The Volokh Conspiracy

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WSJ: How Campus Anti-Israel Protestors Were Encouraged and Trained By Outside Activists

An interesting report that helps explain why the messaging, tactics, and methods adopted by campus protestors have been so similar across the country.


The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article explaining how the leaders of campus protests learned some of their strategies and tactics from national organizations and outside activists.  It begins:

The recent wave of pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses came on suddenly and shocked people across the nation. But the political tactics underlying some of the demonstrations were the result of months of training, planning and encouragement by longtime activists and left-wing groups.

At Columbia University, in the weeks and months before police took down encampments at the New York City campus and removed demonstrators occupying an academic building, student organizers began consulting with groups such as the National Students for Justice in Palestine, veterans of campus protests and former Black Panthers.

They researched past protests over Columbia's expansion into Harlem, went to a community meeting on gentrification and development and studied parallels with the fight over land between Palestinians and Israelis. They attended a "teach-in" put on by several former Black Panthers, who told them about the importance of handling internal disputes within their movement.

"We took notes from our elders, engaged in dialogue with them and analyzed how the university responded to previous protests," said Sueda Polat, a graduate student and organizer in the pro-Palestinian encampment.

. . .

Focusing on Columbia, the article notes how the current protests grew out of earlier efforts, and earlier conflicts between protestors and the university.

In March, there was a "Resistance 101" training scheduled at Columbia with guest speakers including longtime activists with Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, a Vancouver, British Columbia-based group that celebrated the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel. The administration twice barred the event, citing some of the organizers' known support of terrorism and promotion of violence. Columbia students hosted the event virtually nonetheless, which prompted Columbia President Minouche Shafik to suspend several of them. . . .

"There is nothing wrong with being a member of Hamas, being a leader of Hamas, being a fighter in Hamas," [Samidoun coordinator Charlotte] Kates said. "These are the people that are on the front lines defending Palestine."

Samidoun didn't respond to emailed requests for comment. The German government banned the group last November after saying it supported terrorism and antisemitism, and incited the use of violence to enforce political interests.

The article also talks about how such training and coordination have been funded, noting that National Students for Justice in Palestine (the target of a recently filed lawsuit alleging collaboration with Hamas or Hamas-supporting entities), is funded through the Wespac Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit, and shows how NSJP has recommnded tactics and coordinated messaging for its various campus affiliates.