Israel president says US universities 'contaminated by hatred, anti-Semitism'

"We see prominent academic institutions, halls of history, culture, and education contaminated by hatred and anti-Semitism fuelled by arrogance and ignorance," he said.
Israel's President Isaac Herzog
Israel's President Isaac Herzog (Photo | AP)

JERUSALEM: Israel's president on Thursday slammed US universities for campus unrest over Israel's war in Gaza, saying these institutions were "contaminated by hatred and anti-Semitism".

Isaac Herzog said in a special broadcast that he was issuing an urgent message of support to Jewish communities amid a "dramatic resurgence in anti-Semitism and following the hostilities and intimidation against Jewish students on campuses across the US in particular".

"We see prominent academic institutions, halls of history, culture, and education contaminated by hatred and anti-Semitism fuelled by arrogance and ignorance," he said.

"We watch in horror as the atrocities of October 7th against Israel are celebrated and justified."

His comments came as hundreds of police and protesters were in a tense stand-off at the University of California, Los Angeles and unrest over Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza continued to spread in campuses across the United States.

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Demonstrators have gathered in at least 30 US universities since last month, often erecting tent encampments to protest the soaring death toll in the Gaza Strip.

Israel's offensive in Gaza has killed at least 34,596 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.

It comes in response to Hamas's unprecedented attack on Israel on October 7, which resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

The militants also took about 250 hostages, 129 of whom remain in Gaza, including 34 presumed dead, Israel says.

The protests against the war have posed a challenge to US university administrators trying to balance free speech rights with allegations of criminal activity, anti-Semitism and hate speech.

In his statement Thursday, Herzog said his message was addressed "to our friends on campuses and in Jewish communities across the United States and all over the world".

"The people of Israel are with you. We hear you. We see the shameless hostility and threats. We feel the insult, the breach of faith and breach of friendship. We share the apprehension and concern," he said.

"In the face of violence, harassment and intimidation, as masked cowards smash windows and barricade doors, as they assault the truth and manipulate history, together we stand strong," he said.

"As they chant for intifada and genocide, we will work -- together -- to free our hostages held by Hamas, and fight for civil liberties and our right to believe and belong, for the right to live proudly, peacefully and securely, as Jews, as Israelis -- anywhere."

Pointing to Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations next week, the Israeli president said "we will speak of the dark times of the past, and we will remember the miracle of our rebirth".

"Together, we shall overcome," he said. "In the face of this terrifying resurgence of anti-Semitism: Do not fear. Stand proud. Stand strong for your freedom."

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