Philip Green
12 min readMay 10, 2024


What’s Happening

A Professor at Columbia, asked to describe what was happening there, replied succinctly: “It was calm until the cops came.”

Or, as professor at Northeastern U. commented “administrators seem to be forgetting that the people involved are students.”

Which means, as the novelist Helen Benedict put it “There’s been a huge miscalculation, [at] every step. The safety of the campus for our students has been violated and the students are actually made less safe by this … This is a learning environment in which students learn to debate disagreement and have to learn sometimes to be made uncomfortable, and that instead of punishing that, we should be mediating and teaching from it…”

More pungently, from the writer Max Blumenthal:

“ From Columbia to UCLA, MIT to Emory, university administrators have declared the protests as anti-Semitic as a way of trampling on the students’ right to freedom of speech. They are attempting to stamp out pro-Palestinian protests and silence criticism of Israel’s genocidal practices by ordering the police to violently dismantle the encampments. The police in riot gear have brutalized the peaceful protesters with clubs, sledgehammers, tear gas, and mass arrests…Since students at Columbia University pitched their first tents on April 17th, nearly 2000 people have been arrested on more than 30 campuses across at least 23 states. More than 300 students have been arrested at Columbia and City College of New York.”

Cops on campuses: for this duty their training is completely inadequate. They are about disciplining people for breaking laws, with force and violence if they think it necessary: as they so often do….including “accidentally” by the sergeant who discharged his gun in Hamilton Hall (in the realm of tit for tat, how does that look?) or the University of Minnesota law enforcer who threw a 65-year-old woman to the ground–that’ll teach them to fuck with authority, yessir. As though to prove a point, at Columbia at least 34 students who were taken into custody on or around the campus were charged with burglary, which is defined by New York law as unlawfully entering a building with intent to commit a crime.” I’m joking, right? Ha ha ha.

I looked at a photo taken from the back that showed protruding gun butts everywhere one looked, fronted by the occasional nightstick. And then are the two photographs that show police snipers on rooftops overlooking Indiana U. and Ohio State U. At long last, Madame, have you no shame? Did you spend one minute walking around the campus listening to what “your university is teaching–independent thought?

But then, could anyone learn anything from the intellectually bereft President of Columbia, who acts as though her office has been invaded by the minions of the treasonous liar Elise Stefanik? Not a chance. But here is the record of a few alternatives that might prove useful to a concerned person:

1.A historical note. About forty years ago, at Smith College where I was a professor, students seized and occupied College Hall, and also Seelye Hall, where a majority of classes were taught. At an emergency Faculty meeting, a rump section of the Faculty demanded of the President, Mary Maples Dunn, that she call in the local police. (Like most colleges of its size, Smith has a campus police presence–unarmed.) She refused, saying, “I’m not going to make Smith look like South Africa.” The infuriated faculty members protested that she had insulted then, and demanded that her remark be stricken from the record, with which she complied. But she never did call the cops. I thank her shade.

After a week of student control the President of the Board came to campus and talked them out of the buildings with a promise to consider divestment. The Board tried to get away with adopting the Sullivan Principles, but that tactic failed when a First-Year student pointed out at a public meeting that the corporations from which divestment was promised–e.g., Ford Motor Company–peddled armed cars to the South African police. Over the summer the Board met and agreed finally to divest. Note that a student knew much more about the politics of South Africa and American corporations than the Board President. You could bet your bottom dollar that a similar relationship would be true at Columbia.

A respect for the historical record compels me to report that I was involved in those invents, though not in the seizure, which however along with other Facultlty I fully supported. At a Faculty Meeting where we were accused of leading the students astray, I replied quite accurately that on the contrary, they had been–as is often the case–leading us. That is the truth, here and now.

2. Climbing the walls in the Ivy League.

While tents were dismantled by force at Columbia, at Brown they were removed by students with whom the administration had successfully engaged in debate and collaboration. A committee of students met with the President and, over two weeks, negotiated a settlement according to which she would bring their divestment demand to the Board, with the understanding that the Board will vote on the matter.

I hope no one will be surprised that at least two members of the Board who are major Donors, followed by a billionaire donor, announced that it’s their Money or Your life. Now there’s a revelation of the relationship between the Higher Education and what John dos Passsos called “The Big Money.” If the students didn’t know that already, they certainly are taking advantage of the learning process that college administrations claim to be forwarding.

3. “ Organizers of pro-Palestinian protests at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus and university leadership announced Thursday morning that they’ve reached an agreement to end the days long encampment …Interim University President Jeff Ettinger sent a message to students, faculty and staff just after 7 a.m. outlining the agreement….
It includes an opportunity for protest organizers to address the Board of Regents next week, and a pledge by the university to ‘advocate to the Minneapolis City Attorney for lenient remedies for those previously arrested in connection’ with protests on campus.”

I don’t know who these people are, but I suspect that the administrators involved are not afraid of having serious ideas, or are dealing with people who have them, that cannot dispelled at the point of a gun. Mao may not have agreed, but then the pro-Palestinians around the world, and certainly at Columbia, are not Maoists.

4. “Other tent encampments across the country were in their early stages. A protest on Tulane University’s campus in New Orleans sprung up on Monday and six people were arrested. Students at San Francisco State University and the University of Southern Florida also started encampments on Monday, continuing a wave of protests that has taken over college campuses across the country….”

As Bassam Khawaja, a lecturer at Columbia law school and supervising attorney at the school’s human rights clinic, said he was “shocked and appalled that the president went immediately to the New York police department”. “It didn’t seem like any kind of measures were taken to de-escalate,” Khawaja said. “It also just seems completely unnecessary.”

Yes, that’s the word. Unless you’re a chief of police.

5 .“We firmly reject any form of hate or bigotry and stand vigilant against non-students attempting to disrupt the solidarity being forged among students — Palestinian, Muslim, Arab, Jewish, Black, and pro-Palestinian classmates and colleagues who represent the full diversity of our country,” read a statement from MIT student organizers, who set up an encampment of more than a dozen tents on campus on Sunday evening to call for a ceasefire and to protest what they describe as MIT’s “complicity in the ongoing genocide in Gaza”…Still, some Jewish students who are supporting the pro-Palestinian demonstrations on campus said they felt solidarity, not a sense of danger, even as they denounced the acts of antisemitism.”

But all this still doesn’t quite hit the point, which is that President Shafik, like so many authorities can bend her knees only to the Right. As in, “Since 2016, pro-Israel politicians have pushed versions of a bill called the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, which would codify, for the purpose of enforcing federal civil rights law in higher education, a definition of antisemitism that includes rejection of Israel as a Jewish state…” So that suddenly only anti-semitism is what’s happening. If and when they pass that bill, I’ll be too old to do what I’d like, which is to stand on street corners shouting , “I reject Israel as a Jewish state, it belongs to Palestinians too.”. How about, “a state governed by Donald Trump would be a Nazi state”?

But before we start shaking over alleged responses here and
there, she might have tried to talk to some real people who are not anti-Semitic, but are trying their best to prevent one of the era’s worst horrors from continuing in the name of retribution…. When millions of people suddenly become engaged in preventing what their institutions are actually doing, without any apology, it’s time to look that in the eyes:

“it appears that a small number of pro-Israel or anti-protester thugs entered the encampment in force with poles and clubs trying to tear down the barricades around the encampment and pick fights. They also apparently threw firecrackers into the encampment as this was happening.” They certainly got the message from Columbia. She was heard loud and clear in Los Angeles.

But here I suddenly must interrupt myself. The sound of drums coming up 6th Avenue was so intense that I had to go to the window to see: and what I saw for the next half hour was the most immense protest march I’ve ever seen outside of the Vietnam War, thousands marching and chanting–toward Washington Square, no doubt–covering the 6-lane avenue completely. Who were they? I went down to find out, but even they did not know, they were everyone. I fell into conversation with a marcher who was resting, and after a moment of hearing what I said he asked, “Are you Jewish?,”

“Yes,” I replied; and a look of satisfaction came over his face that I imagine could have been replicated a million fold. Of course I am a Jew: it is we Jews who must protest, who must denounce the massacre of helpless civilians in our name. Fuck you, Benjamin Netanyahu, you no more share my name than Hitler did. Murderers Row remains what it is; nothing except that is to be abhorred: until it stops. Back upstairs to write this down.

Here’s the point that he and I were implicitly making to each other. Israel, by its own definition, and despite the presence of many non-Jewish Palestinians living and/or working in it, is a Jewish State. Which is to say: a State, mid-Pacific islands aside (Tonga?), a State is a State is a State. It is among other things a locus of authorized force and violence. There are no brownie points for being Jewish, or for being identified as Zion; any more than Ireland had to be respected because of being Roman Catholic: in fact it is the worst thing about it.

In any event, as states go Israel right now is awful, up there with the worst of them: turning back aid convoys. When South Africa presents a case against you to the International Court of Justice… But then even South Africa never brought about a horrendous famine. On Meet the Press”, Cindy McCain, the director of the World Food Program, said that parts of northern Gaza were now experiencing a “full-blown famine.” And it is getting worse. Worse every day that Zion continues its rampage.

That last sentence, sadly, raises the specter of the fateful term, Genocide. I have my serous doubts about the over-use of the term as applied to Israel; it implies an end of total destruction to which Hamas is dedicated, but which Israel, like most conquering powers, has not manifested.

Still the Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin, who pioneered the term to describe the Holocaust, gives the following description in the Wikipedia entry:

“Generally speaking, genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. The objectives of such a plan would be disintegration of the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals…”

Is Israel in Palestine “destructive?” Intentionally? Does the entrance into Rafah imp;y the end of whatever restraint has existed?? What the whole world knows now that what is happening in Gaza is a march on the road to total destruction, and that is what will happen if not stopped. And, as well, the provision of lethal arms by the United States and Germany, and the investment of their industrial and financial wealth in Israel’s economy, to make that happen. So with a cowardice that seems especially to inhabit university presidents, those like Nemat Shafik would rather dance with the devil than talk with the dwarfs.

6. A late flash: Students against the war in Gaza began taking down the camp after Trinity College Dublin said it would divest from three Israeli companies. That is relevant, not the irrelevance of protecting administrators from congressional inquisitors.

But now, as to anti-Semitism the larger truth, I think, the awful truth is this. Wherever there are Jews there is anti-Semitism. In fact, it doesn’t even take Jews. In Japan in the post-War 1950’s, there were reports of anti-Semitic demonstrations even though by every account there was not a single Jewish person, not one, living in Japan. Perhaps a Jew on leave from the Korean front line for some R& R? I doubt it.

But this whole discussion is in any event, otiose. Like all the news-balancing impulses of the major news-givers, it is totally false. For the simple fact is that an entire political party led by a purebred Fascist is wrapped in anti-Semitism–wrapped, that is, in the unquestioned attribution of all otherwise unsubscribed evil-doing to THE JEW GEORGE SOROS. I don’t know if they could do it with no Jews at all, but one appears to be more than enough. The GOP in its entirety is bathed in anti-Semitic filth–it passes by such whiners as Bret Stephens–that lets us know what Century we’re in and where we are really at. Right back to the era of Ritual Murder trials and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

So anti-Semitism (did you ever hear Elise Stefanik or the financier J.D. Vance objecting to George Soros stereotyping) is a false issue. The genuine issue is this: should Jews oppose Israel’s War. We mustn’t for a moment forget the viciousness of Hamas, but this is not our war; war, after all, we’re not dropping the bombs on hospitals and apartment buildings and relief vehicles. They — the accusatory Jews–want to say that they’re doing it in my name, in the name of Jews everywhere for whom Israel is some kind of homeland? No, Not in my name. So when Israel shuts down Al Jazeera, the message is clear: hands over ears.

As for the historic past, yes, there were thousands upon thousands of displaced persons in 1946; indeed my parents were engaged in trying to find places for them in the U.S. So, what is the homeland for Palestinians, Mr. Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League? Or Bret Stephens? Those who chant “from the river to the sea, Palestinians will be free” are anti-Semites? Where exactly would you advocate those who survive the famine find a homeland? In Brooklyn?

In College, I had a professor–Floyd Ross–who gave a course in Comparative Religion. He hated them all, that is all the Western ones anyhow, for their imperialism, their demands of submission, their moral totalitarianism. But he didn’t hate Judaism, for a good reason: because Jews don’t tell non-Jews what do do; don’t ask anything of other people except other Jews; and to those I can always say, Hey, fuck off!

Israel, though, Israel, has smashed that tablet of innocence to smithereens. When we sat in front of the TV and realized that was a Gaza apartment house crumbling to the ground: I’m afraid we can never forget that. So yes, Hamas sums up all of the viciousness in Jew-hatred–though helped along by Netanyahu in his sly pact with them to replace the Palestine Authority. But it can’t undo what is being done.

Yes, a State is a State is a State. And sad to say–or maybe not sad–colonialism has its response everywhere, and always the same: revolt. October 7 is just another, even worse version, of 9/11. The weapons may change, but the revolts of the w eak are always the same: lacking the resources for total destruction they wreak what havoc they can. Watch the unforgettable movie, “The Battle of Algiers.” All of Tom Friedman’s clever abstractions abut a two-state solution, or Joe Biden’s desperate attempts to shore up his base, cannot change that.

Why? The last words here I give to Wystan Hugh Auden, written in a 52nd Street dive on September 1, 1939, apologetically shortened here:

“Accurate scholarship can unearth the whole offense…
That has drive a nation mad….
I and the public know what all schoolchildren learn
Those to whom evil is done, do evil in return.”