Protesters wave Palestinian flags in support of Palestinians and socialism in Los Angeles on Oct. 12, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
LOS ANGELES—A California woman sobbed as she learned that her friend’s 19-year-old son was kidnapped by the Hamas terrorist group in Israel.
The next day, on Oct. 12, as news of pro-Palestinian “Day of Resistance” rallies spread across the United States, the woman, who’s of Jewish heritage and asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal, broke the tragic news: Her friend’s son had been killed by the terrorists.
The same evening, a group of activists in south Los Angeles staged a protest in solidarity with Palestinians. Two days later, demonstrators again rallied, with thousands gathering near the Israeli Consulate, at one point shutting down the on- and off-ramps to Wilshire Boulevard from the 405 Freeway.
At the Oct. 12 protest, activists equated the plight of Palestinians to those of “indigenous peoples.” They called the Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip an “occupation” steeped in racism. They blamed the “capitalist” Jews and white Europeans for the loss of their “indigenous lands” and called for a socialist revolution.
“All resistance to colonial occupation is justified!” one speaker shouted at the event.
Protesters chanted, “From Palestine to Mexico, border walls have got to go,” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” among other slogans. They blamed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for children who were killed in Israeli airstrikes in response against Hamas and condemned Zionism, equating it with South African apartheid, fascism, and Nazism.
Thousands of demonstrators waving Palestinian flags and signs denouncing “Israeli apartheid” march in Los Angeles on Oct. 14, 2023. (David Swanson/AFP via Getty Images)
Julia Wallace of Service Employees International Union speaks in support of Palestinians in Los Angeles on Oct. 12, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
The protest, at Martin Luther King Boulevard and Figueroa Street, was organized by Unión del Barrio
and the Association of Raza Educators
and other left-wing activist groups known for their support of critical race theory and the state-imposed ethnic studies program.
Julia Wallace of the Service Employees International Union spoke out against Zionism. She called for defunding police as “enforcers of capitalism,” saying they should be ousted from the labor union.
Another speaker called for a protest outside the South Los Angeles police station on Oct. 22.
“Let’s take over the police station,” he told the crowd of about 30 supporters.
An Oct. 16 Reuters/Ipsos poll
shows that most Americans see Hamas as a terrorist organization, while they view Israel favorably. An Oct. 13 Rasmussen poll
found that most U.S. voters blame Palestinians for the conflict and agree with calls for the “eradication” of Hamas.
On Oct. 15, thousands of people showing support for Israel rallied in Los Angeles, walking down Pico Boulevard to the Museum of Tolerance.
Demonstrators attend a rally in solidarity with Israel in Los Angeles on Oct. 10, 2023. (Ethan Swope/Getty Images)
Support for Israel
Ric Grenell, a Californian and former U.S. ambassador to Germany who also served as acting director of national intelligence during the Trump administration, condemned the recent attacks on Israeli civilians.
He stated on X on Oct. 13 that the Democratic Socialists of America and student groups that support Hamas “are a real threat to America.”
“Voting for Democrats who support Socialists like @DemSocialists and ‘Sanctuary Cities’ policies will absolutely lead to people entering our country freely who haven’t been vetted by U.S. immigration services. ... We must have laws that protect us against people entering the U.S. who support terrorists like Hamas,” Mr. Grenell said.
Michael Shellenberger, an author and San Francisco-based political activist who co-founded the California Peace Coalition and other groups, condemned the terrorist attacks on the Israeli people.
“We unreservedly condemn the atrocities carried out by Hamas and support the right of Israel to defend itself and protect its citizens,” he wrote. “The stories and images of the attack shock the conscience. Nothing on earth could justify such crimes. We condemn those on the radical left who have defended the actions of Hamas terrorists.
“We are pro-Israel, by which we mean we defend its right to exist and its right to defend itself. At the same time, we urge Israel and its supporters, including the United States, to, in their response, abide by international law in general and the Geneva Convention in particular. That means doing everything possible to avoid killing or injuring civilians in the Gaza Strip.”
Kelly Schenkoske, an independent researcher and education advocate, and a critic of critical race theory being taught in California classrooms, denounced the protests pushing critical ideologies.
“We’re seeing protests at college campuses nationwide in support of Palestine, but this issue does not just reside on our college campuses, it resides in the K–12 sector, especially within ethnic studies,” Ms. Schenkoske said.
A Palestinian flag is waved at a rally in support of Palestinians, in Los Angeles on Oct. 12, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
The state-imposed ethnic studies curriculum in California is “filled with radical ideology,” she said.
“The same activists demanding safe schools promote antisemitic ethnic studies content aimed at decolonizing education [and] promoting critical consciousness and training in neo-Marxism. We need to defund antisemitism in schools entirely,” she said.
Deborah Fillman, a former teacher and education analyst based in North Carolina, told The Epoch Times that California schools are teaching “lies” as historical information through its ethnic studies programs.
“They’re doing it under the guise of social justice, which is false. There’s no justice that can come from murder. There is no legitimate resistance that comes from the wanton slaughter of innocent civilians,” said Ms. Fillman, who is Jewish.
“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” is a Hamas slogan that means “all the Jews have to go—the eradication of Israel,” she said.
The pro-Palestinian protestors aren’t calling for a two-state solution but are instead supporting Hamas when they chant those words, she said.
“It is literally a war crime—every single thing [Hamas] did—including using their own people as human shields,” she said.
‘Colonizer’ Versus ‘Oppressed’
Proponents of ethnic studies have used the Israeli–Palestinian conflict “as a way to essentially beat up their political enemies,” Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a co-founder and director of the AMCHA Initiative, a nonprofit organization that combats anti-Semitism, told The Epoch Times.
The pro-Palestinian protestors are using the tenets of critical race theory to frame the conflict in terms of “the colonizer” and “the oppressed,” she said.
Maria Flores, a member of Unión del Barrio, gathers with supporters of Palestinians in Los Angeles on Oct. 12, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Protesters wave Palestinian flags in support of Palestinians, in Los Angeles on Oct. 12, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
“It’s the whole binary oppressed–oppressor [concept] at the heart of ethnic studies that they’ve expanded to talk about politics and international politics,” she said. “In this case, their political agenda aligns up with Hamas’s political agenda which is to destroy Israel.”
Hamas doesn’t talk about colonialism, she said.
“It talks about Holy War, it talks about jihad,” and it calls for the ethnic cleansing of Jews from what it considers Muslim lands, Ms. Rossman-Benjamin said.
The recent “beheading of babies, rape, kidnapping, and massacres” represent the worst and largest number of atrocities committed against Jews since the Holocaust, she said.
“For Jews, this is really unprecedented in two generations,” she said.
The AMCHA Initiative issued a statement saying it’s “shocked and horrified at the gruesome massacre of over 900 Israelis—children, mothers, grandmothers, fathers, entire families—hundreds of them gunned downed at a music festival ... reports of rape and torture, and an estimated over 100 Israelis kidnapped, including children, the elderly, a Holocaust survivor, young women, teenagers, and families.”
More than 1,400 Israelis were killed, the vast majority of them civilians, in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, The Associated Press reported. At least 199 others, including children, were captured by Hamas and taken into Gaza, according to Israel.
The Jewish community in the United States is now bracing for more pro-Palestinian protestors across dozens of university campuses expressing support for “this genocidal campaign,” AMCHA stated.
The Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee and more than 30 other student groups recently signed a statement
arguing that Israel’s “apartheid regime” is entirely to blame for the attacks. However, following public backlash, at least five organizations that initially signed the letter withdrew
“We will work hard to expose and combat on-campus supporters and apologists for terror, especially the faculty and departments who provide academic legitimacy for the murder of Jews while disingenuously wrapping themselves in the mantle of academic freedom,” AMCHA stated. “Our hearts are broken, but our resolve is not. We stand united with the Jewish people in Israel and around the world.”
Demonstrators gather during a rally in support of Israel, outside the West Los Angeles Federal Building in Los Angeles on Oct. 10, 2023. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)
At the University of California—Santa Cruz (UCSC), the critical race and ethnic studies (CRES) department, which studies “race intersectionality in the context of power,” released a statement
on Oct. 11 in support of the Palestinian people.
“In this moment—when we are grieving lives lost, fearing the many more to come, and witnessing Israel once again retaliate against a trapped Palestinian population in Gaza—we want to underscore the need for study,” CRES stated. “What we are witnessing needs to be understood in the context of 75 years of settler colonial displacement, military occupation, and enclosure. As in the past, racialized media coverage dehumanizes Palestinians, delegitimizing their aspirations for freedom from militarism, colonial rule, and incarceration.”
The department says the world is witnessing “the circulation of technologies that are weaponized against Palestinians first, and, subsequently, our most vulnerable populations in the United States, on our borders and globally,” and cites this as the reason why it supports “the critical study of Zionism.”
The university has received pushback from at least seven members of the faculty, including Ms. Rossman-Benjamin’s husband, Ilan Benjamin, a chemistry professor. On Oct. 4, the group sent a letter
to UCSC Chancellor Cynthia Larive expressing “grave concerns” ahead of the inaugural conference of the Institute for the Critical Study of Zionism, held on Oct. 13–14.
Although the conference has been condemned in the Jewish community “for its deeply offensive, antisemitic content and goals,” the letter focuses on the fact that the conference is co-sponsored by three academic units at UCSC: the CRES department, the Center for Racial Justice, and the Center for Creative Ecologies, the faculty members wrote.
“While these three units may justify their co-sponsorship as a legitimate expression of academic freedom, we vehemently disagree,” they wrote. “It is an outrage that three departments at a publicly funded university are not only sponsoring a politically motivated and directed conference that limits participation to those who agree with the conference’s antisemitic goals, they are committing their department to embracing these goals, thereby threatening their own faculty and students, and members of the entire campus community.
“This is not a legitimate expression of academic freedom, but rather an egregious abuse of it.”