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Pro-Israel, Pro-Palestine Protesters Face Off at UPenn Sunday

One side chanted, “Rape is not resistance.” The other side responded, “Intifada, the revolution.”

And with that, the debate over U.S. support for Israel and the Jewish nation’s right to exist was laid out on the University of Pennsylvania campus Sunday.

The anti-Israel protests there began Thursday, complete with tents similar to those used by pro-Palestine activists from Cambridge, Mass., to the University of Southern California. In the Delaware Valley, protest encampments have reportedly sprouted at Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore Colleges.

On Friday, UPenn’s interim university President Larry Jameson, told protesters to pack up their tents and leave. The administration also told organizations planning a provocative Passover seder as part of their anti-Israel protest not to hold the event.

But on Sunday, the tents were still up, and the seder went on as planned as the Palestinian activists continued to ignore the administration and disrupt the campus.

In his statement Friday, Jameson took a tough line, declaring that while the university supports peaceful protest, “the encampment itself violates the university’s facilities policies. The harassing and intimidating comments and actions by some of the protesters, which were reported and documented by many in our community, violate Penn’s open expression guidelines and state and federal law, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. All members of our community deserve to access our facilities without fear of harassment or being subjected to discriminatory comments or threats.”

“We will not allow any actions that harass, threaten, or intimidate others,” Jameson added. “We have also said that the safety of our community is paramount, and we will live up to our commitment.”

That commitment remained unfulfilled late Sunday night as the protest continued.

Sunday afternoon, a group of 200 or so supporters of Israel, led by medical school professor Benjamin Abella, gathered in front of the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.

(CREDIT: Professor Benjamin Abella via Twitter)

“We hereby implore the university to take action,” Abella said. “Words are not enough.” Among the signs they waved were “No Hamas, No KKK.”

A group of pro-Israel supporters marched toward the pro-Palestine encampment as campus cops looked on. That was when they exchanged chants.

Eyal Yakoby, a senior at the University of Pennsylvania who testified before Congress about the recent wave of antisemitism, believes the university is ignoring the protesters’ threats of violence.

“While people dismiss the violent nature of these protests, chanting globalize the intifada literally is a call to violence. A university’s core mission is to educate students. When protests are blasting air horns in the middle of the school day, how are students supposed to focus? Penn, along with other universities, needs to decide whether their mission is to educate or to be ground-zero for violent protests.”

Andrew Goretsky, the Philadelphia Regional Director of the Antidefamation League, said, “What we are seeing at Penn and on campuses across the country are not peaceful protests. They are efforts to harass, intimidate, and interfere with the operation of the university — depriving students of their education. The Penn administration needs to make it abundantly clear that anyone interfering with classes or harassing or threatening students will be subject to campus discipline or, where appropriate, face legal consequences.”

Police had arrested nearly 900 pro-Palestinian protesters at campuses across the U.S. as of Sunday evening. The disorder has become so problematic that the University of Southern California (USC) has canceled its graduation ceremony.

Jamie Walker, a Jewish parent from Bucks County, said, “It’s absolutely terrifying that these protests are happening at these universities. As a Jewish parent, I am scared to send my kids to college. It’s blatant antisemitism taking place. All of these young adults are actively supporting terrorist organizations. They are overwhelmingly uninformed about the groups they are supporting.”

“It’s scary to think that universities in Pennsylvania are allowing this to occur,” said Walker. “What’s even scarier is these young adults are the future leaders of America. Colleges need to rethink their curriculum. They are failing society.”

Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidate and Republican Dave McCormick decried the campus protests at a campaign event Thursday.

“How can it be that our children on the best campuses at the best colleges in our country don’t understand the difference between right and wrong? Can’t see the difference between good and evil? How can that be? And then you watch those three college presidents testify? And you say, ‘Oh, that’s how it happened.’ The lack of leadership. The lack of moral clarity.”

Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) did not reply when asked to comment.

However, some Philadelphia Democrats are defending the protesters.

State Reps. Tarik Khan, Rick Krajewski, and Chris Rabb joined Philadelphia state Sen. Nikil Saval and city councilors Kendra Brooks, Nicolas O’Rourke, Jamie Gauthier and other activists issued a statement  saying they support the “peaceful protest.”

“We are grateful for the students’ leadership and urge our universities and our city to hear their call,” they said.

Critics of the campus protests and their antisemitic and anti-American messaging say the issue is bigger than the current conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Noting that a communist newspaper was distributed at the Penn protest and protesters carried a hammer and sickle communist flag, Yakoby tweeted, “This is what was distributed at the UPenn demonstration today. This is not just a Jewish problem. It is an American problem, a freedom problem.”


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