Antisemitism and the Radical Anti-Israel Movement on U.S. Campuses, 2019


Executive Summary

In recent years, criticism of Israel has become endemic on college campuses across the U.S. While it is very likely that most of that criticism is a legitimate form of political discourse, some of the more radical expressions of anti-Israel sentiment can create an environment in which Jewish students, many of whom say they have a personal or religious connection with Israel, may feel besieged or threatened. Radical expressions of anti-Israel sentiment may include Israeli flags being removed from their displays, calls by student activists to boycott all pro-Israel groups on campus, the heckling of pro-Israel speakers and calling Israel a settler-colonial state. 

Radical anti-Israel activism on campus is driven primarily by Students for Justice in Palestine, a network of pro-Palestinian student groups across the U.S. that disseminate frequently inflammatory anti-Israel propaganda. These groups sometimes ally with campus chapters of Jewish Voice for Peace, a radical anti-Israel activist group, whose Jewish origins and membership help shield its activism and rhetoric from charges of antisemitism. 

Radical anti-Israel rhetoric and activities on campus often emerged from Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaigns against Israel; the implementation of annual Israeli Apartheid Week programs; the convening of conferences and lectures featuring all or almost all pro-BDS speakers; and events featuring Israeli or pro-Israel speakers, to which activists sometimes responded with heckling. Such activities can undermine efforts to normalize relations between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian movements and can contribute to broader efforts to delegitimize Israel as a sovereign state. 

Anti-Israel rhetoric on campus can become antisemitic when it demonizes Zionism, thereby implicitly demonizing many American Jews. Throughout 2019, claims that Zionists are racists or white supremacists were expressed by radical anti-Israel activists in a variety of forums, including anti-Israel exhibits, social media and official student newspapers. 

Antisemitism can also manifest in the radical anti-Israel movement when Zionist or pro-Israel students are targeted or excluded from elements of campus life. Such targeting, which took place on a number of campuses in 2019, inevitably results in discrimination and disenfranchisement directed at significant numbers of Jewish students. 

Some radical anti-Israel groups expressed support for terrorism against Israelis in 2019. Sometimes this support took the form of promoting the terrorist group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, applauding convicted terrorists Leila Khaled and Rasmea Odeh, condoning violent tactics of the terrorist group Hamas, or honoring Palestinians who were killed in clashes with Israel despite the fact that many of them were members of terrorist groups. 

Funding for radical anti-Israel groups came from a number of prominent charitable foundations. Most notable is the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF), an ostensibly mainstream charity but one that knowingly provides significant funding and symbolic support to Jewish Voice for Peace, a radical anti-Zionist organization. RBF also donates to the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, the Institute for Middle East Understanding and Grassroots Jerusalem, all of which have engaged in radical anti-Zionist rhetoric. Another notable funder is the Westchester Peace Action Committee (WESPAC), which provides significant funding to Students for Justice in Palestine. WESPAC’s own website includes antisemitic content. SJP is also funded by American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), some of whose members have a history of making antisemitic remarks.

Source: ADL