Anti-Israel Intimidation at Ithaca College

Tonight, April 30th, on Live! with Lisa, I spoke on-air by telephone live with two brave college students from Ithaca College about an ugly incident on campus today that made them feel emotionally intimidated as Jews and pro-Israel supporters.  Here is the email I received today before the show: 

Dear Lisa Wexler,
I wanted to give you a brief update of what is happening at Ithaca College.
On Tuesday evening, the members of the Student Alliance for Israel wrote a letter to the student leaders of Students for a Just Peace expressing our upset with their use of the Palestinian flag on Israel’s Independence Day. We copied that to the school president, Thomas Rochon and the school newspaper, The Ithacan, to inform them about the sentiments we see on campus. SJP sent a very aggressive and manipulative response to our email, in which the same parties were copied. After our returned clarifying response to their email, Beth Harris, a full Politics professor as well as the SJP faculty advisor, wrote an email propagating her stance on the argument to the entirety of the politics department asking for their support. Later that day that email circulated around several academic departments and was then forwarded to students.
In Beth Harris’s actions, she has practiced a highly unethical use of power. She took our argument entirely out of context to gain support over us and push us down. She emailed the President of the Student Alliance for Israel, and used censorship as an intimidation tactic to pressure her concession. I consider that a personal attack a student and a public attack on the students on campus who support Israel.
Then after today’s Student for a Just Peace demonstration on the academic quad simulating Israel’s use of check points, where students dressed and acted as Israeli soldiers holding guns then acted out shooting and beating pregnant women and children, my feelings of personal and public attack have exponentially escalated. The alienation we feel for being Israel supporters while members of the campus community has left us at times in an inconsolable emotional state and reluctant to participate in campus life.
Other Jewish students and Israel supporters have contacted me through email, phone call, and text message explaining their upset and feelings of criminalization by SJP. This is not a safe environment for us.  This is not an environment where I and my fellow Israel supporters feel anything but distress, upset, and fear about the climate on campus. The actions of Students for a Just Peace, Beth Harris, and the several professors that came out to support them today are absolutely unconscionable and paralyzing to the Israel-supporting members on campus and the entirety of the Jewish Community.
We ask you please, for your support during this difficult time on campus.  Is there anything you can do to help us to continue to support Israel?  Any resources you have would be appreciated! Thank you so much in advance for your time! 
Alyia Bettman
Student Alliance for Israel
Ithaca College


Tonight on my radio show, Live! with Lisa, on 1400 WSTC and 1350 WNLK, also streaming at, Alyia and her friend Molly called in live to the show to express their concerns about this incident. They said they felt intimidated and emotionally extremely upset over what had happened at the school they love. They felt betrayed by this particular professor and by the college administration. The professor patently took sides and escalated this into an ugly incident. The college administration has done nothing.  Period.  Here are my reflections and responses:
1. Why does a college campus raise a Palestinian flag in the first place? Don’t we live in America?  The students told me that no Israeli flag had ever been raised to their knowledge nor had the flag of any other soverign entity. Incidentally, who invented the Palestinian flag? Technically, there is no Palestine yet, right?

2.  If I lived in a college quad and saw this, I too would be extremely emotionally upset.  It would be like watching Nazis goose-stepping on my front door.  It doesn’t mean these students don’t have the right to protest. As a matter of free speech, they do. It doesn’t mean the pro-Palestinians don’t have the right to inflame the conflict, disseminate misinformation, and display propoganda in furtherance of their side of the issue. They do have this right. Nevertheless, it is both sad and outrageous that an international conflict is being brought to the center of an American college campus.  This isn’t the UN. And this isn’t about an American issue. It’s about an issue and a conflict occurring thousands of miles away. 

3. College in America should be about exploring one another’s differences in an enlightened and peaceful setting, so that friendships can form and other perspectives can be appreciated. I fear that with this militant, no holds barred approach that was started by the pro-Palestinian faction, just the opposite will be achieved. Instead of friends, enemies. Instead of understanding, reflexive adherance to one’s original point of view.  Instead of tolerance, bigotry and hatred.  If this is what our colleges tolerate, then what will our kids become once they graduate? What will this bode for the future of our American society?
I do not recall the British/IRA conflict reaching American college campuses in this way. Do you?
4. What this really says, and what was so frightening to these girls, is that they discovered that the world around them really hates them.  They discovered that while only a handful of students actually participated in these protests, many more silently agree with their sentiment that Israel is the true and sole culprit and cause of the suffering of the Palestinian people.  They have discovered that while they thought they lived among friends and professors whom they respected and admired, in fact they live among people who will either participate in purposely wounding their feelings, or who will ignore their feelings altogether, which is in some ways, worse.  In short, these girls have had to grow up fast, to acknowledge the realization that the America they thought they knew is changing quickly into an America hostile to Israel, and intolerant of debate. The implications of this incident are sure to sink in; eventually they will result in some Jews  leaving this nation altogether, as so many have done in France. 
5. I am told there are several organizations that can help- Stand With Us, the David Project and Camera.You can go on line and request their material. There is a DVD from Stand with Us “Hate speech on Campus” dealing with the issue. Also the David Project comes to campuses and teach students on how to speak up for Israel.
6. Professor Beth Harris needs to go before her employers at Ithaca College and answer an inquiry as to her actions on this matter.
7. The pro-Israel supporters at Ithaca College need to counter this with a massive protest of their own.
8.  Where is the college administration here? Ducking the issue won’t make it go away.
9. Maybe parents of Jewish kids ought to think twice about sending their kids to Ithaca College.



10 thoughts on “Anti-Israel Intimidation at Ithaca College

  1. Back in the late ’60s, I was a member of the NROTC at the University of Rochester (NY) and we constantly faced protests from the Students for a Democratic Society (not democratic at all, but a radical left-wing socialist group) every time we performed, especially our traditional Evening Tattoo which honored fallen soldiers and sailors of all US services. The SDS was loud, verbally abusive and generally tried to intimidate and threaten us.

    Our solution came from students sympathetic to our position, and they actually came out in droves to physically ‘isolate’, surround and ‘move’ these protesters out of our way.

    When it comes to these ‘palestinian’ supporters, I would suggest (in order of severity, depending on the need):

    1. Hold your own protest outside the office of Professor Beth Harris and the Head of Student Life/Affairs as well as the University President to make your point that this is NOT the actions of an open and civilized discussion;

    2. Carry and American flag with your group, representing the country that you live in as well as the most welcoming nation in the world;

    3. If you are holding a scheduled and ‘protected’ event, call campus security and tell them that you feel threatened and feel that the ‘palestinian’ supporters may instigate violence and you need Security to restrain them;

    4. Call the local TV and radio news station(s) and let them know there is ‘breaking news’ about a adical, militant pro-palestinian mob on the campus which is looking to take a peaceful discussion event into a violent, physical confrontation which may need police action.

    As the need escalates, so does the ‘cure’. By #4, the University has shown that either they support the SJP group, or will have put them in a position of having to conform to the rules everyone else follows.

    Good Luck – and I’m sorry I live in CT or I’d come up to help you.

  2. Thank you for getting our story out into the public! Everything you said was spot on! The question you raised about flying the Palestinian Flag on an American campus is one that we have been asking as well. Unfortunately, the ideas of friendship and tolerance being replaced with enemies and hatred is a truth here and as students, and humans, we cannot just standby and watch that happen. So many people are afraid to make their voice heard and you cannot let fear silence your voice. Fear and intimidation are tactics well worn by the anti-Israel faction on campus. We need people to stand up for what they believe in and educate others so that we can really live up to the potential that higher education has to offer. Again, thank you so much for publicizing the situation on the Ithaca College campus! We will keep you updated!!

  3. I’m horrified…We’re Americans, we recognize and respect Israel’s right to exist as a freedom loving people just like us. And I am sadded to see so much more Anti-Israeli sentiment than I used to here in America, but this takes the cake!

    Yes, Ithaca parents of Jewish students should have their heads examined if they sign another tuition check!

    I shoudl stop writing now before I go overboard. I’m just simply outraged that anyone in this day and age could sympathize with Palestinian Terrorists…

  4. This story and the reality of what is happening in our country with regard to the Palestinian movement is the next step of intimidation and fear those who perpetrate these events want to achieve and will continue. The American people are waking up to find their country becoming radicalized with causes fanned by the vultures in the media who feed on this emotional blackmail. Spawned by lies and funded by blood money the ‘students’ romanticize what is presented to them. Our administration in Washington will allow and support more of this across our country because it works to undermine what we stand for; chaos is the root to anarchy and unless we unite behind our true principals, speak out, and look the liars in the eye and tell them NO, we are not doing our civic duties.

    It is time to stop sitting on the sidelines believing someone else will defend our principals. It is our right, our obligation and now is the time to take pen in hand, contact government officials, put your voice and resources in play before these ‘freedom fighters’ kill our country campus by campus, rally by rally, violent act by violent act, lie by lie. Enough is enough.

    Power to us, power to the citizen, let us overwhelm them with facts, our voices and our power to maintain the greatest country in the history of man.

  5. Beth Harris is not an educator and is a liability to the image, reputation and integrity of Ithaca College. A full an impartial inquiry into her activities must be initiated with urgency before she does further harm to IC and its students.

  6. I am also a student at Ithaca college who witnessed this offensive and upsetting demonstration by SJP. First, I wanted to thank you so much for publicizing this issue for us. We really needed to get the word out there that this kind of behavior on a college campus is not ok.

    I support everyones rights to free speech and freedom of expression; however, I draw the line when people publicize outward lies about a situation they know nothing about. There was not one actual event shown or referenced during the skits that were put on by SJP. They were telling outward lies, lies that hurt me, my friends, my family – cousins who served in elite forces in the IDF. These people never beat pregnant women or shot at every person who tried to cross the border. SJP has no facts to back up their outrageous charges against Israel.
    If a group like this wants to publicize their ideas, the center of the academic quad is not the place to do it. Furthermore, not only did these events take place but they got permission from the school to hold it. It was supported by the members or SJP and some faculty members including BETH HARRIS.
    BETH HARRIS is a great teacher; however, she pushes her own personal agenda both inside and outside of the classroom. This is inappropriate behavior for a professor of her standing. She is seen as a threat to students who do not share her views. She tells the same outward lies in the classroom that SJP does outside of it. A professor like this should be punished for her actions.
    It is important for us to get the word out about this event because other students need to know that if this is happening on their college campus, there is something that can be done about it. There are people you can contact, no one should have to sit back and helplessly watch this kind of activity at their own institution.

  7. Lisa,

    You said a couple of things in your post that made sense to me and a lot that didn’t. You said the SJP have a right to protest, but then said it shouldn’t happen on a college campus. Of course it should. College campuses have long been the center for the exchange of ideas, protests, and dialogs on all issues national and international. You can’t ask college students to limit their thinking and their passion to things within their own boarders. Apartheid in South Africa wasn’t an American issue, but the protests on US campuses, the pressure brought by American students on administrations, raised people’s awareness level and played a huge role in changing what was happening in South Africa.

    You can’t say that SJP had a right to protest and then say the college’s administration should have done something about it. Is the college supposed to take sides in this and say who can and can’t protest? As long as SJP stay within college guidelines then they have the same right as everyone else.

    As for the flag, same goes there. There is a process by which student groups can request that a flag be flown. Any group can request as flag as far as I know.

    As for Beth Harris… I don’t know enough to know if her actions were inappropriate. If the students feel they were then they can bring their issues to her department chair and/or dean. If they haven’t taken that action then they can’t complain about any lack of inaction on the part of the administration.

    Just because someone doesn’t believe in what you believe in doesn’t mean you should feel threatened. I’m fairly certain that every member of SJP believes Israel has a right to exist. They also happen to believe that Palestine has a right to exist. They can object to what Israel is doing without wanting to harm Jews or anyone who is pro-isreali.

    The other thing you said that was right is that pro-israeli protesters should demonstrate. It’s their right and they should exercise it.

  8. This is really interesting. And sad. especially when you consider that these young people are the next generation and the ones who will soon be getting a chance to solve some of the Mid-East problems.
    And by the looks of things, they aren’t headed in the right direction.
    I think that the statements about the pro-Israel students being “hated”, and so on, are strange.
    (if they really are being hated for their political and/or religious views, then this is an enormous problem and I apologize for my ignorance in advance)
    The email that was circulated to the student body is mentioned, but not attached here. In the interest of the people reading and considering this subject, I think it would only be fair to post it here.
    Also, the student organization may speak for themselves, but speaking for the feelings & beliefs of all Jews is presumptuous and insulting.
    One can support Israel without supporting the policies and politics of Zion, just like you can love the USA yet disagree-with taxes, or war etc.
    Killing a pregnant woman is a despicable act, and so is suicide-bombing for the sake of religious or political ideals. Neither is acceptable and the way to prevent it is by finding a way to communicate and negotiate outside of the battle-zone or on neutral grounds.
    Has the pro-Israel group renounced the idea of firing on a pregnant woman or agreed that there is no circumstance in which such an action would be necessary because robots could disarm a suspected terrorist?
    We can only hope that when the situation cools-down, that possibly both groups will learn something from this, and maybe even carry it forward into the real world that they will soon find themselves in charge of.
    (really hoping that you kids can figure-out how to solve the problems!)
    As a parent of two American students, I can tell you that we expect much better of you.

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