Following the October 7, 2023 Hamas terrorist attack against Israel, Israel has undertaken military action in the Gaza Strip to incapacitate Hamas and prevent it from engaging in future acts of terrorism.
Here in the United States, with the exception of a few far-left voices, the government has responded to the Israel-Hamas war by affirming its support for Israel’s right to exist and for its right to defend itself. Both President Joe Biden and Gov. Kathy Hochul have visited Israel in recent weeks to demonstrate their solidarity with the Jewish state. Also, on November 2, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to provide $14.3 billion in aid to Israel.
However, the Israel-Hamas War has made it unmistakably clear that many Americans do not share our government’s support for Israel. There has been a great deal of protest activity regarding the war, and much of it has occurred at college campuses. Many of the protests are hostile to Israel, and some individuals have crossed the line that separates peaceful free speech from harassment and threats. On October 12, a Jewish student at Columbia University was beaten with a stick. On October 25, a pro-Palestinian demonstration at The Cooper Union, a college in Manhattan, turned ugly when protesters entered campus buildings. At one point, Jewish students hid behind locked doors in The Cooper Union’s library while protesters banged on the doors and tried to enter. According to Fox News, the Jewish students were led to safety, exiting the library through tunnels. No action was taken against the hostile protesters. On October 29, disruptive pro-Palestinian protesters in New York City caused authorities to temporarily close the Brooklyn Bridge. On October 31, a Cornell University junior, was criminally charged after allegedly posting online threats of violence against Jewish people. The student allegedly threatened to attack the campus’s Jewish center, to stab Jewish men, to rape or murder Jewish women, and to decapitate Jewish babies.
Even high schools are not immune from conflicts over the Israel-Hamas War. In Amherst, New York, Sweet Home High School students have reported incidents of anti-Semitism, bullying, harassment, and neo-Nazi gestures.
Incidents of hate-based harassment have not been limited to one side of the Israel-Hamas War; both Muslim and Jewish organizations have reported a massive increase in reports of such harassment.
What should be done to address the tensions that have arisen here in New York, and across the United States, since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas War?
First, government officials must communicate that harassment, violence and threats of violence are unacceptable. When necessary, this communication must be backed up by law enforcement action. The good news here is that some of this is already happening. Gov. Kathy Hochul visited Cornell University following the recent online terror threat against Jews. “‘Ensuring that we have the right of free speech, we’ll always protect that,’” the Governor said. “‘But when speech crosses over into hate speech and into hate crimes, that’s when we have to make sure that students know that we’ll step up and protect them.’”
Second, New Yorkers must do a better job of teaching young people about the horrific history of anti-Semitism and the importance of the state of Israel.
Third, New Yorkers must reckon with the reality of radicalism on college and university campuses. The far left has held sway on many university campuses for some time. The seeds of their ideology have been planted in the minds of young and impressionable students, and the predictable results are now taking place. Leftists’ treatment of conservatives on college campuses has been, and continues to be, appalling. Now, that appalling treatment is being extended to Jews. Leaders and colleges and universities must be held accountable to make a course correction.
Fourth, Christians should respond in godly ways to this cultural conflict. We must uphold Israel’s right to exist, and we must also uphold the Biblical teaching that every person is made in the image and likeness of our Creator and should not be harassed or mistreated. When we see instances of prejudiced rhetoric or behavior—whether it is directed at Jews, Muslims, or anyone else—we must boldly speak out against it and protect the safety of our neighbors.