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Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia reported on US campuses as war continues

Jewish, Palestinian and Muslim students are reporting harassment and abuse on US university campuses as the Israel-Hamas war continues. 

Protests have broken out in support of both sides of the war. Photo: Unsplash.

The war has opened up a wider debate about how institutions should respond to global issues

Campuses have become a hotbed for tensions, with protests breaking out supporting both sides of the conflict and university leadership under fire for their positions or silence on the war.

Palestinian and Muslim students have spoken of experiencing rising Islamophobia since the war began. 

A group of students at Northeastern University in Boston published an open letter accusing the institution of ‘favouring’ Zionism in its statement on the war, saying this had caused students of Palestinian descent and Muslims “to feel isolated, unheard, and unsafe”.

“This one-sided approach has incited hatred on this campus,” the students wrote. 

“Students have been called terrorists, and women with the Islamic religious scarf (Hijab) on have been followed, with pictures taken of them and threatening notes left on cars.”

Jewish students have also reported incidents of anti-Semitism over the past week. 

In one case, a lecturer at Stanford has been suspended after reportedly describing Israel as a “coloniser” before singling out Jewish students in his class and forcing them to move away from their belongings to ‘demonstrate’ colonialism. 

“This report is a cause for serious concern,” Stanford university leaders said in a statement. “Academic freedom does not permit the identity-based targeting of students.”

“We call on our institutions to provide support to students, scholars, and staff”

US international education association NAFSA said in a statement the reverberations from the conflict are “far reaching” and are being “felt on campuses and in communities all over the world”. 

“We recognise the ugly propensity toward anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and hate,” the organisation wrote. “We call on our institutions to provide support to students, scholars, and staff and spaces for the constructive expression of differing viewpoints with human dignity and respect.”

There has also been a backlash after a coalition of Harvard student groups released a statement after the Hamas attacks blaming the Israeli regime “entirely” for the violence. 

Many students have now withdrawn their endorsements but for some it was too late. A truck displaying the names of some of the signees appeared on the university’s campus in a doxxing incident, while a group of business executives publicly said they would not hire any students who signed the letter.

Politicians in the UK and US have also discussed revoking the visas of foreign students who openly support Hamas. 

Some Harvard donors have now cut ties with the institution, with one foundation accusing the university of failing “to take a clear and unequivocal stand against the barbaric murders of innocent Israeli civilians by terrorists”.

The war has opened up a wider debate about how institutions should respond to global events. 

In a video, Harvard president Claudine Gay said the university “rejects terrorism” and “hate”, including “the barbaric atrocities perpetrated by Hamas” but “embraces a commitment to free expression”.

“That commitment extends even to views that many of us find objectionable, even outrageous,” she said.

“We do not punish or sanction people for expressing such views. But that is a far cry from endorsing them.”

Richard Saller and Jenny Martinez, president and provost at Stanford University, said in a statement that it is important universities “refrain from taking institutional positions”.

“The decision to take a position about one event or issue yields implications for silence with regard to other issues; given that different subsets of a campus community may be more or less affected by particular issues, this inconsistency is felt acutely,” they wrote. 

They went on to condemn the attack by Hamas but told students not to expect “frequent commentary” in the future. 

Northeastern University has been contacted for comment.

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