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The Gaza Protests Are a Mirror Image of MAGA

Mona Charen on

Within the past 48 hours, student protesters occupied Hamilton Hall at Columbia University and then were forcibly removed by New York police. I knew that building well when I was an undergrad there in the 1970s.

Columbia, like most colleges, tended left. The campus had become notorious in 1968 for its protests. By the time I arrived in 1975, things were quiet, but one could still detect a certain nostalgia for the '60s -- a sense that the students who turned the campus upside down were righteous and brave, whereas we, their successors, were careerist drudges.

That sentiment matters. Columbia's current crop of revolutionaries were nurtured in warm, supportive environments that extend beyond the university. The lionization of activism and revolution has been like a fault line, quiet most of the time but always there and capable of grave harm.

Consider the response from Columbia's faculty: The university senate met -- not to admonish the students but to condemn the university president's decision to call in the police. Worse, a number of faculty members rallied alongside the students.

These campus Gaza protests are a weird amalgam of "Portlandia" and "Reds." Columbia's "Gaza Solidarity Encampment" featured expensive REI tents, body oils for sale, gluten-free bread, a counseling tent, an art corner and a "People's Library for Liberated Learning." One student demanded that the protesters occupying the building be provided with food and water.

Protesting students usually love to spout off to reporters. But when journalists attempt to interview these students, they decline to speak and refer questions to the lone spokesperson.

 

As the Atlantic reported, when three Jewish Columbia students approached the enclosure, the leader announced, "Attention, everyone! We have Zionists who have entered the camp! We are going to create a human chain where I'm standing so that they do not pass this point and infringe on our privacy."

By what logic does a public protest on an open space in the middle of campus require privacy? And by what standard are three Jewish students adjudged to be Zionists?

These tactics reveal a disturbing authoritarian mindset. At UCLA, protesters asked other students to identify themselves as "anti-Zionist" before being permitted past a barricade. One student posted a video in which he asks the protesters: "So you won't let me in because I'm Jewish?" The protester replies, "Ummm, no ... we have a couple Jewish students here. ... Are you a Zionist?" The student affirms that he is. "Well, yeah, we're not gonna let Zionists in."

Leaving aside the arrogance of students who imagine they can violate university time, place and manner restrictions on their protests, there is the disturbing confusion about individual rights. A little refresher: It is wrong to make assumptions about people based on group identity. That's why it was so offensive in 2016 when Donald Trump impugned the integrity of a judge by saying, "He's a Mexican." Most student protesters would have little difficulty identifying that as racist. Yet they don't see that making assumptions about Jewish students' beliefs is just as offensive.

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