The Appalling Tactics of the ‘Free Palestine’ Movement

Last week, Susanne DeWitt, an 89-year-old Holocaust survivor who later became a molecular biologist, spoke before the Berkeley, Calif., City Council to request a Holocaust Remembrance Day proclamation. After taking note of a “horrendous surge in antisemitism,” she was then heckled and shouted down by protesters at the meeting when she mentioned the massacre and rapes in Israel of Oct. 7.

At the same meeting, a woman testified that her 7-year-old Jewish son heard “a group of kids at his school say, ‘Jews are stupid.’” She, too, was heckled: “Zionists are stupider,” a protester said. At the same meeting, others yelled, “cowards, go chase the money, you money suckers” and “you are traitors to this country, you are spies for Israel.”

Protest movements have an honorable place in American history. But not all of them. Not the neo-Nazis who marched in Chicago in 1978. Not the white supremacists who chanted “Jews will not replace us” at their Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017.

And not too much of what passes for a pro-Palestinian movement but is really pro-Hamas, with its calls to get rid of the Jewish state in its entirety (“from the river to the sea …”), its open celebration of the murder of its people (“resistance is justified …”) and its efforts to mock, minimize or deny the suffering of Israelis, which so quickly descend into the antisemitism on naked display in Berkeley.

How did this happen?

It wasn’t a response to the human suffering in Gaza in recent months. A coalition of Harvard student groups issued a statement on Oct. 7 holding “the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.” Pro-Hamas demonstrations broke out worldwide on Oct. 8. A Black Lives Matter chapter posted a graphic on Instagram of the Hamas paragliders who murdered hundreds of young Israelis at the Nova music festival. A Cornell professor said he found the massacre “exhilarating,” and demonstrators rallied in his support.

Nor is it a matter of seeking a Palestinian state — another fact the demonstrators openly avow. Among the popular chants at many protests is “We don’t want no two states! We want all of ’48!” — all of what had been Mandatory Palestine before the creation of Israel. Israeli soldiers and settlers vacated Gaza almost 20 years ago. The towns and kibbutzim that Hamas invaded on Oct. 7 are only “occupied” if one believes that all of Israel, in any kind of border, is a form of occupation.

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