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Young Jews Brace for ‘A Day of Global Jihad’ Maya Sulkin

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Pro-Palestinian students demonstrate at Columbia University yesterday. (Photo by Yuki Iwamura via AP)

I was a deeply unpopular student at Columbia for a simple reason: I was a Zionist. When I posted photos on Instagram of swastikas graffitied across campus, I received private messages telling me I was “attention-seeking.” When I hosted pro-Israel events, commenters online accused me of blood libel. 

I left Columbia earlier this year in part because of this bullying. And now, after more than 1,300 Jews were slaughtered by Hamas in Israel, the hatred that once hid behind my Instagram DMs is appearing in broad daylight right at my alma mater, an Ivy League bastion that has educated politicians, CEOs, and Nobel Prize winners. 

On Wednesday, female Columbia student Maxwell Friedman, 19, was arrested and charged with assault after she beat an Israeli student with a stick outside the school’s main library. 

The following day, hundreds of students gathered outside Columbia’s Alma Mater statue to cheer on the mass genocide of Jews. (In this, they were merely echoing the views published by tenured professor Joseph Massad, who described the scene of “Palestinian fighters from Gaza breaking through Israel’s prison fence” as “awesome.”) 

For hours, students encircled the quad, waving Palestinian flags and chanting the ten rally cries sanctioned by on-campus activists, including “End the Zionist occupation” and “Stop defending apartheid.” 

Many covered their faces, pulling sweatshirts over their heads in the face of cameras. A few wore N95 masks, sunglasses, and hats all at once. Earlier, one of the student groups behind the event, Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine, encouraged participants to cover their faces “for safety from doxxing.” 

Pro-Palestinian supporters move the rally outside Columbia’s gates. (Photo by Olivia Reingold for The Free Press)

A counterprotest of Jewish students stood mostly silent except for one point, when they sang in Hebrew. Later, as they poured out of the front gate on Broadway, some walked with their heads hung low, their eyes averted. 

“Something has changed,” Sophie Kesson, an 18-year-old Jewish student at Columbia, told The Free Press.

This weekend, she says, is parents’ weekend. She had been looking forward to bringing her mother to a Shabbat service at the university’s Hillel, a community for Jews on campus. 

But former Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal has called for a day of global jihad on Friday, and the group’s commander Mahmoud al-Zahar said “the entire planet will be under our law; there will be no more Jews or Christian traitors.” 

Given the threats, she might just stay inside.

“My parents have warned me plenty of times that this isn’t really the safest place to be Jewish,” she says of the campus, which she says has “a very big pro-Palestine movement,” endorsed by many professors. 

She pauses, fumbling to grab her necklace: “And now with all of this happening, they’re increasingly worried. And so am I.”

To be clear, this is not just a Columbia problem.

On Tuesday, at Drexel University in Philadelphia, a Jewish student’s dorm room was set on fire. No other door in the hall was vandalized, and the student believes she was targeted due to her outspoken support of Israel. Police are now investigating this as a possible hate crime.

At Stanford on Wednesday, the Students for Justice in Palestine hosted a “teach-in” attended by about 250 people, where a source told The Free Press that a student speaker advised the crowd that the Israeli government’s “goal is to kill all Palestinians.” 

On Thursday at Stanford it was reported that an instructor divided his students at a mandatory undergraduate course called “Civil, Liberal and Global Education” into two camps: Jews and non-Jews. The teacher told the Jewish students to gather their things, stand in a corner, and said, “This is what Israel does to the Palestinians.” The teacher then asked, “How many people died in the Holocaust?” When a student said, “Six million,” the teacher replied, “Colonizers killed more than 6 million. Israel is a colonizer.” In a public statement, Stanford revealed multiple students had reported this conduct, and it was now investigating “identity-based targeting of students.” 

Also on Thursday, George Mason University in Virginia students waved Palestinian flags and chanted “glory to the resistance fighters.” 

At UCLA, many hundreds of students gathered to chant: “intifada, intifada”—a call for an violent uprising against Israel.

At the University of Washington, a crowd of Students for Justice in Palestine filled the air with chants of “There is only one solution” as a Jewish student cried and begged a guard, “They want us dead. How are you allowing this?” Olivia Feldman, the 20-year-old co-president of Students Supporting Israel at the college, told The Free Press, “I’ve been called a terrorist and a colonizer. I’ve been called a baby killer in the past. A lot of students are really afraid to go to class tomorrow.”

On Thursday, a Fox News reporter said that at least three protesters at the University of Massachusetts Amherst followed her into a parking garage, demanding to know her ethnicity, address, and phone number. When she refused, one of the protesters told her “I’ll have my lawyers contact you” and “have a terrible day.” (One of our reporters was denied an interview at a rally earlier this week because she was not Arab.)

At the pro-Palestinian rally at the University of Washington, a Jewish student asked a guard, “They want us dead. How are you allowing this?” (Photo via X)

It’s happening off campuses, too. Jewish people across the West—from London and Paris to New York and Sydney—are seeing the creeping telltale signs of hate.

The NYPD has been ordered to be out in force and in uniform all day Friday, amid fears of violence. Religious centers have been told to ensure all their doors are locked and guards remain on high alert. Jewish day schools across the city are ratcheting up security. Jews aren’t the only ones suffering from violence; three Palestinian supporters were reportedly attacked by a group waving Israeli flags on Wednesday night. 

In Toronto, three men were arrested for making threats to the Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto. Authorities are now investigating the incident as a hate crime.  

In Paris, after the government banned pro-Palestinian protests out of fear of civil unrest, several hundred still showed up in the downtown area chanting “Israel murderer.” Riot police eventually disbanded the crowd using tear gas. 

In front of the Sydney Opera House in Australia Tuesday night, over one thousand protestors demanded “gas the Jews.” A group of men attended another rally in Melbourne that night, where they reportedly said they were “on the hunt to kill Jews.”

In London, women in hijabs were seen ripping down posters of Israeli hostages from buildings in the streets and scurrying away. At least three Jewish schools—Ateres Beis Yaakov Primary School, Torah Vodaas Primary School, and Menorah High School—are closed until Monday as a precautionary measure. 

Alexis Price told The Free Press that her childrens’ Jewish day school in north London is trying to stay open while amping up security. Normally, the school has two guards and a fence. On Friday, they are beefing up with two police officers and three community volunteer guards. 

“It’s going to look like a prison,” said the 40-year-old mother of two kids, aged nine and five. 

Price said boys have been told not to wear their kippahs on their way to school. She added that she knows families who’ve pulled their kids from class all week to keep them safe. 

“I discussed it with my husband because I am scared, but we decided to send the kids because what sort of message would we be sending them if we didn’t?” Price said. “We don’t want to let the terrorists win.” 

Aliza Licht, a 49-year-old entrepreneur and author based in New York City, told The Free Press that while her inbox and social media feeds have been filled with fear, her local community has inspired her with their strength. 

“We know that if we support each other, we will get past this,” Licht said. 

On Friday, she is sending her daughter to school and later that night, she will join a group of New Yorkers who are planning to lean out of their windows or head to their rooftops and sing the Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem. 

“My grandparents did not survive the Holocaust for me to be silent,” she said. 

Free Press staffers Olivia Reingold, Francesca Block, and Julia Steinberg and London-based freelance writer Nicole Lambert contributed reporting to this piece. Read Bari’s column Campus Cowardice and Where the Buck Stops.

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June 18, 2024 Heather Cox Richardson

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My First Job, at the Stanford Internet Observatory Julia Steinberg

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Like a zillion other bright-eyed Stanford undergrads, I was drawn to work at a place that promised I’d “learn about the abuse of the internet in real time,” writes Julia Steinberg. (Photo by David Madison/Getty Images)

The Stanford Internet Observatory—a research center tasked with rooting out “misinformation” on social media—is shutting its doors. Chances are if you’ve heard of the SIO it was in a scathing piece from Michael Shellenberger or Matt Taibbi, who have accused the center of being a key node in the censorship-industrial complex.

It was also my first employer. Like a zillion other bright-eyed Stanford undergrads, I was drawn to work at a place that promised to “learn about the abuse of the internet in real time, to develop a novel curriculum on trust and safety that is a first in computer science, and to translate our research discoveries into training and policy innovations for the public good.” To me, that meant ending internet abuse like the glamorization of anorexia on social media or financial scams that steal billions every year. But mostly I worked on the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP), which SIO ran during the 2020 and 2022 elections. The purpose of that project was to identify so-called “fake news” spreading on social media. 

In actuality, SIO hired a load of interns to scan social media for posts deemed to be mis- and disinformation. It turns out that the posts we students flagged were often sent along to moderators at Twitter (now X), Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, which took them down in order to quash dissenting viewpoints—viewpoints that sometimes ended up being right, as in the case of Covid likely being the result of a lab leak, or Hunter Biden’s hard drive being his actual hard drive—not Russian disinformation. 

Thanks to the work of independent journalists, the SIO’s work has come under a lot of scrutiny, including in Washington. A recent House Judiciary Committee report alleges that, by cooperating with the Department of Homeland Security, the SIO’s Election Integrity Partnership “provided a way for the federal government to launder its censorship activities in hopes of bypassing both the First Amendment and public scrutiny.” 

The SIO has stated that “Stanford has not shut down or dismantled SIO as a result of outside pressure. SIO does, however, face funding challenges as its founding grants will soon be exhausted.” But on June 13, Platformer reported that much of SIO’s staff was on the way out: “Its founding director, Alex Stamos, left his position in November. Renee DiResta, its research director, left last week after her contract was not renewed. One other staff member’s contract expired this month, while others have been told to look for jobs elsewhere, sources say.”

The Supreme Court will soon rule on a case, Murthy v. Missouri, that addresses whether the U.S. government should be able to collaborate with social media companies to censor commentary. The plaintiffs, in their brief, lambast SIO for its role in abetting government censorship. We’ll be watching that case closely.

Julia Steinberg is an intern at The Free Press. Read her piece on the college dropout who unlocked the secrets of ancient Rome using AI. And follow her on X @Juliaonatroika.

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My Promise to Palestine Chris Hedges

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When I accepted the Tafik Diab Prize for my writing on the genocide in Gaza in Cairo on June 10 I explained why the cartoonist Joe Sacco and I are planning to do our next book together on Gaza.

Written speech:

I would like to start with a story that happened to me in Gaza on October 5, 2000. One day I was working on a report at Natzarim (Jewish settlement). There were Palestinian boys near me. The boys threw rocks towards the Israeli army. A soldier shot one of the boys — and the boy died. Four boys each lifted up a limb and we ran. The incident aftected me to such an extent that I did not shave for three weeks. After three weeks, I went to visit the boy’s house to meet his family. I told his mother I was with her son when he was killed. The mother told me that when her younger son heard that his brother had been killed he went into the kitchen, and then he left the house. After ten minutes she asked her husband where her son had gone. They went out to look for him and saw him in the street with a knife in his hand.

She asked him, “Where are you going?”

He answered, “I am going to kill Jews.” I have never been able to forget that child. I often wonder where he is. He would be a man in his thirties now. Is he still alive? Married? Does he have children? Are he and his family frightened of the bombing? Where have they taken refuge? God willing, I will write a book on Gaza with the cartoonist Joe Sacco, the author of “Palestine” and “Footnotes in Gaza.” During that time I will look for him, I will complete his story and the stories of many others. Israel is determined to erase them from existence and from history. This is my promise.

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