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The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

Jewish students respond to protests

GWU Anti-Israel Protest © Ted Eytan (Licensed under CC BY 4.0)
Since April 18, 2024, just over 2600 people have been arrested on 50 campuses, according to the Associated Press.

Please read “May Editorial” under “Opinions” for more details.

On April 17, 2024, students at Columbia University set up an encampment on campus protesting the university’s ties to the Israeli government and pro-Israel corporations. Throughout the following weeks, the world watched as many universities across the country followed suit in setting up similar protests as a sign of support for Palestine.

At certain protests, demonstrators have used language and signage that has caused some Jewish students to feel unsafe, such as the phrase “long live the intifada,” which many people interpret as a call to violence against Jewish people, according to the New York Times, or “from the river to the sea,” which is interpreted by many Jewish people as a call for Israel’s destruction, according to the Associated Press.

According to a member of the faculty who will be referred to as Paul, although protesting is important, things become scary when some of the protests become about a group of people instead of a cause. Paul and other interviewees requested anonymity out of a concern for safety.

“I’m all about protesting. I think that’s one of the great things about our college students. You know, back in the day, I did it too. But these protests have brought up feelings of fear and concern for my students,” Paul said. “It’s upsetting and it’s sad to see so many people so angry and not talking about a peace resolution.”

According to a student who will be referred to as Max, the country-wide demonstrations at major universities have added another thing for Jewish students to consider when applying to colleges.

“I was talking to my parents the other day and, in terms of schools, there was a list of schools where there’s no antisemitism, and there were like five schools. Obviously, I’m not just going to look at those five schools, but I think that’s important to keep in mind,” Max said.

A second student, who will be referred to as Tom, said they decided not to apply to certain schools, including New York University and Tulane when the demonstrations started.

As a staff member, Paul said he has talked to some Jewish students about college in the wake of recent events, and it has caused some new concerns.

“Roommate situations and being comfortable living in the dorms has been the key. With roommates, you’re living with them on campus, and making sure that the campus is comfortable to walk around on has also been key,” Paul said.

According to a student who will be referred to as Jane, the uncertainty on many campuses and the university response has also been frightening, according to a student who will be referred to as Jane.

“It’s scary but not necessarily for the reasons that people might think. Antisemitism is a threat, but also just the chaos that’s ensuing in general. And also how the universities are dealing with it, I feel is very problematic,” Jane said.

The general school environment has added a level of fear and caution for Jewish students, according to Max.

“At school, there’s no fear for my safety here, but I went on a trip this summer to Israel and I don’t even mention where I went, just in case. I’m way more cautious than I thought I would need to be, coming back from the trip. And things that I didn’t think that I would need to be careful about, I am, just in case. I know this place is really safe, but in general, my sister’s at college right now and she has been totally fine, but she’s very cautious about even talking about her identity at all,” Max said.

The nationwide events have made students more aware of antisemitism, according to Tom.

“It has made me more aware of how other people perceive or can perceive me and view me just because of how I identify, which has never happened to me before. Still, to this day, I’ve never experienced antisemitism, which I’m very grateful for. But it’s very, very real and it’s definitely something that I am aware of,” Tom said.

Despite the tension surrounding the topic and how hard it may be for people to talk about it, it is incredibly important to at least try to have conversations surrounding the conflict, according to Max.

“Mostly, we’re just avoiding the topic altogether. And I think it’s, in my opinion, not helpful to just avoid it, because a lot of people are uninformed,” Max said. “But, I think it has affected many Jewish students and many Palestinian students.”

According to Jane, it’s essential for both sides to reach out to each other to try and understand both sides of the story.

“If you’re constantly surrounded by, for example, Jewish people, it’s important to step out of that and listen to people who maybe are Palestinian or Muslim or on the other side of the conflict and hear where they’re coming from,” Jane said. “At least for me, that’s been very eye-opening because I have friends who are Muslim, and I’ve never really experienced any antisemitism and I didn’t realize how much anti-Muslim stuff they were experiencing because of this situation. So I feel like everybody needs to just listen a lot more and talk to people who they don’t talk to every single day.”

Paul said that he believes both sides would find common ground on the topic if they spent time listening to each other, especially regarding the effect the conflict has had on them.

“Bad stuff has happened to both groups and we should come together and listen to each other instead of just struggling against each other or surrounding ourselves with the same people all the time and hearing the same things over and over again,” Paul said. “We’re not talking about it at all, and I think people just need to be more open to listening to other opinions and other people.”

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