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VIDEO: Who Is Funding Anti-Israel Campus Protests?

On May 8, 2024, Legal Insurrection Foundation and its Equal Protection Project hosted an online webinar, Who Is Funding Anti-Israel Campus Protests? 

The anti-Israel protests and riots on campuses appeared to have popped up out of nowhere. The anti-Americanism, anti-westernism, and anti-capitalism ran deep alongside hatred of Israel.

But there’s a deeper story that needed to be told, of a well-funded network of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that plan and pay for the these protest movements. It didn’t sprout organically. It’s a calculated, organized, and well-funded movement. At the Legal Insurrection Foundation, we’ve been discussing and educating the public on the origins of this pernicious movement for over a decade. In this live event, we explored the funding driving these tentifadas and campus protests.

We were pleased that Anne Herzberg, the Legal Advisor of NGO Monitor, was our featured speaker. NGO Monitor does deep research on, you guessed it, NGOs. We have cited their work repeatedly over the years. NGO Monitor has published extensive research of the funding of anti-Israel protests.

You can watch the video below, followed by transcript excerpts selected by the two speakers.


Transcript Excerpts Selected By Speakers

(transcription auto-generated, may contain transcription errors, and lightly edited for clarity)

William Jacobson

04:00 – …. I’ll just give a short history of how I think we got here to this place and time when on October 8th on campuses, students were actually cheering what happened on October 7th, faculty were cheering it, making excuses for it. And of course, we now know about the tent  cities that have gone up and seem to be coming down every place except for Cornell. It’s still up at Cornell.

So I will go back to my earliest days because I witnessed the formation of what is now a fairly broad movement, at Harvard Law School in the early 1980s. So I graduated in 1984, and many of the people who went on to become leaders of the anti-Israel movement were at Harvard Law School in the early 1980s. And the things I saw there are playing themselves out now. So what did I see there? I see saw, first and foremost the racialization of the conflict, the form, the targeting of Israel in various lingo, but basically students of color versus white Israel.

05:52 – And that’s how it was framed in the early 1980s at Harvard. It was a tiny movement compared to what it is now, but you also had the doctrinal foundations of it, which then became critical race theory. In fact, one of my classmates developed the phrase critical race theory, also developed the concept of intersectionality. And looking back on that time, I can see what the strategies were, whether they were deliberate knowing strategies or they were just what they felt worked, I don’t know. But it’s that racialization of the conflict and the portrayal of Israel as a white, settler colonial state, which still drives things. Then like most of my classmates, I went off into private law practice for over 20 years, and all of the anti-Israel activists, or many of them, went into academia and they spent 30 years developing their organizations, their associations, their interconnectedness around these concepts of Israel being the focus of a decolonization movement that has its doctrines and its origins in a race conflict.

07:11 – And of course, anybody who’s ever actually been to Israel knows that it’s many things, but it’s not white <laugh>. Okay? So it’s really just a completely false fabricated portrayal of Israel, but it drives people.

I then witnessed, really once I started the blog in 2008. So I joined Cornell in 2007, oblivious to what had been going on in academia. I think I was like most people, oh, a couple of crazy professors. We don’t need to worry about them. Meanwhile, every insane concept that was developed in academia is now required in corporations and government and elsewhere using different terminology….

10:28 – [BDS] was birthed in terms of racial conflict. And that has been what we’ve been witnessing for about  close to 20 years. Everything you will hear them say about how it was a spontaneous Palestinian Civil Society movement that came together in 2005, is a complete fabrication. It’s a complete lie. This was actually conceived in 2001 in Tehran and at Durban, focused on trying to portray Israel as an apartheid state. And it’s been nonstop since then. We’ve covered it…. It took me a while to really understand what that movement was about. It is not about the actual boycott. They always say, because they’re actually pretty smart. They’re not stupid people. They’re actually very devious people. They always would say the boycott is just a tactic. And it took me a while to understand that they actually don’t care if you sell Sabra hummus in the dining hall, Sabara hummus, by the way, which is manufactured in Northern Virginia.

11:37 – …  What they care about is having the entire campus spend three to four months debating how bad Israel is.

And the cumulative effect of that over time has given rise to the movement we’re seeing now for approaching 20 years. That has been the dominant conversation on campuses. The faculty has come very much on board with that. We like to talk at Legal Insurrection about how there’s no conservative faculty left. There’re almost none. You know what? There are hardly any pro-Israel faculty left on campuses. Two things have happened over a generation. Conservatives stopped getting hired and openly pro-Israel or Zionist professors stopped getting hired, particularly in the humanities and social sciences. So on the campuses, now you have a generation which has been indoctrinated to view this as a racial conflict, to view this as part of the US quest for racial justice. Even though one has nothing to do with the other.

12:40 – I think it’s extremely important that anti-Israel activists have been embedded with the Black Lives Matter movement since inception. We covered the Black Lives Matter movement at its inception, which was the hashtag after the Trayvon Martin case, and the formal organization after the Ferguson riots in 2014, and the shooting of Michael Brown. And we wrote on our website about how anti-Israel activists had infiltrated the riots and were redirecting them against Israel. And that’s where you saw hashtags, like #FromFergusonToGaza, things like that. These are very, very manipulative, very relentless people, and we’re seeing that play out on the campuses.

Anne Herzberg

27:32 – This hostile atmosphere, which was growing and really had intensified in recent years brings us to October 7. And as we know, these protests began really immediately the evening of October 7, while Israelis were still being tortured and slaughtered. Protests began not only in the streets, but also on campus. And what really made me start to think at that, even at that time, that this was far more nefarious than perhaps just some student groups or some solidarity professional activist class in America, was that I noticed in the protests that were taking all over the world. I saw it in protests in Poland, Norway, London, Amsterdam, and New York. They all had the same signage at their protests beginning on October 8. And this was not typical signage you normally would see at these protests. So one of them, you may remember, had an image of a Jewish star being thrown into a garbage can, and that it was an unusual image, but yet that same image was at all of the protests across the globe. And the signage was clearly printed in advance. It was sophisticated. it had to have been done in advance, because how would you get thousands and thousands of signs out to these protests in less than a day? And all with coordinated messaging? So, for me, that really set off alarm bells that we’re dealing with something far bigger and far more nefarious.

29:21 –  Another turning point was the attack on Israel by Iran. So Israel was attacked in the early morning of April 14. And the day before, I began to see and on social media, these very these ads kind of calling for civil disobedience actions against infrastructure in America. And they were widespread, and they were calling it, I believe, strikes for Gaza to take place on April 15. And on April 15, sure enough, we began to see these groups blocking the highways, blocking the airports, chaining themselves on the Golden Gate bridge. And the next day was when the encampment started. So it seemed clear to me that these protests were timed to coincide again with an event of extreme violence against Israel. This unprecedented attack on Israel by Iran and led to ratcheting up of the violence and hate rhetoric towards Israel and Jews, as well as diverted away from the attack perpetrated by Iran. And indeed about a week later, there was a document circulating online that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps had been calling on activists to take action on April 15. So again, we have this outside influence.

35:50 – There’s also the PFLP, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, front groups who are also very active in these campus protests. So there’s one group called Samidoun, which I also, as the protests were beginning on October 7, I noticed their logo appearing on a lot of the protests taking place in America, not even on campus, but on the streets. So their logo was very prominently displayed. They are a PFLP front group. They’ve been banned. They are declared a terrorist organization in Israel. They’ve been banned from operating in Germany and other countries are looking into them. The principles appear to be based in Canada. Some of them have been banned from traveling in Europe. And they also were involved in doing resistance training in March for some of the students. And again, the links are clear with the PFLP. We’ve written, again, NGO Monitor has written a lot on Samidoun

42:21 – These groups that are being fiscally sponsored do not appear to have any legal status on their own. They’re not 501c3 charities, so they don’t have to report. So that just makes this funding all the more hidden./..Are they getting money from foreign governments or foreign principals? We just don’t know. Are they getting money from sources besides these foundations? Again, we don’t know. So this is a real black hole, a real lacuna in the charity laws that need to be examined… they’re funding groups that want to weaken American support for Israel and to drive a wedge in the Jewish community over Israel. They are funding groups that promote BDS and the elimination of Israel. And the other important factor is these groups are also giving tons of money to many if not most of the organizations that are part of what is known as the Iran lobby and the groups that were very active in pushing the JCPOA and want to realign America’s interests towards Iran.

46:55 – There’s one group in particular, Al-Shabaka, that is kind of a Palestinian think tank that publishes articles by Palestinian intellectuals and academics. So in March of this year, 2024, they got $221,000. Since October 7, they’ve been posting a host of egregious articles, several of which appear to justify the October 7 atrocities. This kind of rhetoric is not only inflammatory but dangerous, and it has contributed to the growing tensions and unrest on campuses and in communities. This activity was so disturbing that the Swiss government suspended funding to this organization, among many others. and so these are the types of groups that RBF (Rockefeller Brothers Fund) is funding. They’re funding BDS groups not only in the US, but they’re funding a group known as the Rights Forum, which spearheads bds in Europe. And in addition to that, they are giving significant funding to groups that are well known as part of the Iran lobby network…So there’s a lot of overlap there. and I think these are things that call into question again, what are the motivations of this funding? What is the purpose of this funding? There’s a lot of questions that need to be asked.

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