Anti-Israel college protesters claim they’re ‘anti-Zionist,’ not antisemitic. They lie! | Opinion

The anti-Israel protests at Columbia University and other U.S. campuses have been blown way out of proportion by major U.S. media, but it’s important to call the student protesters’ bluff: their claim that they are “anti-Zionist,” but not antisemitic, is nonsense.

While major news media are covering these protests as if they were a massive phenomenon, they are not. These protests just happen to have started in New York, where some of the biggest media organizations have their headquarters, and more specifically at Columbia University, where many journalists, including me, have studied.

Granted, nearly 900 students have been arrested at Columbia and other U.S. campuses — including at the University of Florida and the University of South Florida this week — in pro-Palestinian protests. But that pales in comparison with the more than 14,000 people who were arrested in 2020 Black Lives Matter protests that followed the death of George Floyd, according to The Washington Post.

Blatant antisemitism

Which brings me to my second point, which is that the student protesters are fooling themselves, and everybody else, when they claim they are not antisemitic.

Some of them, like Khymani James, a student leader of Columbia’s anti-Israel Gaza Solidarity Encampment, have made Nazi-like statements. James posted a video stream of himself saying at a student meeting that “Zionists don’t deserve to live.” He later apologized.

Another protest leader at Columbia called out, “We have Zionists who have entered the camp,” referring to Jewish students who had apparently arrived there. Dozens of fellow protesters repeated his words, a video published by The New York Times shows.

Many of the student protesters claim they are not antisemitic but “Anti-Zionist,” presumably meaning that they are not against the Jewish people, but only against the state of Israel.

That amounts to being antisemitic because it singles out Jews as the only ethnic group they deny the right to have their homeland.

Why do “anti-Zionists” oppose Israel’s right to have Judaism as its official religion, and don’t oppose Iran or any other of the 27 Middle Eastern and African countries that have Islam as their official religion? Why can Saudi Arabia be a Muslim country, and Israel not a Jewish one?

Being anti-Zionist is not the same as being against Israel’s current government. It is a term that denies the foundational legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state.

“Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitic, in intent or effect,” says the Anti-Defamation League. “It is used to disenfranchise, demonize, disparage, or punish all Jews and/or those who feel a connection to Israel... or renders Jews less worthy of nationhood and self-determination than other peoples.”

In addition, when anti-Israel students chant their slogan “from the river to the sea,” they are in effect calling for a Palestinian takeover of today’s Israel. They are ignoring the fact that Israel was created in 1948 and admitted to the United Nations in 1949 with the support of dozens of nations, including the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China.

Also, the protesters’ claims that Israel is conducting a “genocide” in Gaza is misleading. While you can criticize Israel’s military response to the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack as excessive — 34,000 Gazans have died so far, at least half of them civilians — genocide is defined as an intentional effort to wipe out an entire ethnic group.

Israel’s military attack on Gaza is not aimed at exterminating the Palestinian people but the Hamas terrorist group that started this war, and whose foundational charter calls for the elimination of Israel. The Hamas attack on Israel’s civilian population left 1,200 dead and 250 taken hostage, including grandparents and babies.

The pro-Palestinian students at U.S. campuses have a right to protest against Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But declaring themselves “anti-Zionist,” denying Israel’s right to exist, and falsely denouncing an alleged “genocide” in Gaza while not condemning the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that triggered this war is pure antisemitism. They are not helping themselves, nor the Palestinian cause.

Don’t miss the “Oppenheimer Presenta” TV show on Sundays at 9 pm E.T. on CNN en Español. Blog: