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9 Israeli university presidents condemn anti-Israel protests on US campus, invite Jewish students to join an 'academic and personal home'

Israel's Association of University Heads (VERA) statement expresses support for Jewish and Israeli students across US

Students and pro-Palestinian supporters occupy a plaza at the City College of New York campus, during the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in New York City, April 27, 2024. (Photo: REUTERS/David Dee Delgado)

Israel's Association of University Heads (VERA) is expressing support for Jewish and Israeli students worldwide facing violent anti-Israel demonstrations and antisemitism on American college campuses, according to a statement released on Friday by the presidents of VERA.

“We, the presidents of the research universities in Israel, express our deep concern over the recent surge of severe violence, antisemitism, and anti-Israel sentiment across numerous leading universities in the US. These disturbing events are often organized and supported by Palestinian groups, including those recognized as terrorist organizations," they wrote.

"This troubling development has led to a climate where Israeli and Jewish students and faculty members feel compelled to hide their identities or avoid campuses altogether for fear of physical harm.”

The statement was issued in response to a surge of anti-Israel protests, demonstrations, and encampments across the United States, starting at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, in March.

The movement gained national media attention when protesters at Columbia University established an encampment in the center of campus and has since spread to approximately 200 university campuses throughout America.

Columbia University President Minouch Shafik has been sharply criticized for allowing the ongoing hostilities on campus and failing to ensure the safety of Jewish students. While Shafik publicly condemned Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israeli southern border communities, she has done little to quell antisemitic harassment and rhetoric at the university.

Although no violence has taken place on the Columbia University campus, many protesters have openly advocated for it. Incidents of violence have occurred on other campuses affected by the movement, leading to multiple arrests.

According to a report released by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the protests have seen multiple instances of support for the Hamas terror organization and its attack on Israel.

On April 17, one protester yelled, “We are Hamas” and others chanted: “Al-Qassam, (in reference to the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing) you make us proud, kill another soldier now!”

On April 20, an anti-Israel protester on Columbia’s campus held a sign that read “Al-Qasam’s next targets” with an arrow pointing toward a group of pro-Israel counter-protesters standing nearby, waving Israeli and American flags, the ADL reported.

Jewish students at Columbia University have repeatedly faced violent harassment during the protests, including threatening and intimidating remarks regarding Hamas' brutal surprise invasion and terror attack on Israel and Jews.

“Remember the 7th of October?" said one demonstrator stated. "That will happen not one more time, not five more times…but 10,000 more times.”

Another added: “Never forget the 7th of October…The 7th of October is about to be every f***ing day for you. You ready?” 

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) have played a key role in organizing many of the encampments. One week ago, National SJP, the umbrella organization for these local chapters, issued a 'call to action' urging college students, staff and faculty to “join the Popular University” and “take back our institutions,” adding “We will seize our universities and force the administration to divest,” according to the ADL report.

On April 22, the National SJP released the “mission statement” of these “Popular University for Gaza” protests:“…We as students will reclaim our power on campus – there will be no classes or compliance with our institutions so long as their shameless profiteering of our genocide persists. Through the student movement for a popular university, we will transform our mass mobilization into sustained, tangible power…We will seize control of our institutions, campus by campus, until Palestine is free.” 

In addition to SJP, numerous other campus and community anti-Zionist groups have organized anti-Israel protests and called for college encampments since Oct. 7. The list of groups includes American Muslims for Palestine (AMP); Dissenters; Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP); Palestine Action; Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM); Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL); Samidoun; Students for Democratic Society (SDS); Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA); and others.

Solidarity protests have been held on campuses such as Harvard University (Cambridge, MA); Northwestern University (Evanston, IL); Ohio State University (Columbus, OH); Princeton University (Princeton, NJ); and Temple University (Philadelphia, PA).

As of Friday, 53 encampments spanning 22 states have been set up at locations ranging from large, public universities to small, private colleges, including 7 of the 8 American Ivy League schools, according to the ADL website.  

The VERA university presidents who showed support for Jewish students across U.S. university campuses acknowledged the challenging circumstances that university leaders are facing and pledged their solidarity.

“We understand the complexity and challenges involved in managing incited and hateful groups, recognizing that extreme situations may require measures beyond the conventional tools available to university administrations,” the statement read.

“While freedom of expression and the right to demonstrate are vital to the health of any democracy and are especially crucial in academic settings and that they continued to uphold the importance of these freedoms, particularly in these challenging times, these freedoms do not include the right to engage in violence, make threats against communities, or call for the destruction of the State of Israel,” the presidents continued. “We will do our best to assist those of them who wish to join Israeli universities and find a welcoming academic and personal home.”

The statement was signed by the chairman of the VERA organization, Prof. Arie Zaban, the president of Bar-Ilan University, and eight other Israeli university heads.

The university presidents who signed the statement were Prof. Daniel Chamovitz of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev; Prof. Alon Chen of the Weizmann Institute of Science; Prof. Asher Cohen of Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Prof. Leo Corry of the Open University; Prof. Ehud Grossman of Ariel University; Prof. Ariel Porat of Tel Aviv University; Prof. Ron Robin from the University of Haifa; and Prof. Uri Sivan from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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