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The Trauma of Jewish College Students: Losing 1400 of their Own and Still Feeling Like the Bad Guys

While Jews were mourning the atrocities of October 7, progressive Jew haters were panicking at the potential loss of their foundational narrative.
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October 19, 2023
Columbia students participate in a rally in support of Palestine at the university on October 12, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

It’s no secret that college campuses in recent years have been hotbeds of antisemitism. What is stunning, however, is that this antisemitism has actually exploded since 1400 Jews were massacred by Hamas on October 7. Even before Israel began its campaign to eliminate Hamas, activist groups accelerated their bullying, anti-Israel venom.

Let that sink in: 1400 Jews are massacred and it’s the Jewish students who are under attack.

What is behind this venom? Among other things, a fear of losing a narrative.

The murder of 1400 Jews by Palestinian terrorists turned the progressive narrative upside down. This narrative– Jews are the oppressors and Palestinians the oppressed– is hardwired and must never be shaken.

So, while Jews were mourning the atrocities of October 7, progressive Jew haters were panicking at the potential loss of their foundational narrative.

That’s why they doubled down on their Jew hatred and immediately blamed Israel. They had to put Jewish students back in their place: “We don’t care about 1400 dead Jews. Remember that you’ll always be the oppressors and Palestinians will always be the victims.”

Jews have traditionally assumed that if more Jews died, the world would have more sympathy. If only Israelis would stop running into bomb shelters while Hamas rockets rain on them, and allow themselves to be slaughtered, perhaps the progressive narrative would be more balanced.

This argument has been blown up by October 7. It doesn’t matter how many Jews die.  There was no shelter for the 1400 peaceful Jews who perished near the Gaza border, and yet, this hardly made a dent in the world’s anti-Jewish, anti-Zionist machinery. The Jew-hatred is as alive and kicking as ever.

Jewish college students are feeling that hatred probably more than anyone. Instead of seeing sympathy for their pain, what they’re seeing, above all, is renewed aggression.

Whether it was the coalition of Harvard student groups that issued a letter holding Israel “entirely responsible” for Hamas murdering Israelis, or the wishy-washy statements—or even silence—from university leaders and progressive groups reluctant to name and call out Hamas’ terrorism, Jewish students are feeling both isolated and betrayed.

More importantly, they’re feeling unsafe.

They see a Cornell professor calling the Hamas massacres “exhilarating,” or an Israeli student attacked at Columbia, or a Stanford lecturer allegedly putting Jewish students in a corner, or Jew haters tearing down posters of Jewish hostages at NYU.

Jewish students who believe in social justice see posters like “Queers for Palestine” (the equivalent of “Blacks for KKK”), and wonder: Is there room for us here?

A few days after the October 7 massacres, Jewish students saw Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) launch a “National day of Resistance,” which offered this rallying cry to their various chapters:

 “Today, we witness a historic win for the Palestinian resistance: across land, air, and sea, our people have broken down the artificial barriers of the Zionist entity, taking with it the facade of an impenetrable settler colony and reminding each of us that total return and liberation to Palestine is near.”

Meanwhile, while many Jewish students are terrified by this bullying and aggression, universities have suddenly discovered “free speech.” All these Jew haters are free to express themselves! These are the same universities who bend over backwards to protect minority students from any number of “microaggressions.” Jews can’t even get protection from macroaggressions.

These are the same universities who bend over backwards to protect minority students from any number of “microaggressions.” Jews can’t even get protection from macroaggressions.

Maybe Jews are seen as too successful, too powerful, too privileged to merit any protection, even in an extreme case when they lose 1400 of their own and are expected to withstand a shocking storm of animosity.

Well, maybe.

But there is a silver lining to all this: Jews now know what they’re up against. The aggressive activist movement they naively thought was “pro-Palestinian” is, first and foremost, anti-Jewish and anti-Israel. Palestinian agitators and their fellow travelers hate the Jewish occupation of Tel Aviv and Haifa as much as they hate the Jewish occupation of Judea and Samaria.

We saw another sign of this anti-Israel reflex when much of the world, including the legacy media, jumped on the narrative that Israel bombed a Gaza hospital and killed 500 Palestinians. The New York Times, before they could verify anything, swallowed the Palestinian line in its headline: “Israeli Strike Kills Hundreds in Hospital.” Never mind that this rush to judgement (which was speculative at best) endangered Jewish lives. It provided a quick, convenient return to the progressive narrative of Jews as the oppressors.

But this chronic and insidious bias against Israel, which looks even worse in the wake of October 7, has led to another silver lining: A furious backlash from many corners of the Jewish community. Their message to Jewish college students is that they’re not alone.

Many Jewish groups on campuses have been valuable centers of Jewish sustenance. Zionist activists have been fighting back with the truth, in person and on social media. Among the heroes are the mega donors to universities who have said “enough is enough” and are turning their influence into power. From the Wexner Foundation to Marc Rowan to Jon Huntsman to Bill Ackman to Ronald Lauder and many others, they are putting their alma maters on notice that the failure to protect Jewish students will come at a price.

The darkest Jewish moment since the Shoah has shed new light on the darkest corners of Jew hatred. Now, the best of the Jews are fighting back, knowing exactly what they’re up against.

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