Police Confront Pro-Palestinian Protesters At CCNY

Police arrest protesters during pro-Palestinian demonstrations at The City College Of New York (CUNY) as the NYPD cracks down on protest camps at both Columbia University and CCNY on April 30, 2024 in New York City.

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The Biden Administration's Hypocrisy on College Protests Must End

While the White House is quick to condemn any allegation of antisemitism at protests, whether verified or manufactured, it has repeatedly failed to condemn verified incidents of anti-Palestinian racism and Islamophobia on college campuses.

Do you remember President Biden's swift and strong response when pro-Israel extremists reportedly blasted the chemical weapon "skunk spray" on students peacefully protesting at Columbia University earlier this year? Do you remember how the White House condemned the attack, demanded accountability, and called on the school to protect students from such hate?

No? You don't remember? Of course you don't. Because none of it happened. President Biden didn't respond swiftly or strongly to the skunk spray attack. He didn't respond at all.

How about President Biden's response when a Texas man hurled racist slurs at a group of Palestinian Americans after a ceasefire protest at the University of Texas in Austin, ripped a Palestinian flagpole off their car, dragged one of them out of the backseat, and stabbed him?

Then again, the White House said nothing—even after our civil rights and advocacy organization directly alerted the White House about the incident.

The Biden administration's silence is nothing new.

Students honoring America's long tradition of peaceful civil disobedience deserve protection and respect, not smears and violence.

On Stanford University’s campus, a driver yelling"F—k you and your people" reportedly used his car to ram an Arab Muslim student attending a ceasefire protest, sending him to the hospital. No response from the White House.

At the University of Texas, pro-Israel extremists disrupted a Palestine Solidarity Committee meeting and hurled profanities at the attendees. No response.

In Arizona, Texas, Georgia, New York and other states, law enforcement agencies have brutalized students and even professors who attended peaceful protests against the genocide in Gaza. Again, no response.

Now contrast the White House's lack of response to violent actions motivated by anti-Palestinian hate with the White House's vocal response to inflammatory words that a small number of individuals have allegedly said at or near pro-ceasefire protests on college campuses.

“I condemn the antisemitic protests, that’s why I set up a program to deal with that,” the president said, broadly mischaracterizing the sit-ins led mostly by Jewish and Palestinian students.

In a statementmarking Passover, Biden said, “Even in recent days, we’ve seen harassment and calls for violence against Jews. This blatant antisemitism is reprehensible and dangerous – and it has absolutely no place on college campuses or anywhere in our country.”

Just this week, the White House condemned protesters at Columbia for taking over Hamilton Hall—something students protesting the Vietnam War did, which the school now celebrates on its website—and curiously declared the use of a banner with the Arabic word "intifada" hate speech.

At the same time, the White House conveniently ignored the fact that most prominent banner displayed was "Hind's Hall," named after the 6-year-old girl murdered by Israeli forces while waiting for medics—also murdered—to save her.

Hypocrisy does not begin to describe the White House's inconsistency, which extends well beyond college campuses.

Last fall, the White House rushed to falsely claim that ceasefire protesters in Philadelphia were antisemitic for demonstrating outside a kosher restaurant—the protesters actually targeted the business because it held a fundraiser benefiting the IDF.

But the White House said nothing when protesters at November's March for Israel chanted genocidal slogans. On the contrary, a prominent Biden administration official spoke at the march, sharing the stage with notoriously anti-Muslim and antisemitic pastor John Hagee.

If President Biden is going to comment on every controversy that erupts at a protest or on a college campus, he must do so with moral consistency.

While the administration is quick to condemn any allegation of antisemitism at protests, whether verified or manufactured, the administration has repeatedly failed to condemn verified incidents of anti-Palestinian racism and Islamophobia on college campuses (not to mention the antisemitism that pro-Israel extremists have directed at Jewish students advocating for a ceasefire, such as calling them "kapos.")

Singling out the remarks of unidentified bad actors at anti-genocide protests—some of whom may be agent provocateurs—was a transparent attempt to divert the conversation away from what Jewish, Palestinian, and other students are actually protesting for: divestment from the Israeli government and an end to the genocide.

Students honoring America's long tradition of peaceful civil disobedience deserve protection and respect, not smears and violence.

By instead validating slanders against pro-Palestinian protesters and downplaying anti-Palestinian racism on college campuses, the Biden administration has sent a signal that the hurt feelings of pro-war students who cannot tolerate hearing any criticism of the Israeli government are more worthy of attention than the violated rights and injured bodies of anti-war students.

The administration also gave law enforcement agencies and pro-Israel mobs cover to escalate their targeting of students, leading to horrific attacks on students at the University of California Los Angeles.

This inconsistency—this utter hypocrisy—must end. If President Biden is going to comment on every controversy that erupts at a protest or on a college campus, he must do so with moral consistency. He can start by condemning the ongoing efforts to defame and brutalize anti-genocide students before we see more attacks on protesters or, God forbid, a repeat of the Kent State massacre.

Just like during Vietnam, a young generation of students is on the right side of history. It's long past time for President Biden to join them.

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