Holding Antisemites Accountable.

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Jewish Students at Louisiana University Expose Antisemitic Group on Campus

Nearly 100 Jewish students at Tulane University in New Orleans have issued an open letter calling on administrators to levy disciplinary sanctions against the group Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) following numerous alleged provocations, including starting fights, antisemitic bullying of those who support Zionism and Israel, and harassing a professor.

“This organization does not support democratic societies; it vehemently opposes them,” said the letter, which was first published last month. “We understand that Tulane’s administration is trying to walk a fine line of not regulating free speech while still protecting students, and we respect that. But Tulane SDS has crossed the line again and again.”

The letter continued: “The chapter at Tulane is made up of agitators looking to cause conflict and draw as much attention as possible, with many of its members not even being Tulane students. These students use the SDS organization as a cover for their hate-filled vitriol. Tulane SDS has repeatedly hailed Hamas terrorist as ‘martyrs,’ called for Zionist Jewish students to be forcibly removed from campus, and publicly doxxed and released the information of Jewish students on Instagram.”

The Jewish students, four of whom spoke with The Algemeiner on Tuesday, are most upset about what they described as SDS’s repeated utterances of antisemitic hate speech and denigration of Israeli hostages held captive in Gaza by the terrorist group Hamas. Since Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, they said, SDS has operated as a “proxy group” for Students for Justice in Palestine, which is not recognized by the university, cheering Hamas and acts of terrorism and including in their activities an older adult non-student who was recently arrested on campus.

“Antisemitism has no place at Tulane University. It is completely counter to our values,” a university spokesman said in a statement to The Algemeiner on Tuesday. “We have received multiple reports regarding the actions of the Students for Democratic Society. We are investigating these reports and will follow all of our normal processes for the adjudication of student organizations accused of misconduct. Where individual students have been named and accused of misconduct, we will also investigate.”

Numerous complaints to the university have gone allegedly unheeded despite the extremes to which SDS has gone to shame Jewish students about their identity and support for Israel, students told The Algemeiner. They added that professors have been affected as well, explaining that a prominent Jewish professor, Walter Isaacson, has been accused of improper conduct for removing an SDS heckler from an event in which they screamed anti-Zionist slogans. The student alleged that the widely acclaimed historian brutalized them, charges which cannot be substantiated based on footage of the incident that was shared online.

“I’ve seen SDS’ flyers, and even though they present themselves as advocating a wide array of progressive policies, they are singularly focused on denigrating Israel and Jews,” senior Zoë Silverberg explained during an interview. “Members of SDS of openly said that they love Hamas and  terrorism. They’re a threat to the campus’ Jewish students as well as the university’s reputation. And people are so easily fooled. They’ve raised a lot of money for the [United Nations Relief and Works Agency] and people have no clue that many of their employees were involved in terrorism and helped Hamas murder Israeli civilians. If they’re walking around supporting terrorism and easily getting students to agree with them, then I’m frightened about the future. ”

Yasmeen Ohebsion, a senior who earlier this year shared with the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce harrowing testimony about antisemitism at Tulane University, told The Algemeiner that school officials must stop their “lip service” regarding antisemitism and take concrete steps to punish students who violate the school’s anti-discrimination policies and harm Jewish students.

“On a larger scale, there’s no effort being made on the university’s part at all to address any of these issues. The university has and likely will continue to resort to useless lip service to students who have complained again, and again, and again, about feeling physically and psychologically unsafe on campus due to the threat of SDS and of antisemitism as a whole,” Ohebsion said. “And it’s really frustrating that nothing concrete is done when, for example, Jewish medical students talk about not being able to function in class because their lab partners won’t talk to them because they identify as Zionists or when there’s a swastika carved in the medical school and various other incidents that are never even responded to by the DEI [equity, diversity, and inclusion] office.”

Ohebsion added, “At this point, I feel physically and mentally unsafe on this campus,” and expressed concerned about future Jewish students who will have to endure similar indignities long after she graduates in May.

Sophomore Nathan Miller, author of the open letter, said that SDS’s glorification of terrorists disqualifies them from university recognition.

“All these students are showing their susceptibility to Iranian propaganda, honestly, which supports terrorist groups,” Miller told The Algemeiner.

The Iranian regime is the chief international sponsor of Hamas, providing the Palestinian terrorist group with arms, funding, and training.

“In a larger sense,” Miller continued, “SDS has broken several rules governing student organizations, and it’s only a matter of time before the school steps in. Disrupting the educational process, fostering hate speech, operating with non-Tulane students — all of it merits a revocation of their recognized status.” Miller added that SDS has invited an individual who is 30-40 years of age to their events. This person, known around campus as “Tony,” promotes antisemitic tropes on their Instagram page and shares content created by Hamas.

Antisemitism at Tulane University has affected Jewish students both psychologically and intellectually, causing many to question their place in a progressive political movement that in their view has become explicitly anti-Zionist. In October, a Jewish student’s nose was broken during a vicious assault by pro-Hamas demonstrators, and throughout campus openly supporting Israel risks being alienated from and mistreated by one’s peers. While Tulane has committed to creating a task force on antisemitism and holding educational programs about antisemitism during pre-orientation for incoming students, their actions so far, according to the students, are lacking in rigor and the task force has never convened for a meeting despite being formed months ago.

“As students of this university, we deserve an update if not an answer about the task force,” junior Bali Lavine told The Algemeiner. “Jewish students need to know when we will be able to feel safe on this campus. We deserve answers, and it’s on Tulane to keep it’s promise to us. Maybe they’re afraid about upsetting students on both sides, but in trying to play the middle man, they’re hurting all students. We’re waiting for them to make a move, to make a change, which is the bare minimum.”

Ohebsion added, “In my mind, it’s so simple. If you make a commitment, follow it through. There’s no effort to even do what they say they will do when all we want is for them simply to enforce the rules. We want to be included in DEI. We are not reinventing the wheel.”

Tulane did not respond to a request for comment for this story.