Photo Credit: Robin Belinsky
Anti-Semitic vandals snapped together white plastic tiles to form a giant swastika on the football field of El Camino High School in San Francisco.

Perhaps the most shocking thing about Hamas’s pogrom is not so much the attack itself – although it was horrifying – but the accompanying glee we see on the Western left, most obviously and appallingly on college campuses.

Jewish students were besieged at a library at Cooper Union by a crazed pro-Hamas mob. Jews at Cornell University were threatened with gruesome death. At Harvard, students chant, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a call for the genocide of Israeli Jews. At George Washington University, jihadist and genocidal language was projected on the library building. A Jewish student was attacked at Columbia University and Jewish students said that they don’t feel safe there.

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To add insult to injury, more than 100 Columbia University professors signed a letter defending students who support Hamas’s “military action.” A history professor at Cornell proclaimed that he was “exhilarated” by what happened October 7. A Yale professor sneered that massacres of Israelis are fine because they are all “settlers” anyway and “settlers are not civilians. This is not hard.”

Colleges have long cultivated a simplistic ideology that bifurcates all of humanity into two buckets: the “oppressed” and the “oppressor.” This childish division of all human activity allows for zero nuance. If you’re oppressed, all is allowed, even atrocities. If you’re the oppressor, nothing you do is justified – you are guilty, whatever you do or don’t do.

According to this absurd ideology, Israel is an oppressor. Therefore, everything it does – even existing – is unacceptable.

On the other hand, Hamas is the voice of the oppressed, so anything and everything it does – from wanton massacres to explicitly admitting that it only cares about its fighters, and not for the people of Gaza who, it says, are the international community’s responsibility – is cloaked in righteousness.

Nothing is allowed to penetrate the alternative reality of this dogmatic ideology, which is why posters depicting kidnapped Israelis must be ripped down. Israelis are demons, you see, even the babies.

It is all depressingly reminiscent of an earlier time, between the two world wars, when Jewish students throughout Europe were terrorized by ideological fellow students.

“Polish universities became the stage of the most extreme antisemitic activities,” writes Celia Heller in her book On the Edge of Destruction. Polish universities in 1936 and 1937 had “Jewless” days and weeks. Radical students called for a quota on Jewish students and “ghetto benches” where Jews would be forced to sit. Administrations, weak then as now, caved.

Heller writes, “Violence was condemned in words, but encouraged in deeds through concessions granted to the perpetrators of violence at the cost of the victims of violence. Further violence was the result.” Radical students “took walks in the evening to hunt for the Jewish students.”

All the while, most students and faculty remained silent.

In 1920, under student influence, the Hungarian parliament passed the Numerus Clausus Act, which limited Jews to six percent of the student body of universities. There were continuous antisemitic student riots throughout Hungary in October 1928. Students attacked Jews at a university in Budapest in 1930.

Most notorious are the students of Germany, who were among the most radical elements of the interwar Weimar Republic and the early Nazi period, and an important constituency of the Nazi Party. German students conducted a campaign of intimidation against Jewish students and, infamously, burned more than 25,000 books in 34 university towns on May 10, 1933.

The National Socialist German Students’ Association expressed the need to “cleanse” and “purify” German language and literature from “Jewish intellectuals.” It was this thinking that was behind the book burnings.

The notions of “cleanliness” and “purity” were highly important ones in Nazi ideology. The Nazis desired a Judenrein (“pure of Jews”) Germany, and then Europe (and beyond – the Jews of the Middle East, too, would have been murdered if Rommel hadn’t been defeated at El Alamein).

Fast forward to today. A New York City public school student displayed a poster reading “Please Keep the World Clean” with an illustration of a Star of David in a trash can. A virtually identical poster was held by a Norwegian medical student in Warsaw. This is Nazi language.

Campus radicals today are also intimidating Jewish students while administrators issue mealy-mouthed statements. Students are in thrall to a totalizing ideology that brooks no dissent and burns with hatred for Jews.

American Jews feel that they have seen all this before, and they are right. Universities are once again incubators of moral rot and antisemitism.

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Evan Nierman is founder and CEO of the crisis communications firm Red Banyan and author of Crisis Averted and The Cancel Culture Curse: From Rage to Redemption in a World Gone Mad.