The war between Israel and Hamas has raged for some six months now in Gaza, and the war between supporters of Israel and backers of Palestine has raged no less fiercely on American campuses for the same span of time and will, no doubt, keep raging long after the fighting in Gaza is finished.

The Israel/Gaza conflict evokes so much political passion around the world because it has become a symbol of far more than just who controls what in the Levant. It’s also about how one views the world: Does one consider ethno-religiously defined states valid or invalid? Does one see the world as a divide between civilization and barbarism, or between oppressors and oppressed? Does one resent “white” cultures for their success against “non-white” cultures?

We can fantasize about “nuance” until the cows come home, or longer still, until a satisfactory two-state solution is adopted. The reality remains that the Israel-Palestine conflict is inextricable from the underlying ecology of ideological and cultural divisions described above and the associated animosities, commitments, and allegiances that collectively animate our hopelessly hyperpolarized political environment.

This dynamic accounts for the striking similarities, both aesthetically and mechanically, between the political mobilization efforts of the pro-Palestine movement and other left-wing movements such as BLM and Antifa.


Unsurprisingly, a great many Americans have come to view pro-Palestine radicals as deeply loathsome creatures. As with other left-wing activist movements, beneath the facade of support for Palestine is often a very ugly character: vengeful, bitter, obnoxious, happy to celebrate even the most barbarous atrocities, violently anti-civilization, and anti-white people (however they define the concept).


All of this ugly character has been on rich display for the past six months, since October 7. The aftermath of October 7th is the moment many abruptly realized how bad American college campuses have become in terms of enabling, coddling, and often funding the outrageous ideological projects of the far left. This awakening is especially rude for secular, center-left Jews who had no choice but to confront the uncomfortable reality that Jews, and in particular pro-Israel Jews, do not come out favorably in the left’s intersectional calculus. All of this has in turn fueled a welcome nosedive in donations and a surprisingly successful push against cancerous affirmative action hires at elite schools.

Most notably, Claudine Gay’s flatfooted response to antisemitic rhetoric combined with her own history of plagiarism knocked her out of the Harvard presidency, a job she was plainly never qualified for in the first place.

We welcome all of this. Elite schools deserve to lose prestige. They deserve to lose donations. Their DEI barnacles deserve to lose their jobs.

But it falls to us to state something necessary: There is a danger in all of this. As fun as it is to clown on Palestinian activists, pro-liberty patriots must take care not to shoot ourselves in the collective foot by endorsing new, sweeping campus censorship regimes that will inevitably be exploited by radicals as soon as the current moment has passed.

In the months since Oct. 7, MIT grad student Talia Khan has emerged as one of the right’s most-platformed critics of antisemitism on campus.

Khan has appeared on Fox News, testified before Congress, and was a guest of Speaker Mike Johnson at the State of the Union. Obviously, we are sympathetic regarding any discomfort Khan has endured from various odious on-campus parasites. But unfortunately, much of Khan’s Congressional testimony is, in essence, a call for sweeping new campus speech codes to protect the feelings of students. Gee, where have we heard this before?

Here’s an excerpt of her testimony:

One of the most insidious aspects of antisemitism is its ability to manifest in subtle ways: anti-Israel students have called on MIT to rid itself of anyone and anything affiliated with the IDF – however, this includes every single Israeli student, faculty, and staff on campus. Anti-Israel MIT students attacked the MIT-Israel internship office – accusing the Jewish staffers there of genocide and attempting to enter their locked office doors and banging on their windows. Staff inside these offices said they feared for their lives.

Immediately after the attacks on October 7th, an MIT-funded anti-Israel student group said that the Massacre was justified as an act of resistance, held events on campus glorifying Hamas as “martyrs”, used promotional materials distributed by designated terrorist organizations, and invited guest speakers who called on them to attack the Hillel Jewish student center.

All of this is perfectly risible, but now imagine the letter that might be written by a BLM activist, testifying before a Democrat-controlled committee about “racism” on campus. That letter would no doubt describe many “subtle” acts of racism, such as assaults on DEI and affirmative action. It would no doubt condemn the use of materials crafted by “domestic terrorist” organizations like, say, the NRA or anti-vaxxers. It would no doubt moan at length about the invitation of “radical” speakers onto campus like Charlie Kirk or Charles Murray. It would no doubt use all the same rhetoric of daily, never-ending “trauma” that cannot be measured but somehow justifies dramatic action.

Khan later writes in her letter: “I am entitled to an educational experience free from threats and marginalization because of who I am.” We agree, of course, that Khan has a right not to face real, direct, violent threats. But asserting a right against all “marginalization” is much like standard left-wing canards that every student has a right to “feel” “safe” or “welcome” on campus. To take just an example out of about a billion:

“We, the Black students of the University of Virginia, do not trust you.”

These are the words that began the open letter written by the Black Student Alliance at the University of Virginia, and published by Cavalier Daily, after a noose was hung from the neck of the Homer statue on the South Lawn on September 7, 2022. This institution has failed time and time again to protect Black students, resulting in a lack of trust from this marginalized population. Black students do not feel safe. Black students feel targeted, angry, and afraid. They deserve an organization dedicated to ensuring diversity, inclusivity, and equitable practices for all students on grounds.

And another from UCLA:

As a graduating senior, I am disheartened to acknowledge that there is not a culture in which Black students are not forced to constantly fight to legitimize and validate our basic right to exist as Black Bruins. UCLA law professor Richard Sander’s infamous report in 2012 which questions the legitimacy of holistic admissions, when read, supports this reality. Black students do not feel safe on this campus. Black students are not safe on this campus. Choosing to remain silent on this issue is to choose to remain complicit in racist acts that contribute to the volatile campus climate on a campus that, ironically, claims its accomplishment at having “diversity.”

Elsewhere in her public statements, Khan has made it clear that her concern is not exclusively with violent or threatening behavior; rather, what she wants is for Hamas sympathizers to be actively silenced. Recently, she complained about students holding a meeting to discuss and sell a novel written by a Palestinian terrorist.

Just ask yourself: Given the current balance of power in America, would it be better or worse for American universities to have the power to punish students for buying, selling, or discussing a specific book?

Yet that seems to be the direction politics is headed.

Across America, GOP lawmakers eager to show their pro-Israel bona fides are seizing on the post-10/7 fervor to clamp down, not just on disruptive or criminal protest behavior, but on pro-Palestine activities generally. Just over a week ago, in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order for the state’s public universities to revise their speech codes to specifically target pro-Palestine organizations.

Texas Tribune:

As the Israel-Hamas war continues to ignite tensions among Texas college students, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order requiring schools to discipline what he described as “the sharp rise in antisemitic speech and acts on university campuses.”

Higher education institutions are expected to update their free speech policies to include the definition of antisemitism, as well as establish and enforce punishments for violating those policies. Expulsion from the college could be considered an appropriate punishment, Abbott said.

Abbott’s executive order specifically instructs Texas schools to do the following:

  1. Review and update free speech policies to address the sharp rise in antisemitic speech and acts on university campuses and establish appropriate punishments, including expulsion from the institution.
  2. Ensure that these policies are being enforced on campuses and that groups such as the Palestine Solidarity Committee and Students for Justice in Palestine are disciplined for violating these policies.
  3. Include the definition of antisemitism, adopted by the State of Texas in Section 448.001 of the Texas Government Code, in university free speech policies to guide university personnel and students on what constitutes antisemitic speech.

The definition of antisemitism in the Texas Government Code itself explicitly points to the definition and examples crafted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s “working definition of antisemitism.” The working definition includes many behaviors that are indisputably violent or otherwise criminal, but it also includes many things that, however annoying, odious, or piggish, are purely matters of speech, such as:

  • “Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of [the Holocaust.]”
  • “Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.”
  • “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”
  • “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

All of the above are firmly in the realm of speech, and by citing them as behaviors that Texas schools must stamp out, Abbott is essentially demanding that a certain class of advocacy be barred on Texas campuses. Troublingly, Abbott’s own letter uses practically the same arguments that Americans have gotten used to hearing from the totalitarian left as justifications for curtailing speech: “Texas supports free speech, especially on university campuses, but that freedom comes with responsibilities for both students and the institutions themselves.”

Chris Rufo (no friend of rabid BLM and pro-HAMAS mobs) expressed similar concerns in a tweet:

I am committed to the fight against antisemitism on campus, but I am concerned about the highlighted provisions in Governor Abbott’s executive order, which instructs universities to “update free speech policies” to prohibit “antisemitic speech.”

How is such a policy different from DEI programs promising to prohibit “anti-black speech”? And why not include “anti-white speech,” which, as I have shown in my reporting, is institutionalized at University of Texas? What is the rationale for one, but not the others?

The problem, to me, seems to be conduct, rather than speech: shutting down speakers, threatening students, mobilizing mobs, calling for violence—all of which can be regulated as prohibited conduct, with a universal, rather than particular, policy.

There is a better solution: provide simple, clear, general rules that apply equally to all groups—a universal standard. It will solve the immediate problem of rising antisemitism, while providing a long-term framework that respects the right to free speech and equal protection.

Meanwhile, Republican Congresswoman Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, chair of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, sent a letter in early March to MIT. The letter described evidence of “pervasive antisemitism” at the school. Many of the examples were authentically disruptive or even criminal behavior, such as students blockading building entrances to keep students from getting to class. But many of the other incidents in the letter consisted only of what might be called “speech-related” offenses, including:

  • An Oct. 8 letter from the groups Palestine@MIT and the MIT Coalition Against Apartheid which stated they “hold the Israeli regime responsible for all unfolding violence” and “affirm the right of all occupied peoples to resist oppression and colonization.”
  • MIT’s “Stand Together Against Hate” initiative inviting Dalia Mogahed as a speaker on Islamophobia, when Mogahed has endorsed Hamas’s attacks on Israeli civilians.
  • MIT postdoc Afif Aqrawabi making hostile statements on social media, such as “Zionism is a mental illness” and “Israel has no future in this world.”
  • MIT DEI officer Sophia Hasenfus giving likes to several anti-Israel social media posts, including one saying “Israel doesn’t have a right to exist.”

To be clear, all of the above is repugnant behavior, and Foxx’s letter also includes several bona fide examples of disruptive or criminal stunts that deserve punishment. But the examples above, and several others in the letter, are purely speech-related in nature. The implication of Foxx’s letter is that this behavior should be prohibited and harshly punished when it occurs.

The same implication comes through in a second letter Rep. Foxx sent to the University of Pennsylvania. Foxx’s own summary of the letter lists six major antisemitic incidents on campus, and four of them consist exclusively of various kinds of offensive speech:

  • Hundreds of “Missing Cow” posters were posted on Penn’s campus, appearing to mock widely distributed “Kidnapped” posters featuring Israeli hostages abducted by Hamas.
  • Associate Professor of Arabic Literature Huda Fakhreddine publicly celebrated the attack on the morning of October 7, tweeting in Arabic that “while we were asleep, Palestine invented a new way of life.”
  • Creative writing instructor Ahmad Almallah led a crowd of protestors in chanting “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “when people are occupied, resistance is justified” at an October 16, 2023, anti-Israel protest.
  • Penn Students Against the Occupation released a “Statement of Solidarity with Palestine” which asserted, “[t]he settler state has been inflicting violence on Palestinians and their land since its inception, and therefore bears sole responsibility for the violence which has been taking place this week,” and “Palestinians, like all oppressed peoples, have the right to resist their oppressors by any means necessary.”

In response to the above acts of speech, Foxx demands that Penn administrators turn over the social media posts of students and faculty that might be too critical of Israel and Zionism.

Foxx’s letter does admirably denounce Penn administrators for their politically motivated effort to strip Prof. Amy Wax’s tenure for challenging certain political orthodoxies. But the tenor of the letter is less that everyone at Penn should have free speech and more that the right should be allowed to claim more of its own scalps as well.

This is a dire mistake. Demanding that university officials exercise sweeping powers to censor antisemitic or anti-Zionist speech will also, inevitably, mean conceding to the hegemonic left the same tools they need to reimpose large-scale censorship of conservatives, nationalists, and MAGA supporters of all stripes.

This could all be avoided with a simple modification of approach. Influencers and Republican lawmakers should draw upon October 7th for a “maximum pressure campaign,” if you will, to encourage university administrators to clamp down aggressively and severely on violent, disruptive behavior from campus activists. At the same time, universities should receive pressure not to curtail speech but to maximally accommodate it. Let’s face it, violence and disruption are built into the DNA of leftist protest, including and especially the pro-Palestinian movement. A zero-tolerance policy for violence and disruption would go a long way toward neutralizing the pro-Palestinian movement on campuses while conferring ancillary benefits to conservative speakers, who are so often silenced by such attacks. And let’s not forget the reason the left prefers such disruptive tactics: they implicitly understand that in a free-speech environment in which all sides were able to have a fair hearing, their positions would lose out.

All the more reason to embrace a posture that maximizes accommodation for speech while implementing zero tolerance for disruptive and violent protest behavior. According to this distinction, MIT should be celebrated for its decision to suspend the radical pro-Palestine group “Coalition Against Apartheid.” MIT’s president made it clear that the reason for such suspension was not to curtail any specific speech but to send a message that disruption cannot be tolerated on the campus of a serious university.


“I want to be clear: suspending the CAA is not related to the content of their speech,” Kornbluth said.

“I fully support the right of everyone on our campus to express their views. However, we have clear, reasonable time, place and manner policies for good reason,” she said. “The point of these policies is to make sure that members of the MIT community can work, learn and do their work on campus without disruption. We also need to keep the community safe.”

In any campus contest where both sides have the tools to censor, the left will have an absolutely overwhelming advantage. They have the senior administrative jobs and bureaucratic apparatus that make it easy to both target their opponents and protect their allies. What will happen if Republicans encourage schools to adopt new rules punishing “hate” and “harassment” and then lawmakers’ attention wanders elsewhere? That’s easy to predict: We will see a new wave of right-of-center students, groups, and speakers targeted for their beliefs.

To quote the great British writer G.K. Chesterton, “Above all, if we wish to protect the poor we shall be in favour of fixed rules and clear dogmas. The rules of a club are occasionally in favor of the poor member. The drift of a club is always in favor of the rich one.”

On campus, for the time being, all non-leftists remain the poor men of the club. As such, we should want a single strong, fixed rule: free speech on campus, without censorship.

All of this is worth emphasizing even more because censorship is wholly unnecessary for putting pro-Hamas ogres in their place. As was mentioned at the start, the left’s agitators can’t help themselves from committing the kind of stunts that their opponents would never commit in a million years. They flagrantly single out Jewish students in class for vilification. They block students from going to class. They vandalize buildings. They threaten to kill people.

In short, we must completely and quite enthusiastically support crackdowns on genuinely violent, disruptive, and criminal students. And that’s important, because in fact, left-wing protesters routinely are criminal, violent, and otherwise disgusting. We are quite clear on how violent rioters should be treated.

But the goal must always be long-term victory. Not a short-term chance to “own the libs” that will blow up in our faces later.