Climate

Opinion: Protesters came to our homes, with antisemitic chants to “globalize the intifada”

Having sniper-trained police in our neighborhoods to protect us and our homes was not anything we thought we would see when we were elected to the University of Colorado Board of Regents – an unpaid elected position.

Yet, this was exactly what happened to both of us this month when a group of anti-Israel protesters came to both of our homes. We are extremely grateful to law enforcement for protecting us and our families, and we continue to be grateful to the many community members from all faiths and backgrounds who supported us during the protests at our home.

Involving our families and our neighbors in protests at our homes is unacceptable, and is a tactic that we hope every leader, Democratic, Republican, or unaffiliated, can join in denouncing, as our colleagues on the CU Board of Regents did in a 9-0 vote.

The agitators leading these protests say that the regents have not listened to or responded to them. They have been protesting on our campus since October, sharing their demands with multiple parties. They have come to CU Board of Regents meetings to speak in public sessions. They have emailed us.

We have listened to them just as we do with any other group or individual. There is a difference between not listening and not agreeing. On May 16, 2024, the regents put out a statement that read, in part, “No regent is offering any policy changes in response to the demands.”

As elected officials, we know all too well that you don’t demand things in a democracy. You make your arguments and hope people agree with you. We certainly hope we can all agree the amount of suffering happening in our world right now is unbearable. It is complex. It is unjust. Violence and pain inflicted upon babies, children, the elderly, and other innocent civilians is the worst of humanity.

Criticism of Israel and/or of Hamas is acceptable and protected speech, and as regents, we encourage deep and complex debates about difficult topics because that is the role of an American university.

A pro-Palestine demonstration continues on the Auraria Campus in Denver on April 29, 2024. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)
A pro-Palestine demonstration continues on the Auraria Campus in Denver on April 29, 2024. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

The decades-old Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement these protesters are part of, however, aims to dismantle the Jewish state and end the right to Jewish self-determination. The movement does not encourage people-to-people exchanges, dialogue opportunities, or interactions between those with opposing viewpoints.

What we do not condone is purposely creating a dangerous environment for any student, staff, faculty – including Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Muslims, Christians and Arabs and atheists–  or any other member of our community.

At both Denver Pride last week and in front of our homes, people changed racist phrases like “From the River to the Sea,” which has been used to call for Jews to be exterminated from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. This is unacceptable.

They were chanting “Globalize the Intifada” and “Resistance by any means necessary” – both racist calls for the murder and displacement of Jews throughout the world – in front of our homes. This is especially deplorable in front of the Spiegels’ home, an American Jewish family who are descendants of Holocaust survivors.

Much of the commentary and sloganeering used by the protesters oversimplifies an ancient history of a land that is in no way comparable to the United States, South Africa, or any other nation. The binary story that is being told results in the spread of disinformation, incites hate, and perpetuates dangerous antisemitic tropes.

Finally, the fact that the protestors use overt displays of support for internationally recognized terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah in conjunction with anti-Israel protests is also unacceptable.

Colorado is no place for racism, hate speech, antisemitism, or the kind of aggressive tactics these protesters used in a failed attempt to intimidate us into bending the knee to their radical, racist political ideology. The protestors have shown a dangerous escalation in their behaviors, which could get someone hurt, or worse.

We hope the protesters make a different choice.

Know that in contrast, we encourage every single member of the University of Colorado no matter their ideology, ethnicity, or religion, to speak thoughtfully and carefully, in a way that fosters inclusivity, mutual respect, and understanding.

Ilana Dubin Spiegel has spent over three decades devoted to improving lives and communities through educational opportunities. She was elected to the University of Colorado Board of Regents from the 6th CD in 2020. Callie Rennison, PhD is Faculty Emerita at the University of Colorado Denver in the School of Public Affairs. She also serves as the CU Regent from CD-2 and is currently chair of the CU Board of Regents.

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