comfortable directly responding to the professor’s views in the classroom.
  • See the professor during office hours (or email the professor) and explain your perspective.
  • Speak to the chair of the department to discuss the situation, especially if:
    • You believe the professor has engaged in antisemitic discourse or rhetoric in the classroom.
    • You feel that your grade is suffering because of your views. Professors do not have the right to grade a student’s work based on the opinions or perspectives they express, only on the quality of the work.
    • The professor has eroded the environment in the classroom by expressing one-sided views and shutting down other perspectives.
  • If you feel your grade has suffered because you have expressed a pro-Israel perspective, consider consulting with academic deans, provosts and ultimately the vice president and president of the university and appealing for disciplinary action. If you decide to make such an appeal, make sure you have documentation, including statements from other students, the course syllabus and assigned readings.
  • If you do not feel comfortable approaching the professor or department head directly, report the incident through the bias incident response protocols, or a neutral party like the dean of students or student activities office.

Note: It would be inappropriate for a professor who teaches an unrelated subject to spend substantial amounts of class time airing their views on the conflict. A math professor, for example, has the right to share their views, but if the focus of the class becomes the Middle East rather than math, you should address the issue with the department chair or dean. If you are not sure whom to approach, ask your academic advisor to help you navigate the system. 

Fliers Advertising a Pro-Israel Event are Torn Down or Defaced

You and other members of your pro-Israel group spend several hours hanging fliers around campus to notify students about an upcoming visit to campus by an Israeli social media influencer. The program is focused on the speaker’s efforts to reach diverse audiences to share what life is like as an Israeli. The next day, you find that many of the fliers have been torn down, and the rest have been defaced with graffiti and slogans accusing Israel of war crimes, apartheid and crimes against humanity.

What is this about?

Just like in the public sphere, students have the right to protest, and universities have the right to impose content-neutral restrictions on protests, such as “time, place and manner” regulations.   Students who want to express opposition to a particular speaker have the right to hand out flyers of their own, protest outside the event (within campus guidelines) and/or organize events of their own to challenge the views of the speaker. Defacing or removing property, however, is not a legitimate form of protest.  

What can I do?

  • Document the incident by taking a photo or video of the fliers being torn down or of the defaced fliers.
  • Contact the dean of student affairs to lodge a specific complaint about the act of vandalism.
  • Meet with appropriate personnel from the university, encouraging the university to investigate the incident and asking the administration to condemn the removal and defacement of the fliers.
  • Consider publicly sharing — through the campus newspaper or other media — how this violation affected you and other concerned students. Urge the campus community to take a stand against the defacement by attending the event.

An Israeli Speaker Is Interrupted and Prevented from Speaking

A former Prime Minister of Israel is scheduled to speak on your campus. The event attracts 400 students, faculty members and members of the broader local community. Ten minutes into the Prime Minister’s speech, a student gets up and starts shouting at the speaker about Israel’s alleged war crimes. Two minutes later, a different student in another area of the room gets up and shouts at the speaker. Pretty soon, the speaker cannot finish a sentence without being interrupted. After a while, campus security begins escorting these students out and the speaker concludes his talk.

What is this about?

When Israeli officials and diplomats speak on campuses, anti-Israel students and community members sometimes choreograph verbal disruptions, to the point that the speaker cannot finish a sentence and may be forced to leave the stage. Individuals or groups who shut down an event cannot defend their actions as “free speech.” Using your own speech to deny another’s right to free speech is not protected.   This is known as the “heckler’s veto.”

What can I do …

…to prevent this from happening?

  • Check your institution’s code of conduct and free speech policies to make sure you are fully aware of policies regarding permitted types of protests. Ensure that there is a relationship between campus police and Hillel and Jewish student leaders by requesting a meeting at the beginning of the school year with the chief of campus police.
  • Ask a member of the university administration to address attendees at the beginning of the event. They should announce that efforts to shut down the event will not be tolerated and highlight the disciplinary measures the disruptors would face.
  • Contact campus security and ask them to have security personnel attend the event. If campus security is not at the event, alert them immediately if inappropriate behavior begins. 
  • Consider limiting the event to students only. Often, activists who are not part of the campus community are responsible for the disruptions. Check student IDs at the door for entry.
  • Require attendees to sign in for the event. This could deter students from engaging in disruptions because it is far less likely that their actions can remain anonymous. 

…if a disruption occurs during the event?

  • Contact campus security immediately, if they are not already at the event.
  • Stay calm. While this is a tense situation, confronting the disrupting students will escalate the situation.
  • Film the incident on your phone. If you have a full documented video of the event, you can also use it to highlight the inappropriate behavior of the disruptors. 

… after the event?

  • Monitor developments. Keep track of how the university is reviewing the conduct of the students to ensure that violations of campus code are taken seriously and that violators are disciplined.
  • Write an op-ed for the campus newspaper about the value of civil discourse and the free exchange of ideas. Point out that in trying to shut down speech, the disrupters violate these values and prevent students from learning and determining for themselves.

A Professor Encourages Students to Attend an Anti-Israel Event

Your political science professor announces an upcoming event on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, urging students to attend and offering extra credit. When the professor names the speakers, you realize that they are harshly critical of Israel, and one of them is a leading advocate for the BDS movement. The professor makes no mention of this, and the title of the event, “The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Uncensored,” does not provide context for the actual substance.  

What is this about?

A university professor has endorsed and encouraged student attendance at an event that might present an unbalanced view of the conflict and possibly promote BDS or other anti-Israel campaigns. Students might feel pressured to attend the program to gain the favor of the professor (and extra credit!), or could be influenced by the professor’s apparent endorsement of these speakers and their perspectives.   

What can I do?

  • Do your research — learn more about the speakers and their messages. ADL has “in their own words” research readily available for your use that can help identify if a speaker has a problematic record regarding anti-Israel or even anti-Jewish rhetoric. 
  • Tell your professor that you are uncomfortable about their endorsing and incentivizing attendance at a program that is not balanced. It’s possible they weren’t aware of the record of the speakers. 
  • Organize or identify other campus events with a variety of perspectives on Israel and the conflict, and ask your professor to promote those programs to students. 

An Academic Department Sponsors an Anti-Israel Speaker

You are walking across campus and see a sign for an upcoming event featuring a speaker known for virulently extreme anti-Israel and even antisemitic rhetoric. The bottom right corner contains a short list of sponsors, including the student organizations who usually sponsor events like this, and academic departments as well.

What is this about?

Anti-Israel events on campus are generally sponsored by student organizations. However, even events that feature speakers who might have a history of engaging in antisemitic rhetoric have been sponsored by various university departments, giving the impression that the university endorses the message and words of the speaker. This does not mean you should automatically call for the event to be canceled, but it is appropriate to seek ways to alert the sponsors — including the university entity — about the speaker’s record, and how this endorsement might affect members of the campus community. 

What can I do?

  • Do your research — learn more about the speaker and their messages. ADL has “in their own words” research readily available for your use that can help identify if a speaker has a problematic record regarding anti-Israel or even anti-Jewish rhetoric. 
  • Organize an effort to speak to the departments or university institutions that are sponsoring the event. If this speaker has a history of making statements that cross the line from harsh rhetoric on Israel to antisemitism, be sure to point that out. Make it clear that you are not trying to silence perspectives on Israel, but that the sponsorship by the university entity implies that the institution has given the stamp of approval to this speaker who has a problematic record.  Explain the impact this has on you and on the environment on campus. Make your concerns known to the administration as well.
  • Encourage the university to issue a statement distancing itself from the event (i.e., “this speaker does not represent the views of our university”).
  • Reach out to Jewish community organizations, including ADL, to advocate on your behalf to the university’s president and/or dean. ADL has successfully educated universities about extreme or problematic speakers and encouraged them to distance the institution from the speaker or event.

An “Apartheid Wall” Appears on Campus

You are rushing to a class one afternoon, taking your usual route through campus. As you get closer, you realize that a makeshift wall is blocking your path. The wall is designed to replicate the security wall that divides Israel and the West Bank, with artwork that describes Israel as an “apartheid state” and a multitude of “facts” regarding Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, including labeling it as “racist” and “colonialist.”

What is this about?

Walls like this have appeared on dozens of college campuses, most often during an annual anti-Israel program called “Israeli Apartheid Week” that first began in 2005.

As with many of the other scenarios discussed here, students have a right to present their perspectives on campus. While free speech is one of the most sacred rights enjoyed by Americans — and the college campus is no exception — there are certain regulations and restrictions that apply to forms of student protest, such as mock security wall displays.

The right to exercise freedom of speech on a public university campus can be limited by “time, place and manner” restrictions. These restrictions must 1) be content neutral (they do not treat speech differently based on what is being said); 2) be narrowly tailored to serve a governmental interest such as ensuring students have access to classrooms; and 3) leave open ample alternative means of expression (for example, sufficient public areas on campus where individuals can express their First Amendment rights). For instance, many campuses have policies limiting how long displays can be erected, as well as where displays can be erected so they do not prevent students from getting to university buildings or school functions.

American colleges have an obligation to ensure that students have the ability to safely walk across campus, free from fear or intimidation. If hostile attitudes or activities taking place on campus intimidate students based on any aspect of their identity, religion or political belief, the university should swiftly investigate and take appropriate steps to address the issue and ensure a safe campus environment.

What can I do?

  • Get familiar with your school’s policies and practices. Particularly at private institutions, there may be some variation in freedom of speech guidelines that could affect what is permitted or not permitted with this display.
  • Notify campus administration officials if the protest wall contains content that is antisemitic or can be considered threatening to students. Even if the university determines that the wall can remain as is, the administration can condemn the divisive content featured on the display.
  • Notify campus police if the wall blocks access to a school building. The university may decide to make the sponsoring student group move the wall to a different area of campus.  Work with the university administration to ensure that in the future, the wall is set up in an area of campus that does not block access to any university building.

Coordinate with other students to write an op-ed to the campus newspaper offering an alternative narrative to that presented by this protest wall.

Always remember: If you encounter any of these situations, you are not alone!  There is great support available from your campus administration, Hillel and other on-campus groups, as well as Jewish community organizations, such as ADL.

Have you encountered situations like these, or others, and want ADL’s help or just to share your experience? Contact us!