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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

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OPINION | Schools: Protect your Jewish students

“It was terrifying,” Jewish student Bali Lavine said about the protest. (Andrew Balestrery)

Pro-Palestine supporters lined the sidewalk of Freret Street and rallied for Palestinian rights on Oct. 26. Since then, questions and concerns have been raised about the safety of the Jewish student population and the Tulane University administration’s response to the protest. When parents send their kids to school, they are putting their faith in the hands of the university to keep their students safe. Yet, even with security present, the protest resulted in multiple student injuries. 

A Tulane student who attempted to stop a protester from burning an Israeli flag was hit with a flag pole, and video evidence shows what appears to be an older man attacking a student draped in an Israeli flag, after which other people stepped in.

“It was terrifying,” Jewish student Bali Lavine said about the protest. “They had signs calling for globalization of the Intifada as the only solution. Not a single part of their protest was peaceful. Even their words incite violence.” 

It is curious, to say the least, that the rally occurred inches from Tulane’s campus, given that the school has the highest population of Jewish students for a secular university in the country. Additionally, many of the individuals who attended the rally were not Tulane students, but locals who selected the borders of Tulane as a gathering place. With this in mind, protesters chanting “shame on you” at students standing on the other side of the sidewalk felt like a direct reference to their religious identity. 

“People who live in New Orleans came to Tulane with one goal, which was to provoke Jewish students and Israel-supporting students on campus,” Lavine added. “They had the support of Tulane’s students, Loyola [University] students and University of New Orleans students.” 

It seems that the line between standing against a country’s politics and blatant antisemitism has disappeared, as antisemitic phrases and racially motivated attacks are seamlessly intertwined with many “Free Palestine ” protests. 

Since Oct. 7, there have been at least 312 antisemitic incidents in the U.S., ranging from discriminatory messages to violent attacks, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Similarly, Germany has reported a 240% increase in antisemitic attacks and France has reported over 500 antisemitic incidents since the beginning of the initial invasion of Israel by Hamas.

But antisemitism has taken a particular aggressive presence across college campuses. 

Antisemitic incidents are being reported at alarming rates on college campuses across the country. Jewish students at Cooper Union were locked inside the walls of their library for their own safety during a “Free Palestine” protest on campus. Student protesters didn’t just chant “Free Palestine,” they also banged and pounded on the doors of the library, where they knew Jewish students were hiding inside. An instructor at Stanford University was suspended after allegedly singling out the Jewish students in his class and making them stand in the back of the room, after which he labeled them as colonizers. 

Since the rally, Tulane students have expressed their anger and concern for the safety of the Jewish student population. They have been using social media to spread awareness and to call on the administration to take action. 

Shortly after the rally, Tulane’s official Instagram account posted a short statement, describing the assaults as a “brief clash between several demonstrators and counter-demonstrators in which a couple of Tulane students were assaulted and reported minor injuries.” This post prompted outrage in the comments, as students attempted to address the gravity of the altercation and express that Jewish students did not feel assured by these statements. 

“Students were not able to get to [the academic] quad in a way that they felt safe, especially the Jewish students,” another Jewish student said, who stood with the counter-protesters on the day of the rally, “I couldn’t go to my 2 p.m. class.” 

Tulane posted an additional statement that night, condemning the “violence and the hateful language and rhetoric.” Tulane’s administration said that those who committed crimes that day would be held accountable and assured an increase in security on campus, while maintaining that the rally occurred off campus, putting them in a position of little power. Students still condemned the university’s response, making it clear safety was still a concern for them. 

In May, the U.S. Department of Education released the first ever U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism. The document outlines a strategy to promote school-based education and awareness of antisemitism, as many schools in the country do not address antisemitism as a legitimate concern in their curriculums. According to the document, the strategy was implemented due to the rising number of antisemitic incidents noticed in recent years. 

In addition to this strategy, the department of education released a letter reminding school administrators of their legal obligation “to provide all students, including Jewish students, a school environment free from discrimination based on race, color, or national origin, including shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics,” as described by Title VI, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of “race, color, and national origin.” 

There was a rise of unaddressed antisemitism in schools long before the start of the Israel-Hamas war, and, for one reason or another, it has been difficult for administrators to address these incidents and view their Jewish students as victims. 

But now more than ever, the letter addressed to schools by the Department of Education needs to be read. School administrators are aware of their obligation as educators to create an environment that maintains student safety. Jewish students are protected from the safety of Title VI, and yet multiple Tulane students were injured next to campus. 

I feel a sense of responsibility to speak on this subject, when so many of my Jewish friends feel scared, alone and unprotected by their institutions. School administrators should not only be morally inclined to address the increasing antisemitism on college campuses, they are also legally obligated to. Schools: protect your Jewish students. 

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