Nationwide Campus Protests Shock and Appall

Nationwide Campus Protests Shock and Appall

Campus unrest underscores the urgent need for Israel to defeat Hamas quickly and rescue the hostages.  


The protests that we see unfolding on American college campuses are both understandable and worrying. It is understandable because there is nothing more natural than to see young people express their compassion and pain about the unfolding tragedy in Gaza—where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians live without shelter or solace and thousands of Israeli families grieve and worry about their loved ones held hostage by Hamas in Gaza. In northern Israel, 60,000 people have fled in the face of rockets and shells launched by Hezbollah from Lebanon.

In principle, it is noble to demand justice and reject violence by exercising fundamental rights to demonstrate and freely speak out peacefully. And yet, the reality is more worrying. The rhetoric is not from the tradition of Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi, which mixed eloquence and urgency with pleas for justice and moderation—an approach meant to persuade onlookers to join their cause. Instead, campus demonstrators celebrate the atrocities of October 7, in which Hamas terrorists murdered, raped, or abducted over 1,100 Israelis just a few months ago. Their words call for the end of Israel, a democratic ally of the United States, or champion the cause of Hamas, which has been designated as a terror group by the United States and the EU.


Protesters on college campuses have often cited the First Amendment as a shelter for their tactics, whether they were simply waving signs or taking more dramatic steps, such as setting up encampments, occupying buildings, or chanting slogans that critics say are anti-semitic. But many legal scholars, along with university lawyers and administrators, believe at least some of those free-speech assertions muddle, misstate, test, or even flout the amendment, which is meant to guard against state suppression.

None of these words are meant to persuade; Instead, they aim to harass and intimidate. They aim to bully and frighten passersby into submission. Even more so, anti-semitism now unashamedly shows its demonic face. Jewish students are prevented from continuing their courses, not because of their political opinions, but because they are Jewish. This is unprecedented in the United States.

A minority, a tiny minority, driven by what New York City’s mayor describes as “outside agitators,” took over the campus movements. These hateful adults delivered the tents, directed the speeches, and taught the tactics.

Jew-hatred and Islamophobia in whatever form they take are reprehensible. Hatred of any minority can divide a democracy and permanently wound it. Such extremism fuels dictators and civil wars in other lands and could foment violence and misery in America. The fearful caution shown by college presidents, who belatedly and reluctantly called for the police to clear the barricades, only encouraged the demonstrators. Students in masks—piling up barricades, threatening violence while intimidating their neighbors—were simply having too much “fun” to leave. Besides, they were enjoying cost-free reinforcement from social media and adult attention, not to mention the canceled classes and free food.

The delay was not going to give them time to reconsider thoughtfully. Still, there are constructive things to consider here.

First, finish the war in Gaza as soon as possible. Rescue the hostages. As long as images of shattered towers and hungry, homeless children circulate, reason will give way to emotion, even extremism. The United States has a major role to play, establishing a framework for resolving the conflict, integrating Israel into the region, and calling for investment that lays the foundation for true prosperity to benefit both Palestinians and Israelis.

This is only possible if America demands the release of the hostages (which include U.S. citizens), thereby exerting extreme pressure on Hamas and its protectors. We must call for early elections in Israel. The United States must punish the leaders of Hamas, not only the military branch but also the political branch, who played a role in the massacre of October 7. Hamas political leaders must be punished by judicial conviction before American courts. If they are found guilty in a fair trial, they should suffer life imprisonment, and their families should lose their million-dollar bank accounts, siphoned from aid originally meant for vulnerable and poor Palestinians. There needs to be a severe penalty for organized murder, rape, and kidnapping, or the world will soon see far too much of it.

Peace is possible for Israel and Palestine—if their leaders want it.

Ahmed Charai is the publisher of the Jerusalem Strategic Tribune and the CEO of a Morocco-based media conglomerate. He is on the board of directors of the Atlantic Council, the International Crisis Group, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Foreign Policy Research Institute, the Center for the National Interest, and the International Advisory Council of the United States Institute of Peace.