“Everyone Was Screaming”: Tulane Jewish Students Assaulted at Pro-Palestinian Rally

The Journal spoke to a Jewish student who witnessed the assault, saying that “everyone was screaming” and that it was “really scary.”
October 26, 2023
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At least three pro-Israel students from Tulane University were assaulted during an off-campus pro-Palestinian protest near the university on Thursday. The Journal spoke to a Jewish student who witnessed the assault, saying that “everyone was screaming” and that it was “really scary.”

FOX 8 reported that video footage posted to social media shows two unidentified males in a pickup truck, one holding a Palestinian flag and the other ready to burn an Israeli flag. At this point, per FOX 8, some pro-Israel counterprotesters confronted them. The man holding a Palestinian flag swings the flagpole at one of the counter-protesters and a fight broke out. Tulane University issued a statement later in the day explaining that two students were assaulted at the protest and sustained minor injuries, and two people were arrested; more will come as video footage is being reviewed.

The Journal spoke with a student who witnessed the incident. They wished to remain anonymous due to safety concerns. They said the Jewish community on campus had initially decided to not counterprotest, instead making brownies the night before to hand out to students and planned to hand out Israeli flags far away from the protest. “It became very clear that that wasn’t really doable,” the student said. “We can’t keep them away from what was going on when it was so hateful and in our faces really … slowly people started to accumulate.” The student described the location of the protest as being “technically off-campus” because it was on a public sidewalk, but “students who were walking to and from class had to walk through this” since the sidewalk separates two different parts of Tulane’s campus. The student also contended that most of the pro-Palestinian protesters were students from nearby Loyola University New Orleans and members of the New Orleans community, and that only “a small minority” of the pro-Palestinian protesters were actually Tulane students.

At first, the pro-Israel students stayed on the opposite side of the street during the protest, singing “Hatikvah” and playing music by Israeli singer Omer Adam, the student said, adding they were trying to remain apolitical and simply celebrate Israel and Judaism. And then the truck came.

The student told the Journal that the truck passed through the street both ways about seven times, and described the two males on the back of truck as appearing to be of middle school or high school age. When the truck stopped, one of the males in the back pulled out an Israeli flag and then a lighter. “That was kind of, I think, for a lot of people a trigger moment,” the student said. “So a kid ran up and — no assault whatsoever — he just took the flag away from the guy … didn’t want to see his flag being burned. And all of a sudden, these grown men came running from their side and the kid on the truck with the flag beat the kid … that took the Israeli flag away.

“And that’s when a couple Tulane students went to defend him and help him,” the student continued. “And all of a sudden, this grown man comes with a giant megaphone and hits my friend in the head while this other grown man is punching him, all at the same time. We brought him off to the side, and he’s bleeding … eventually the Tulane emergency services came.” The student’s friend who got hit in the head and the pro-Israel student who took the flag away — who the student described as a “friend of a friend” — are two different people. Mounted police showed up afterwards.

The student called the incident “the most extreme” antisemitism they had ever experienced. “Everyone was screaming,” they said. “It was really scary … I went over to the side and was freaking out a little bit.”

The student stayed at the protest for about another hour or hour-and-a-half after the incident. “Every time a car drove by, I was nervous that the window was going to roll down with a gun,” the student said. “It was nothing like I’ve ever experienced.”

The student added: “I typically feel safe on Tulane’s campus … the past week has definitely been very intense.”

UPDATE: Tulane University Michael A. Fitts, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Robin Forman and Senior Vice President, Chief Operating Officer and Treasurer Patrick Norton issued a statement Wednesday evening saying that three Tulane students were assaulted during the pro-Palestinian protest and police have made “several arrests.”

“We condemn and are outraged by today’s violence and the hateful language and rhetoric we heard,” Fitts, Forman and Norton said. “It is counter to everything we stand for at Tulane. What started out as a peaceful demonstration unfortunately devolved into a violent incident and a dark day for our community.We are continuing to increase security on campus and assisting our students in any way we can. We are also actively preparing for any additional demonstrations and activity. We will be encouraging students to avoid participating in any further demonstrations off campus given the involvement of outside disruptors and the possibility of escalation.”

They added that “the actions of some of the protestors, many of whom were not affiliated with Tulane, were violent, deplorable, deliberately provocative and exploitative of the profound sorrow and anger so many of us have been experiencing over the last few weeks. They were also completely counter to Tulane’s values of practicing mutual respect when debating ideas and promoting viewpoints, especially with those with whom we disagree the most.”

Fitts, Forman and Norton stressed that “was not sanctioned by Tulane University and was not approved in any way by our university. It was staged on public property and attended by many who were not affiliated with our university. However, everyone who committed an illegal act on this day will be held accountable for their actions. In addition, all students are accountable to the Code of Student Conduct.”

They concluded: “Tulane has always found strength in our unity. We must now lean on our common humanity and the Tulane spirit to find a path forward during these challenging times. Symbols and acts of hatred, antisemitism, deliberate provocation and preying upon the fears of others are not part of who we are.”

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