College Students Are Not More Dangerous Than Nazis
Reject being dragged into the Twilight Zone
You’re being told up is down. You’re being told that college kids’ chants are calls for genocide, but that an actual genocide is self-defense. You’re being told that the antisemitic right is defending Jews while college presidents are enabling attacks on Jews. You’re being told that the free Palestine movement is more of a threat to Jews in the United States than actual Nazis. The list of nonsensical rhetoric we’re being fed right now goes on and on. But all of these tirades are being translated into action that is anything but nonsensical. They’re being translated into repressive actions that have a clear logic to them, a logic that has nothing to do with protecting Jews and everything to do with suppressing the Free Palestine movement, and with bolstering the bigger fascist project in the United States. These distorted justifications, purportedly all about antisemitism, are helping antisemites.
I considered talking about the details of what’s happening in Congress, the absurdity of Elise Stefanik somehow becoming an arbiter of campus antisemitism, and the way the President of Penn being forced to step down has nothing to do with keeping Jewish students safe. But Jonathon Katz just did what needed to be done there. He brings us to one of the crucial points in saying, “However real some of the claims of antisemitism are, in the minds of the people making them most vociferously, they are entirely entwined with and ultimately no different from valid criticisms of Israel.” The recent hearing and the exaggerated denunciations of student behavior at elite universities is largely about protecting Israel and the Zionist movement, which has no direct connection to protecting Jews in the United States, let alone on these campuses.
In fact there’s another nefarious side to this manufactured uproar. We know that Republicans are opposed to the education system in this country, from public schools to private universities. They promote vouchers and stripping funding from one of the single most important institutions in America, the public education system, and they take away funding from public universities wherever they have the power to do so. We see these trends from Arizona to West Virginia to the federal government. Attacking elite universities furthers their aim of weakening education across the country by providing a target where they can pretend to be against elitism and antisemitism while building power and momentum to go after one of their real aims: privatizing education across the country.
They are of course against neither elitism or antisemitism. For one, as I wrote in October, “The actual, virulent antisemites on this planet are not to be found among lefties who believe in a free Palestine, and real justice and equality. They are to be found among the fascists who increasingly count Zionists among their bedfellows.” That is to say the sudden MAGA concern with antisemitism, only in the context of Israel, should be dismissed out of hand. Their president has repeatedly attacked Jews and even dined with one of the most overt antisemites in the country, Nick Fuentes. Just this year, on our Jewish New Year, he began his public message with, “Just a quick reminder for liberal Jews who voted to destroy America & Israel because you believed in false narratives!" His statement is clear, and requires no explanation. We should dismiss it as easily as we dismiss the idea that Elise Stefanik is going after university presidents because she cares about fighting antisemitism. She and her party are blatantly using this moment to attack education, attack anti-Zionism, and build the power of their fascist movement.
New Means is a reader-supported publication. To support my work and help me write more for you consider becoming a paid subscriber.
This is why I find debating the far-right to be predominantly a waste of time. You cannot have an honest debate with a dishonest partner. Zionists and conservatives, in both parties, are relying on dishonesty to get people to think elite universities are somehow the crux of the problem here. They are telling you that “from the river to the sea” means genocide when it is simply a slogan in favor of a one-state solution where everyone is equal. It is a slogan against apartheid. They are telling you that “intifada” inherently means genocide of Jews, when it actually means uprising against oppression. Perhaps most disturbingly we are being told that “martyr” means something akin to suicide bombers, when it is a word used to mourn and honor those who have died. But across the United States people refuse to question their Islamophobia, which existed before 9/11 but was cultivated aggressively after that point. So people believe that words in Arabic are inherently genocidal, yet another idea that, if considered even briefly, becomes patently absurd.
If that last paragraph brought up resistance in you, I ask you to question it. As I have written about I was brought up at a Zionist school, with a number of Israeli teachers who taught me that the word intifada, for example, meant violence against me, safe and sound as I was in the United States. I have a distinct and visceral memory of being at a Palestine protest in 2021 and being in the middle of chants in support of intifada, resistance. It wasn’t easy for me, my instincts cried out that I was somehow in danger. And yet there I was, okay, not threatened in any way. And a minute later my brain caught up to my body and I realized that I was completely and totally fine. I was safe. Just like the Jewish students at Harvard are safe, not being attacked or targeted in the way numerous politicians and propagandists would have you believe.
But we all know who is actually in danger. We know who is actually under attack. We know how many thousands of Palestinians have been killed, how 90% have now been displaced, how their universities have been bombarded and blown up. Not only does conflating college protests with calls for genocide help the far-right attack education and bolster Zionism in the U.S., but it also obscures the very real and very deadly mass slaughter happening in Gaza at this very second. You are being told that a hypothetical, non-existent call for genocide in the U.S. is more important than the real genocide occurring right now in Palestine. This too is part of the rise of fascism. It is the right who benefits from people struggling to distinguish up from down, genocide from protest, and the oppressor from the oppressed.
We see white nationalists tell the world every day that they are, in fact, the most persecuted. We see them say how they are both the alpha men, the strongest of the strong, and the most attacked and oppressed people on Earth. These are the people who benefit from the confusion about what violence is, what resistance is, what colonialism is, and more. They want you to believe that the nuclear power relentlessly bombing an open-air prison is the vulnerable party. They want you to think barefoot men being stripped and tied up are the enemy. They want you to confuse college chants with the actual, real ethnic cleansing and genocide happening as we speak.
So we must reject this, outright. We can and should reject being dragged into the twilight zone. Rational debate with people who tell you that a movement to free one people is a call for the genocide of another is not required of you. And the fascists know that. They do not actually subscribe to serious debate of their ideas. They lie and deceive and more than anything they build power, and exercise that power. What we are seeing from the halls of Congress to the boardrooms of schools is money and power being used to push an agenda. That agenda, and the raw power pushing it, is masked by a weak façade of rationality. We do not need to honor that façade. We can instead know that we have the numbers. We have the people. Those who want peace, those who want to fight fascism and oppose genocide are the vast majority, in the U.S. and around the world. So let’s act like it. Let us not be dragged into arguing about whether or not up is down, whether or not chants can be compared to 2,000-pound bombs being dropped on civilians. Instead let’s build our own power, and push for justice as relentlessly as the fascists push their lies.
Thank you so much for reading. If you’re able to support my work it helps me write more for you. In gratitude - Josh