Jewish Communal Organizations Statement on Anti-Israel Protests and Encampments

May 22, 2024 | Article, JCRC, Press Release

In light of increased protests and encampments at a number of Colorado colleges and universities including the Auraria Campus of Community College of Denver, CU Denver and Metropolitan State University of Denver, Colorado College, Colorado Mesa University, CSU-Fort Collins, CSU-Pueblo, CU Boulder, and the University of Denver, we the undersigned representatives of Anti-Defamation League Mountain States Region, JEWISHcolorado, Jewish Community Relations Council, Rocky Mountain Rabbis and Cantors, American Jewish Committee, Colorado Israel American Council, Hillel of Colorado, StandWithUs Colorado, and Stop Antisemitism Colorado, issue the following statement:

Anti-Zionism on campus in Colorado and across the country is antisemitism.

Criticizing the policies of Israel is not antisemitic any more than criticizing the policies of the United States is unpatriotic; however, the rhetoric emanating from campuses across the country that has spread to Colorado is not just aimed at Israeli policy; it demonizes Zionism, which is the right of self-determination and statehood for the Jewish people in their ancestral homeland, the land of Israel.

Many protestors have gone beyond calls for peace, humanitarian relief for the war initiated by Hamas, or a two-state solution. After 76 years, they seek the eradication of Israel as a legitimate state, and worse, they use blatant antisemitic phrases such as “Globalize the Intifada” and “Free Palestine from the River to the Sea.” These are intimidating and harassing phrases with deep impact on Jewish students and faculty who know the violence inherent in calling for an “intifada” and the removal of Jews and the Jewish state from the (Jordan) “river” to the (Mediterranean) “sea.” There has also been shameless glorification of terrorism with graphic designs on shirts and signs recalling the paragliders who attacked unarmed people at a music festival and other justifications for the barbaric murders, kidnapping, and terrorism on October 7. The hateful language and graphics directed against Jewish students and faculty is not only intimidating and harassing, but they also fuel and normalize antisemitism.

A stated goal of the anti-Israel protestors at Colorado colleges and universities is the call for their schools to divest holdings from companies they say do business with Israel and/or are “complicit” with Israel’s response against Hamas in Gaza. Protestors are also demanding their schools end partnerships and joint programs with Israeli universities. Advocating for the boycott, divestment, and sanctioning of Israel (BDS) is fundamentally biased and unconstructive. Indeed, the founder of the BDS movement, Omar Barghouti, has claimed “We oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.” Calling for the eradication of the world’s only Jewish state is antisemitic.

Another demand of anti-Israel protesters is to end study abroad programs in Israel. Shutting down the opportunity for students to study in Israel or to engage with Israeli academics is detrimental to the right of students to pursue first-hand study, exchange, and intensive immersion, especially when there are no such calls to end study abroad programs in countries with undeniably terrible records on human rights such as China.

A recently-released nationwide poll conducted by Hillel International demonstrates that roughly half of Jewish students surveyed – 51% – said demonstrations on campus disrupted their ability to attend class, including 20% who said they were physically blocked from attending a class. The rest said classes were canceled, interrupted, or moved to Zoom. A majority of respondents – 61% – said there has been antisemitic, threatening, or derogatory language directed toward Jewish people during protests at their school.

As of the date of this statement, we are thankful there have not been violent incidents on Colorado campuses; however, when they endorse and advocate the use of tactics of intimidation, harassment, and antisemitic rhetoric, the protests on campuses cannot be deemed “peaceful.” Jewish students report seeing professors, advisors and resident assistants participating in encampments and protests leaving them feeling unsafe and that they will not receive equal treatment. Students also report being forced to avoid portions of campus, so they do not have to walk through those parts under control by protestors, and Jewish faculty report being forced to avoid faculty senate and other meetings, so they are not verbally attacked by colleagues.

Antisemitism has been allowed to escalate for far too long on campuses, with far too few consequences. If this kind of organized, targeted, racialized hatred were directed at another targeted minority, the public outcry from all people of good conscience, including Jewish Coloradoans, would be swift and overwhelming. While directed against Jews, the hate on campus is affecting all students. Classes, finals, and celebratory events, such as commencement ceremonies have been and are being disrupted. For those colleges and universities that have not yet ended the school year, and those that are entering summer activities and preparing for the fall semester, we implore them to take decisive action to protect students, faculty and staff.

During this historic and tragic rise in antisemitism, representatives of many of our organizations have been meeting with administration and leadership at most of the major colleges and universities in the state. We will continue to advocate for the enforcement of policies designed to protect and defend Jewish students, faculty, staff, and allies, and for adverse consequences for those that violate the policies.

Scott Levin, Regional Director
Anti-Defamation League Mountain States

Renée Rockford, President & CEO

Matt Most, Interim Director
Jewish Community Relations Council

Rabbi Joshua Ginsberg-Margo, President
Rocky Mountain Rabbis and Cantors

Eran Hazary, Associate Director
American Jewish Committee Mountain States

Eldad Malka, Regional Director
Colorado Israel American Council

Daniel Bennett, Executive Director
Hillel of Colorado

Miri Kornfeld, Director
StandWithUs Colorado

Dawn Reinfeld, Board President
Stop Antisemitism Colorado