To the Editor:
We are writing to respond to The Daily Princetonian’s recent article, “Princeton staff member assaults student at pro-Palestine protest in town.” The article describes the protest in question only as background information to contextualize an incident regarding a University employee assaulting a student. The few words it does devote to the protest paint it as merely “repeat[ing] calls for a ceasefire” and “continu[ing] largely without incident” after the harassment. This claim is false.
We want to make absolutely clear that we condemn the assault described in the article. We write today not to dismiss that harmful act, but to correct the record about the protest as a whole. We are not politically involved people, but we and dozens of our peers witnessed a grotesque display of hatred that your readers deserve to know about. We were saddened and surprised that you did not ask any of the pro-Israel counterprotesters to give their perspective. Instead, you amplified perspectives that falsely claim the protest was only a call for peace and “ceasefire” with little interaction between the protesters and counterprotesters.
The article states that protesters held up signs with phrases like “Jews in solidarity with Palestine” and “cease civilian death and suffering now,” neglecting to mention signs equating Israel to Nazism and justifying Hamas’s unthinkable acts of brutality. One sign depicted Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu with a Hitler mustache and horns, echoing the antisemitic trope that Jews have horns and are the devil incarnate. For Jewish students present who are descendants of Holocaust survivors, these signs in addition to chants like “Israel is the new Nazi” were particularly chilling.
Another sign stated “resistance is justified when people are occupied,” a statement also repeatedly chanted by the crowd. The signs justify the horrific rapes, murders, and beheading of Israelis, over 1,400 of whom are now dead, and at least 240 who are still held hostage. Baking babies to death in their mothers’ ovens (as described by a member and the head of the Israel’s volunteer EMS squad), tying an innocent child to his father and setting them ablaze, and parading teenage girls with blood gushing from their raped bodies through the streets of Gaza. This is the “resistance” that these protesters “justify.”
Protesters chanted, “There is only one solution: intifada revolution!” Make no mistake, this was an allusion to the “Final Solution,” playing on the Nazi’s euphemism for the mass murder of European Jewry. Add to that the “intifada” element of the chant, which hearkens back to devastating periods of violence against Jews in Israel in the late 1980s and early 2000s, in which buses full of schoolchildren were bombed, Israelis were kidnapped and tortured, and families were slaughtered in restaurants. Calling for “intifada” is a blatant call for attacks against Jews, and a clear expression of antisemitism.
Further, assertions published in the ‘Prince’ that the protest “continued largely without incident” and that “there wasn’t that much interaction between protesters and counterprotesters” are untrue. About a dozen pro-Palestine protesters surrounded several pro-Israel attendees on our side of the street, refusing to leave. This reached the point where the police had to approach them and request that they move back to their side, to which the protesters refused, saying that they were “standing on public property.” Others mocked us, belittling our sorrow after the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust by miming fake tears and pouty faces.
Two protesters yelled at one of us holding a sign that said “No excuse for rape,” displaying an image of a teenage girl dragged into a Hamas truck, visually bleeding after being violently raped. One would think such a message irrefutable — but the anti-Israel protesters jeered, laughing as they said that the rapes never happened. This image was taken from a video that haunts the collective nightmares of Jewish women worldwide. Whatever happened to “believe women”? Or believe video footage? Or Hamas confessions?
These are just a few snapshots of the horrifying incidents of that day. We are Princeton students, but first and foremost we are Jews. Listening to justifications of the massacre of our people was an experience we would not wish upon our worst enemies. Our community has been grieving in the wake of the tragedy of Oct. 7, and the expression of antisemitism this past Saturday only adds to the communal trauma and fear of our community. Princeton’s campus should serve as a safe haven for Jewish students, not an institution that turns a blind eye to antisemitic slurs and chants occurring right on its doorstep.
We know how the Holocaust happened. The German intellectual class propagated false narratives, apathetic observers downplayed or rationalized hate, and the media propped it all up. Present times are reminiscent of those days, and your publication cannot be complicit in perpetuating an environment in which Jew hatred is unremarkable.
Eden Bendory is a junior in the Department of Computer Science. Estelle Botton is a junior in the Department of Computer Science.
Editor’s note: In the process of publishing this piece, The Daily Princetonian took several steps to corroborate the facts the authors allege, including verifying chants and signs displayed at the protest. The ‘Prince’ was unable to independently verify the number of protesters that surrounded the pro-Israel attendees, and the interaction about the protesters being on public property.