College Campus Protests Unveil the Shadow of Antisemitism

College Campus Protests Unveil the Shadow of Antisemitism April 29, 2024

College students gather on campuses across the US to voice their dissent
Courtesy Al Jazeera

NB: This is a guest post from Determinetruth’s Danny Hall

It’s complicated

When anyone asks me what I think about the current Israel/Gaza conflict this is the first thing that comes into my mind. The region has a very complicated history, with multiple and often competing narratives of how we arrived at the current situation. These narratives are driven by a mix of history, ethnicity, interference by occupying and colonial forces, geopolitical tensions that extend far beyond the region, and theological beliefs, to name a few.

Further complicating the issue is the incessant information streams that are all to often disinformation streams that feed the frenzy and undermine attempts at deeper understanding and the hard work of peacemaking.

Rise in Antisemitism

My goal here is not to parse these elements and offer any solutions but to point out what, to me, is not complicated, the all too human tendency to demonize and dehumanize the other. The ADL (Anti-Defamation League) and CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) both report dramatic rises in antisemitic and Islamophobic rhetoric and activity since October 7.
For example, currently, a series of protests on college campuses across the U.S. have included all sorts of threatening language and actions against Jewish students and faculty members. At Columbia University in New York, the president of the university has moved all classes online because the safety of Jewish students can no longer be guaranteed. This is wrong on many levels and must be condemned.

Demonizing the other

There is, unfortunately, another problem with these attacks. When we demonize and dehumanize the other, we almost always provoke an equal and opposite reaction. Those who are the objects of our scorn will most often repay us in kind in their own defense. In this environment, legitimate protest and needed debate go unheard in the face of the reaction to the violence. This is in part what Jesus meant when he said that whoever lives by the sword will die by it.

Collateral damage in all of this is the art of nuanced listening and debate. Fueled by the mainstream media and social media, we have devolved into living in echo chambers and are forced too often into binary thinking. We need to be the leaders in demonstrating truth-seeking no matter where it leads us.

We are called to be peacemakers

As followers of Jesus, we are also called to be peacemakers. We must stand against violence from all sides and do all that we can to promote dialogue and care for the ever-growing number of victims regardless of their ethnicity. Calling leaders to account is virtuous and needed. Resorting to dehumanization and violence is not.

Shane Claiborne, a Christian activist who has been involved in peacemaking for years recently posted the following explanation for his involvement in a protest of Israel’s response to October 7th. I found it helpful.

“Many people are trying hard to make it sound like all the students and protestors calling for a ceasefire are anti-Semitic and pro-Hamas to discredit them. Every protest I’ve been a part of has been clearly grounded in love and nonviolence, with Jews, Christians, Muslims, and others all standing together against this genocide, and standing against all forms of hatred and violence including the attack by Hamas on Oct. 7. Organizing is hard and imperfect… it is impossible to control every person’s behavior or message, but organizers work strategically to stay grounded in love and disciplined in nonviolence. Speaking out against the genocide in Gaza is not antisemitic — it is loving, humane, and decent. And speaking out against the violence of Oct. 7 by Hamas is not anti-Palestinian or anti-Arab – it is loving, humane, and decent. Every Israeli life is precious. And every Palestinian life is just as precious.”

So, what can we do?

I would like to suggest at least three things we should all do. First, we should lament. I hear many voices from both sides engaged in blaming and defending. I do not hear enough voices broken over the tragic loss of life and the devastation of the land. When have you stopped and just wept over all this?

Second, we must listen. To be perfectly honest, for many years I didn’t bother listening to voices that were different from my own. I didn’t even listen enough to the voices of my brothers and sisters in Christ who come from other parts of the world and have different perspectives. We all live with the limitations of our own myopic view of the world. It is only in listening to the other that we allow ourselves to grow in perspective and wisdom. We at Determinetruth have been offering a number of livestreams designed to give a different perspective on these issues in the Middle East. You might not agree with some of it. That’s okay. We only want to urge you to listen and think. If you are wondering where to start, I would suggest you listen to our livestream with Alex Awad. Alex is a dear brother in Christ who has along with his whole family lived through the Israeli/Palestinian story since the formation of the current State of Israel. It’s worth your time to hear his story.

Finally, as followers of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, we need to take seriously the call to love our enemies as well as our neighbors. We do this best in conversation with fellow believers, especially with those with whom we may disagree, in an effort to work out how we are to live out the commands of Jesus.

Yes, it’s complicated. But the call to love our neighbor and our enemy is clear. We have to do the hard work of seeing “Your Kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”



About Danny Hall
Danny and his wife Ginger have been married for 49 years. They have one son and daughter-in-law and two wonderful granddaughters. Danny has been in ministry for over 45 years, serving churches in both the US and in Europe. Danny has served for more than 30 years in pastoral ministry. He and Ginger also served for 14 years in Vienna, Austria pastoring, teaching, and developing curriculum for pastors and leaders in churches throughout Eastern Europe. For the last 9 years Danny has worked as a consultant helping churches and businesses develop healthy and efficient leadership cultures. He is a certified Spiritual Director and his passion is to see church leaders operate out of a deep, healthy spiritual life. He and Ginger enjoy spending time together and with their family. As a native Atlantan, Danny is an avid Atlanta Braves fan. He enjoys reading, playing Settlers of Catan, skiing, and playing golf. You can read more about the author here.

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