J Street U Board: We Condemn Scenes of Police Brutality and Antisemitism on College Campuses

April 26, 2024

The J Street U Board released the following statement:

As an organization comprising primarily Jewish pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-democracy university students, J Street U has been shocked and appalled by scenes on college campuses across the country in recent days – from grotesque displays of antisemitic intimidation to unjustified acts of police brutality against peaceful protesters.

J Street U unequivocally condemns acts of police violence and mass arrests of peaceful anti-war protesters on college campuses. Scenes of students and professors being violently arrested are unacceptable. We reject the heavy-handed, counterproductive decisions of university administrations to call the police on their own students engaged in peaceful protests. We recognize that this has been fueled by right-wing efforts to suppress anti-war protests, generate chaos and discredit higher education institutions.

Instead, our institutions of higher education should play to their strengths. We strongly support an approach that instead centers dialogue, education and empathy. At their best, America’s universities are places of free and robust debate, where all students are safe and free to learn together and learn from each other, and where peaceful protests are part of a proud democratic tradition. All students – including Jewish students and protesters – have a right to safety, free speech and protection from violence, harassment and intimidation.

Just as we are repulsed by police violence, we have also been horrified by instances of grotesque antisemitism designed to intimidate and threaten Jewish students, and which falsely conflate Jewish identity with support for the actions of the Israeli government.

It is not true that anti-war or pro-Palestinian protests are inherently antisemitic. Hundreds of Jewish students have joined protests and encampments across the country, and they should not be ignored in conversations about antisemitism. It is true, however, that protest leaders must do more to clearly condemn cases of antisemitism, reject antisemitic rhetoric, and repudiate calls for violence, including the deplorable embrace of Hamas.

Violence begets violence. It forces communities to retreat to extremist fringes. University administrations must do the important work of combating antisemitism and creating inclusive and safe campus environments for all. In doing so they must recognize that relying on police to suppress peaceful student protesters is not the answer.

Read statements by J Street U chapter boards: