Netanyahu condemns ‘antisemitic mobs’ on US college campuses

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Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on Tuesday denounced the pro-Palestinian protests roiling college campuses across the U.S., arguing they are “antisemitic mobs” targeting Jewish students and faculties.

“So what’s happening on America’s college campuses is horrific. Antisemitic mobs have taken over leading universities. They call for the annihilation of Israel, they attack Jewish students, they attack Jewish faculty. This is reminiscent of what happened in German universities in the 1930s,” Netanyahu said during a Tuesday video address.

Protests calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war have broken out at several college campuses across the U.S. in recent days, prompting arrests, suspensions of a number of students and heavy police presence.

Most of the protests have been reported to be peaceful, but concerns have been raised over the safety of students and proliferation of antisemitic rhetoric. While the U.S. saw an uptick in antisemitism following Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks against Israel, some protest groups have rejected the characterizations of their recent demonstrations as antisemitic.

“We are frustrated by media distractions focusing on inflammatory individuals who do not represent us,” protest leaders wrote in a statement Sunday. “Our members have been misidentified by a politically motivated mob.”

“We firmly reject any form of hate or bigotry and stand vigilant against non-students attempting to disrupt the solidarity being forged among students,” they continued. “Palestinian, Muslim, Arab, Jewish, Black and pro-Palestinian classmates and colleagues who represent the full diversity of our country.”

The protest groups have pointed to the sizable number of protesters who are Jewish, with a large group on Monday holding a Passover Seder from the Columbia University protest camp.

Netanyahu on Tuesday claimed the world is seeing an “exponential rise” in antisemitism in America and throughout Western societies and called on school administrators to take greater action.

“It’s unconscionable, it has to be stopped, it has to be condemned and condemned unequivocally,” he said. “But that’s not what happened. The response of several university presidents was shameful.”

“We’ve seen in history that antisemitic attacks were always preceded by vilification and slander lies that were cast against the Jewish people that are unbelievable, yet people believed,” he added later. “And what is important now if for all of us, all of us who are interested and cherish our values and our civilization, to stand up together and to say enough is enough.”

In a Monday post on the social platform X, the Israeli government reposted a video of the Columbia protests and called the demonstrators “terrorists” who are “openly supporting terror.”

School administrators are currently faced with walking the tightrope of permitting free expression while also maintaining safe and inclusive campuses for students.

Columbia and its administration were thrust into the national spotlight last week after hundreds of students occupied the center of campus, pushing for a cease-fire and a halt in U.S. military aid to Gaza. New York police officers, called in at the behest of university officials, arrested more than 100 student demonstrators, further inflaming tensions.

Columbia President Minouche Shafik is facing calls from both sides of the aisle to resign, with some arguing she is doing too much to quell the protests and others claiming she has not done enough.

Concerns over Jewish students’ safety were raised earlier this week following a reported call from one campus rabbi for Jewish students to return home “as soon as possible” ahead of the start of the Jewish holiday of Passover on Monday. The school later announced it will shift to hybrid learning for the remainder of the semester.

The daughter of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Isra Hirsi, was among those arrested last week. Asked on MSNBC if she believes the protests and encampment have made people uncomfortable, she said it has been a “very community-centered space.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray on Tuesday said his agency is working with colleges and universities to warn them of threats on campus. He said the bureau does not directly track college protests, but is providing information to schools as it becomes aware of possible threats.

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