Universities Face an Urgent Question: What Makes a Protest Antisemitic?

Pro-Palestinian student activists say their movement is anti-Zionist but not antisemitic. It is not a distinction that everyone buys.

In a video shared widely online, a leader of the pro-Palestinian student movement at Columbia University stands near the center of a lawn on the campus and calls out, “We have Zionists who have entered the camp.”

Dozens of protesters, who have created a tent village called the “Gaza Solidarity Encampment,” repeat his words back to him: “We have Zionists who have entered the camp.”

“Walk and take a step forward,” the leader says, as the students continue to repeat his every utterance, “so that we can start to push them out of the camp.

The protesters link arms and march in formation toward three Jewish students who have come inside the encampment.

“It was really scary because we had like 75 people quickly gathered around, encircling us, doing exactly what he said to do,” Avi Weinberg, one of the Jewish students, said in an interview. He and his friends had gone to see the encampment, not intending to provoke, he said. When it began to feel tense, one of the students started to record the encounter. They are not sure precisely how the protest leader determined they were supportive of Israel.

“Suddenly we are being called ‘the Zionists’ in their encampment,” Mr. Weinberg said. “He put a target on our back.”

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