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  • Chinese Culture

Essays on Chinese Culture

Most of us can write a Chinese culture essay without spending hours on research, as the world has been obsessed with Asian culture for years now. The culture of China began to form as early as 3000 BC. Most Chinese traditions have survived and are practiced to this day. Chinese value family and hard work, they celebrate traditional holidays and honor local customs – China has retained its abundant culture like no other country in the world. That is why writing Chinese culture essays is such an enjoyable endeavor! Don’t you agree? Take a look at some great Chinese culture essay samples below and feel free to explore our favorite essay samples for insightful ideas. If you are less enthusiastic about essays on Chinese culture than we are, know that you can always rely on us to complete essays in your stead.

The fundamental objective of the literature review section was to elucidate consumer behavior and culture specific to Chinese nationals and the extent to which they moderated purchase decisions, with a particular focus on international tourism. The fixation on Chinese tourists was informed by the growing affluence in the country as...

Words: 4610

Even though having a woman rule as emperor during the Tang dynasty's most glorious years would have been highly unnatural in accordance with Confucian beliefs, Wu Zetian, also known as Wu Zhao, was the only woman to do so in Chinese history. (Wills 202). Wu Zetian was Emperor Taizong's concubine,...

Words: 1567

The reading of the Ching highlights aspects of ordering, proportionality, order, and patterns. These components, along with other closely related elements, form the core of proper urban and even rural design, albeit with minor variations due to the variety of environments. Planning and architecture professionals have become interested in the...

Chinese Culture and Health Issues Chinese culture is made up of numerous and diverse groups of people depending on ethnicity and lineage. As a result, providing the optimal treatment for the population will necessitate a thorough understanding of the population from a pharmacological standpoint. As such, the primary goal of the...

Introduction Several literary authors have previously written about family and kinship; many of them have used their own personal experiences to explain the mortal bond that exists between people. Pearl Buck and The Good Earth As the daughter of a Presbyterian missionary, Pearl Buck spent the most of her early years immersed...

Words: 1141

The Study's Goal: Explaining the Suppression of Art during the RevolutionThe study's goal will be to explain how the revolution, in particular, contributed to the suppression of art. The paper will use a variety of sources to accomplish this, based on the evidence of their credibility outlined below.Barmé's Contribution: Studying...

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As its appreciation invites others to marvel at the artist's distinctive point of view, art transcends cultural, political, and social barriers. There are various forms of artistic expression, and each one has characteristics that relate more to its genesis. Asian artworks are particularly valued around the world because they show...

Words: 1090

Mao Zedong was in charge of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, which took place between 1966 and 1976. (Cornell University). The introduction, propagation, and installation of socialism as the dominant political ideology in the nation were the main goals of the revolution. To do this, Mao urged the nation's youth to...

Words: 1655

Undoubtedly, the Chinese Civil Service Curriculum is the longest academic assessment system in human history. It was formed around 146 BCE and, in 1905, was eventually abolished. The test, taken only by boys, qualified applicants to work for the imperial government and helped form China's socio-cultural, political, academic and economic spheres....

The meanings of red envelopes: Promises and lies at a Singaporean Chinese funeral The article The meanings of red envelopes: Promises and lies at a Singaporean Chinese funeral written by Ruth E. Toulson, revolves around a large question: Why do red envelopes appear at Singaporean Chinese funerals? The creator...

Words: 1325

Empress Wu s colonial influence on the Chinese Patriarchal Culture In the history of China, the majority of empires were governed and ruled by men. In the situation, however, where women came to power, such as Empress Wu, major impacts were felt, especially if the former leadership stressed the patriarchy system....

In studying the Chinese faith, the principle of Yang and Yin is essential (Wang 215). The Yang and Yin religion idea reflects a circle form sign that helps decipher how things function in the Chinese religion. While the inner black and white circle symbolizes the relationships of this dynamism known as...

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Chinese Culture

China is one of the world’s oldest and most advanced civilizations, therefore, its culture is unique and authentic. Moreover, it is often perceived as exotic and mysterious due to the barriers which were defined historically. In order to comprehend the modern state of affairs within the scope of Chinese culture, it is essential to analyze historical peculiarities which shaped the country of today to a considerable degree.

First of all, it is highly significant to define the concept of culture. According to Williams (1995), its definition lies within three general categories. One of these categories is the “˜ideal’ in terms of which culture can be perceived as a state or process of human perfection. Moreover, it entirely relies on absolute or universal values. In this context, the analysis of culture is based on the discovery and description of lives and works of people whose values are essentially aligned in order to compose a specific cultural condition. Another category is called the “˜documentary’ and mainly concerns perceptions, thoughts, imagination which contribute towards the emergence of the overall picture of the cultural environment. The base for analysis is the implementation of a profound criticism. The milieu is examined thoroughly by using methods of comparison or general assessment. Eventually, the last category represents the “˜social’ definition which implies the description of a specific way of life. It also involves certain behavioral patterns, set of values and moral standards, traditions and customs pertaining to a particular culture. While combining the previous methods of analyses, this one involves a detailed approach towards various aspects of social life which considerably shape the society. On the whole, the entire analysis tends to facilitate the understanding of cultural development within the scope of a certain milieu (Williams, 1995).

In a globalized world, the borders between different countries and diverse cultures are substantially blurred. Consequently, two principal concepts of culture emerge, such as mass culture and so-called high culture (Jameson, 1979). The first one tends to define its object in a detached way from the second one, although there is no substantial evidence for this opposition. Jameson (1979) points out the positions which reduce themselves into the two mirror-images. According to Hall (1981), this distinction derived from the social division into classes which contributed considerably towards peculiarities in cultural relations. Thus, culture reflects the interdependency within the society in terms of domination and subordination, along with implantation, which form an intrinsic feature of cultural relations (Hall, 1981).

While relying on the above mentioned findings, it is essential to revert to the subject of Chinese culture. The country today represents a complex, heterogeneous and dynamic milieu. Due to globalization, various developments in economy, technology and society have become more apparent. This leads to a significant cultural blending on the world level, although China still depends on its traditional values to a considerable degree.

According to Hodge and Louie (2005), Napoleon once called China “˜the sleeping dragon’ while feeling reverence towards its potential power. It turned out to be a prophetic utterance since nowadays China develops at a significant rate while being a part of the most dynamic region in the contemporary world. The country gradually becomes one of the most indispensable players in the international arena. Therefore, its culture and language have recently appeared in the spotlight which enhances the extraordinary achievements of Chinese culture.

While playing a significant role in global political and economic affairs, China extends its influence on the cultural domain, as well. The most apparent manifestation of this increasing impact is the country’s hosting of the Olympics in 2008. The raise of interest in various cultural artefacts, such as literature, art, music, cinema and other, becomes stronger than ever before (Louie, 2008).

Among the other ancient civilizations, only the Chinese civilization has never encountered cultural discontinuity which contributes towards its uniqueness and authenticity. Chinese culture is based on three pivotal aspects such as environmental, economic and ideological. These aspects derive from the continental culture, agriculture, and Confucianism accordingly (Zhongwen & Qiaosheng, 2011).

China is not a simple, homogeneous nation. Its culture has an introverted quality as well as a strong sense of togetherness. Therefore, it combines both introversion and openness.

According to Zhongwen and Qiaosheng (2011), the Great Wall of China symbolizes the introversion of Chinese culture. Confucianism played a vital role by contributing towards strong features of a closed development. China’s naturally agricultural economy also favored such state of affairs. This concept of the “˜wall’ was essential in terms of guaranteeing stability and sustainable development. Meanwhile, the real Great Wall separated China from the outside world. It did not promote the same introverted behavioral pattern inside the country. On the whole, Chinese culture possesses a strong sense of unity. Zhongwen and Qiaosheng (2011) support this notion by enumerating several traditional features pertaining to Chinese culture. These features include compatibility, integrity, reality and ambiguity. Thus, society inside the above mentioned “˜wall’ has been predominantly secular.

During the last 2000 years, China has been a crucial power, an empire, and this fact has a pervasive effect on its culture (Hodge & Louie, 2005). Nevertheless, it has never been a religious country, since the emperors carried a higher authority than the gods. Moreover, the emperors possessed the right to assess the significance of distinct gods and even rank them respectively. In relation to the conflicts based on religion, there were few due to the fact that China always advocated religious tolerance (Zhongwen & Qiaosheng, 2011).

Chinese culture gradually evolved while adapting to the changes that took place in its society. Each aspect has undergone a dramatic transformation in order to adjust to the modern conditions of a globalized world. Therefore, it is essential to assess various dimensions of culture with the purpose of constructing a congruent image of modern Chinese culture.

Painting and writing are closely interwoven in traditional Chinese culture. Thus, Chinese paintings inevitably incorporate the artists’ calligraphy as part of the creative process. Furthermore, Chinese culture is strongly visual and semiotically promiscuous (Hodge & Louie, 2005).

The musical system that developed in China is one of the oldest and most highly developed among all known systems. It is crucial to point out that music has always existed within the cultural context. Therefore, it has never remained static since the beginning of the world. Several new genres have emerged under the influence of other cultures. However, the preservation of traditions has also been of paramount significance (Kuiper, 2011).

Nevertheless, the forces of globalization in music and the performing arts in China are expanding at a substantial rate. In some contexts, globalization has the effect of reviving traditions, because people do not want to see their own culture swept away in a tide of globalization. Although one thing appears fairly certain, a revived tradition will be a changed tradition. Therefore, while there is a delicate maintenance and cherished approach, traditions will undoubtedly exist (Louie, 2008).

Another highly significant cultural aspect concerns gender roles within society. Taking into consideration the global women’s movement and international feminist thought, it is crucial to analyze the role of gender in modern Chinese culture. According to Louie (2008), gender may be understood as the changing, contingent and asymmetrical constructs of femininity and masculinity that are ascribed to bodies, social and cultural practices and relationships across time.

Over thousands of years, the traditional Chinese society was constituted by an essentially masculine value system. It was based on the rigid hierarchy of authority. Moreover, the male element was dominant. Therefore, the concept of the family was involved into a patriarchal system which was dominated by the older generations while the essential power was invested in the male head of the household. Meanwhile, women had no rights to property or inheritance. In terms of Confucian ethics, the women’s subservience to men was perceived as natural and proper. Furthermore, the behavioral pattern of a woman was governed by “Three Obediences”: a woman had to obey three men in her life: her father as a daughter, her husband as a wife, and her son when widowed (Davis, 2005). Women were not in any way in control of their destiny and were severely oppressed under the social and moral hierarchy of sexual relations in traditional China. A Chinese woman’s identity was defined in terms of her unquestioning obedience and deference to the authority of her husband’s household at marriage and her eternal attachment to it (Leung, 2003).

In the twenty-first century, the role of women has undergone dramatic transformations. However, the acute issue of discrimination is still not solved which is reflected in a biased employment policy. During a hiring process, a considerable preference is given to men rather than women. Moreover, women do not have an equal access to various career-enhancing resources. They receive fewer training and development opportunities, and are denied valuable positions for working overseas that are considered essential to further promotions (Granrose, 2005).

In addition, Chinese feminism faces a problem of limited and limiting perspective on female emancipation. The patriarchal gender system was reigning for centuries within society which makes it difficult for women to oppose the well-established social norms and standards (Leung, 2003).

However, modern Chinese society highly cherishes the traditional values, including harmony in relationships. In order to maintain an absolute harmony, it is highly significant to establish equality between men and women, which will be based on mutual respect and dignity.

From the above mentioned characteristics of Chinese traditional culture, it is apparent that China developed in a unique and intrinsic manner. The Great Wall served not only as a shield from the outside world, it became a symbol of country’s self-centeredness. While it allowed China to prevent crucial meddling into its cultural traditions, it also contributed towards country’s closedness. This avoidance of openness resulted in relative misunderstanding of Chinese culture on the part of the world. Furthermore, it is perceived as substantially exotic and mysterious. However, the Chinese face the difficulties in forming a correct understanding of themselves and the rest of the world.

Nevertheless, Chinese culture has now become more open, viable and inclusive. In terms of globalization, Chinese culture tends to change its pattern entirely. Although it had not faced dramatic transformations within the scope of ethnic and cultural integration, Chinese culture has remained vital due to its gradual and measured implementation of changes in accordance with new realities.

As for now, Chinese culture takes its new shape adjusting to the developments brought by globalization. The greatness of this culture lies within its ability to maintain the precarious balance between innovations and traditions. Their convergence causes a creation of a new cultural perception whereas an entire denial of its roots and history is obviously inadmissible. Therefore, the secret to a sustainable development of Chinese culture lies within its ability to absorb the new but build on the existing one. In this context, Chinese culture significantly excels among other cultures due to its rich heritage and captivating openness.

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Essays on Chinese Culture

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Chinese Culture

Chinese Culture

China is one of the Four Ancient Civilizations (alongside Babylon, India and Egypt), according to Chinese scholar Liang Qichao (1900). It boasts a vast and varied geographic expanse, 3,600 years of written history, as well as a rich and profound culture. Chinese culture is diverse and unique, yet harmoniously blended — an invaluable asset to the world.

Our China culture guide contains information divided into Traditions, Heritage, Arts, Festivals, Language, and Symbols. Topics include Chinese food, World Heritage sites, China's Spring Festival, Kungfu, and Beijing opera.

China's Traditions

China's heritage.

China's national heritage is both tangible and intangible, with natural wonders and historic sites, as well as ethnic songs and festivals included.

As of 2018, 53 noteworthy Chinese sites were inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List: 36 Cultural Heritage, 13 Natural Heritage, and 4 Cultural and Natural Heritage .

China's Performing Arts

  • Chinese Kungfu
  • Chinese Folk Dance
  • Chinese Traditional Music
  • Chinese Acrobatics
  • Beijing Opera
  • Chinese Shadow Plays
  • Chinese Puppet Plays
  • Chinese Musical Instruments

Arts and Crafts

  • Chinese Silk
  • Chinese Jade Articles
  • Ancient Chinese Furniture
  • Chinese Knots
  • Chinese Embroidery
  • Chinese Lanterns
  • Chinese Kites
  • Chinese Paper Cutting
  • Chinese Paper Umbrellas
  • Ancient Porcelain
  • Chinese Calligraphy
  • Chinese Painting
  • Chinese Cloisonné
  • Four Treasures of the Study
  • Chinese Seals

China's Festivals

China has several traditional festivals that are celebrated all over the country (in different ways). The most important is Chinese New Year, then Mid-Autumn Festival. China, with its "55 Ethnic Minorities", also has many ethnic festivals. From Tibet to Manchuria to China's tropical south, different tribes celebrate their new year, harvest, and other things, in various ways.

Learning Chinese

Chinese is reckoned to be the most difficult language in the world to learn, but that also must make it the most interesting. It's the world's only remaining pictographic language in common use, with thousands of characters making up the written language. Its pronunciation is generally one syllable per character, in one of five tones. China's rich literary culture includes many pithy sayings and beautiful poems.

Symbols of China

Every nation has its symbols, but what should you think of when it comes to China? You might conjure up images of long coiling dragons, the red flag, pandas, the Great Wall… table tennis, the list goes on…

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  • China's classic sights
  • A silent night on the Great Wall
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  • The Terracotta Amy coming alive
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  • Feed a lovely giant panda
  • Explore China's classic sights
  • Relax on a Yangtze River cruise
  • Walk on the the Great Wall.
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That's Mandarin Chinese Language School

How to Write a Chinese Essay

Dec 16, 2020 | Guest Blogs & Media

The more essays you write, the better you get at communicating with Chinese. To write a good essay, you first have to reach a high language mastery level.

Do you admire the students who write seamless Chinese essay? If you do, then you should know that you too can achieve this level of proficiency. In the meantime, don’t be afraid to pay for your essay if you cannot write it on your own. Online academic writers are a resource each student should take advantage of.

Here are tips to help you get better at writing essays in Chinese.

How to Write a Chinese Essay | That's Mandarin Blog

Learn New Chinese Words

The key to communicating in a new language is learning as many words as you can. Take it upon yourself to learn at least one Chinese word a day. Chinese words are to essay writing what bricks are to a building. The more words you have, the better you get at constructing meaningful sentences.

Case in point, if you’re going to write a Chinese sentence that constitutes ten words, but you don’t know the right way to spell three of those words, your sentence might end up not making sense.

During your Chinese learning experience, words are your arsenal and don’t forget to master the meaning of each word you learn.

Read Chinese Literature

Reading is the most effective way of learning a new language. Remember not to read for the sake of it; find out the meaning of each new word you encounter. When you are an avid reader of Chinese literature, nothing can stop you from writing fluent Chinese.

In the beginning, it might seem like you’re not making any progress, but after a while, you will notice how drastically your writing will change. Receiving information in Chinese helps your brain get accustomed to the language’s sentence patterns, and you can translate this to your essays.

Be extensive in your reading to ensure you get as much as possible out of each article. Remember that it’s not about how fast you finish an article, but rather, how much you gain from the exercise.

Translate Articles from your Native Language to Chinese

Have you ever thought about translating your favorite read to Chinese? This exercise might be tedious, but you will learn a lot from it. The art of translation allows you to seamlessly shift from one language’s sentence pattern into the other. The more you do this, the easier it will be for your brain to convert English sentences into Chinese phrases that people can comprehend.

You can always show your Chinese professor your translations for positive criticism. The more you get corrected, the better you will get at translation. Who knows, you might actually like being a translator once you graduate.

Final Thoughts

Adrian Lomezzo | Guest Author at That's Mandarin Blog

by Adrian Lomezzo

Adrian  Lomezzo is a freelance writer. Firstly, he has been developing as a content manager and working with different websites, and the main goal of his was to develop the content making it in the first place. Secondly,  Adrian  had a big desire to help students and adults in self-development in this field and teach them to improve their skills. As a lover of traveling, he did not want to be in one place, and became a writer who could be closer to everyone, and share precious information from the corners of the world.

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The Guide to Writing Your First Mandarin Essay

When you want to be able to make writing your first Mandarin essay nice and easy, it pays to put plenty of thought and effort into the preparation. As the old saying goes ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail.’ To give you plenty of food for thought we’ve put together everything you need to know to get things moving. All you need to do is work through the following steps, and you’ll be submitting your essay in no time at all.

Check you understand the basics

There are so many things you have to think about when writing an essay, particularly when it’s not in your native language. But as with any cognitively demanding task, the process for getting started is always the same. Check you understand the following basics and you’ll be heading in the right direction:

  • Do you know what the question means?
  • Have you made a note of the final submission date?
  • Make sure you read some past examples to get a feel for what’s expected of you
  • Do you understand the question that has been set?
  • Do you know who you can talk to if you need advice along the way?
  • Are there any restrictions on the dialect you should be aware of?

Once you can write the answers to the above down on a single side of the paper, you are ready to tackle the main part of the problem: putting pen to paper.

Set aside time to write

The chances are that you’re not going to be able to pen the entire essay in a single sitting, and that’s okay. It’s nothing to be ashamed of or to worry about, and it’s natural that you need to work across multiple days when writing your first essay.

If you want to be able to make great progress, the most important thing is sticking to a routine. You need to have consistency in your application, and you need to be able to know when you are at your most productive. It’s no good staying up late one night and then carrying on early the next morning. You’d be far better off writing for the same amount of time but on two successive afternoons. Think about how your studies fit in with the rest of your daily life, and then choose the time that seems most appropriate. If you box it off and decide it’s only for writing, you’ll be in a great routine before you even know it.

Clear space so you can focus

As well as having time to write each day, you need a place to write too. The world is full of distractions (most of them are digital and social) so that means you’re going to want to keep yourself to yourself, and your phone in a different room. It might seem a little boring or uncomfortable at first, but you need to practice the habit of deep work. It’s what will allow you to create the most in the shortest time — ideal if you want to have plenty of time leftover to spend doing the other things that matter to you.

Have a daily word count in mind

Telling yourself that you want to write an essay today is one thing, but if you’re really going to push yourself to stick to your goal then you need to get quantitative. If you have a word count in mind that you need to hit, then it will prevent you from giving up and throwing in the towel the minute you start having to think and concentrate more than feels normal. Just like working out in the gym, it’s the temporary moments of extra effort that really drive the big differences. It’s when you’ll see the biggest improvement in your writing ability, and the lessons you teach yourself will stay with you for years to come. Ideal if you want to become a fluent Mandarin writer, as well as an engaging face-to-face speaker.

Read widely to provide context

When you’re immersed in an essay it can be all too easy to become blinkered and fail to pay attention to everything else that’s going on around you. Of course, you want to be focused on the task at hand, but you don’t want to be single-minded to the point of ignoring other great learning resources that are just a click away.

Reading widely is one of the best ways to improve your essay writing because it exposes you to techniques and approaches used by the best of the best. You’re not expected to be able to instantly write like a native speaker after an hour of reading. But what you will be able to do with consistent application is build up confidence and familiarity with written Mandarin. Over time this will reflect on the quality and depth of your writing as you gradually improve and take onboard lessons you’ve learned.

Take a break before you proofread

Last but not least, you need to remember that essay writing is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s all about taking the time to get things written before you hand them in, not racing through to try and finish on time. If you want to get the most out of your writing you need to take a day off between finishing your draft and proofing it. That way your brain will have had plenty of time to reflect on the work you’ve produced, and you’ll be able to spot many more little mistakes and places for improvement than you would if you proofed right away.

Final Thoughts

Writing Mandarin is a challenging task that will test your language skills and make you think hard about how to apply what you’ve learned so far. It might be slow going to begin with, but that’s great as it means you’re pushing your limits and building on your existing skills. If you want to be able to master Mandarin, you need to persevere and stay the course. Once you do, you’ll start to improve a lot faster than you expect.

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By Diana Adjadj | A Super Chineasian

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Essay On Chinese Culture

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Literature , Education , Culture , Investment , China , Learning , Knowledge , Chinese Culture

Published: 03/17/2020


DI Unit Topic: Cultures around the World

Learning Contract Topic: Chinese Culture

As a result of this lesson students will know: • The various aspects that make up the Chinese culture in general. • The characteristics of Chinese culture that make it different from other cultures. • The role Chinese culture plays in enhancing unity. They will understand; • How the Chinese culture came to be. • The various ways that the Chinese people express their culture. • The avenues through which Chinese culture is passed down from one generation to the next. They will be able to; • Highlight the various aspects that define Chinese culture. • Explain the importance of culture among the Chinese people. • Elaborate on the general factors that may have influenced the various practices that manifest Chinese culture. - Study about the various political aspects of Chinese culture through heroic narratives and myths - Narrate stories about what they know on specific aspects of Chinese culture. - Watch various video tapes on certain aspects of Chinese culture especially food and clothing.


Learners will be supposed to answer an oral test on various aspects of the Chinese culture. These will entail questions on names of foods, types of cloth materials, cultural events, and rites of passage to determine their prior knowledge on the topic. Contextual factors: The learners will be grouped into streams about the knowledge they demonstrate in the pre-assessment. All the classes will have visual aids, chats and pictures that demonstrate various aspects of Chinese culture that will be used to demonstrate content. Sitting arrangement will be random, and individual differences will be catered for.

Learning Contract

Learners you are expected to choose from the following learning modes what is best for you in learning the content of this topic. Each of the options has a rubric that will be supplied to asses what you were able to learn; - Using the available textbooks read the aspects of Chinese culture that are of interest to you, and that will give you a general understanding of Chinese culture. - With two others who share your interest, narrate stories to each other that cover three aspects of Chinese culture that you will agree about. - Using the available facilities, watch a video on Chinese cultural practices and using it. - By Use of Charts on the wall make notes on what comprise the most vita aspects that define Chinese culture. - Discuss points with a friend you can find to generate information on what Chinese culture is most known for.


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The War at Stanford

I didn’t know that college would be a factory of unreason.

collage of stanford university architecture and students protesting

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ne of the section leaders for my computer-science class, Hamza El Boudali, believes that President Joe Biden should be killed. “I’m not calling for a civilian to do it, but I think a military should,” the 23-year-old Stanford University student told a small group of protesters last month. “I’d be happy if Biden was dead.” He thinks that Stanford is complicit in what he calls the genocide of Palestinians, and that Biden is not only complicit but responsible for it. “I’m not calling for a vigilante to do it,” he later clarified, “but I’m saying he is guilty of mass murder and should be treated in the same way that a terrorist with darker skin would be (and we all know terrorists with dark skin are typically bombed and drone striked by American planes).” El Boudali has also said that he believes that Hamas’s October 7 attack was a justifiable act of resistance, and that he would actually prefer Hamas rule America in place of its current government (though he clarified later that he “doesn’t mean Hamas is perfect”). When you ask him what his cause is, he answers: “Peace.”

I switched to a different computer-science section.

Israel is 7,500 miles away from Stanford’s campus, where I am a sophomore. But the Hamas invasion and the Israeli counterinvasion have fractured my university, a place typically less focused on geopolitics than on venture-capital funding for the latest dorm-based tech start-up. Few students would call for Biden’s head—I think—but many of the same young people who say they want peace in Gaza don’t seem to realize that they are in fact advocating for violence. Extremism has swept through classrooms and dorms, and it is becoming normal for students to be harassed and intimidated for their faith, heritage, or appearance—they have been called perpetrators of genocide for wearing kippahs, and accused of supporting terrorism for wearing keffiyehs. The extremism and anti-Semitism at Ivy League universities on the East Coast have attracted so much media and congressional attention that two Ivy presidents have lost their jobs. But few people seem to have noticed the culture war that has taken over our California campus.

For four months, two rival groups of protesters, separated by a narrow bike path, faced off on Stanford’s palm-covered grounds. The “Sit-In to Stop Genocide” encampment was erected by students in mid-October, even before Israeli troops had crossed into Gaza, to demand that the university divest from Israel and condemn its behavior. Posters were hung equating Hamas with Ukraine and Nelson Mandela. Across from the sit-in, a rival group of pro-Israel students eventually set up the “Blue and White Tent” to provide, as one activist put it, a “safe space” to “be a proud Jew on campus.” Soon it became the center of its own cluster of tents, with photos of Hamas’s victims sitting opposite the rubble-ridden images of Gaza and a long (and incomplete) list of the names of slain Palestinians displayed by the students at the sit-in.

Some days the dueling encampments would host only a few people each, but on a sunny weekday afternoon, there could be dozens. Most of the time, the groups tolerated each other. But not always. Students on both sides were reportedly spit on and yelled at, and had their belongings destroyed. (The perpetrators in many cases seemed to be adults who weren’t affiliated with Stanford, a security guard told me.) The university put in place round-the-clock security, but when something actually happened, no one quite knew what to do.

Conor Friedersdorf: How October 7 changed America’s free speech culture

Stanford has a policy barring overnight camping, but for months didn’t enforce it, “out of a desire to support the peaceful expression of free speech in the ways that students choose to exercise that expression”—and, the administration told alumni, because the university feared that confronting the students would only make the conflict worse. When the school finally said the tents had to go last month, enormous protests against the university administration, and against Israel, followed.

“We don’t want no two states! We want all of ’48!” students chanted, a slogan advocating that Israel be dismantled and replaced by a single Arab nation. Palestinian flags flew alongside bright “Welcome!” banners left over from new-student orientation. A young woman gave a speech that seemed to capture the sense of urgency and power that so many students here feel. “We are Stanford University!” she shouted. “We control things!”

“W e’ve had protests in the past,” Richard Saller, the university’s interim president, told me in November—about the environment, and apartheid, and Vietnam. But they didn’t pit “students against each other” the way that this conflict has.

I’ve spoken with Saller, a scholar of Roman history, a few times over the past six months in my capacity as a student journalist. We first met in September, a few weeks into his tenure. His predecessor, Marc Tessier-Lavigne, had resigned as president after my reporting for The Stanford Daily exposed misconduct in his academic research. (Tessier-Lavigne had failed to retract papers with faked data over the course of 20 years. In his resignation statement , he denied allegations of fraud and misconduct; a Stanford investigation determined that he had not personally manipulated data or ordered any manipulation but that he had repeatedly “failed to decisively and forthrightly correct mistakes” from his lab.)

In that first conversation, Saller told me that everyone was “eager to move on” from the Tessier-Lavigne scandal. He was cheerful and upbeat. He knew he wasn’t staying in the job long; he hadn’t even bothered to move into the recently vacated presidential manor. In any case, campus, at that time, was serene. Then, a week later, came October 7.

The attack was as clear a litmus test as one could imagine for the Middle East conflict. Hamas insurgents raided homes and a music festival with the goal of slaughtering as many civilians as possible. Some victims were raped and mutilated, several independent investigations found. Hundreds of hostages were taken into Gaza and many have been tortured.

This, of course, was bad. Saying this was bad does not negate or marginalize the abuses and suffering Palestinians have experienced in Gaza and elsewhere. Everyone, of every ideology, should be able to say that this was bad. But much of this campus failed that simple test.

Two days after the deadliest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust, Stanford released milquetoast statements marking the “moment of intense emotion” and declaring “deep concern” over “the crisis in Israel and Palestine.” The official statements did not use the words Hamas or violence .

The absence of a clear institutional response led some teachers to take matters into their own hands. During a mandatory freshman seminar on October 10, a lecturer named Ameer Loggins tossed out his lesson plan to tell students that the actions of the Palestinian “military force” had been justified, that Israelis were colonizers, and that the Holocaust had been overemphasized, according to interviews I conducted with students in the class. Loggins then asked the Jewish students to identify themselves. He instructed one of them to “stand up, face the window, and he kind of kicked away his chair,” a witness told me. Loggins described this as an effort to demonstrate Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. (Loggins did not reply to a request for comment; a spokesperson for Stanford said that there were “different recollections of the details regarding what happened” in the class.)

“We’re only in our third week of college, and we’re afraid to be here,” three students in the class wrote in an email that night to administrators. “This isn’t what Stanford was supposed to be.” The class Loggins taught is called COLLEGE, short for “Civic, Liberal, and Global Education,” and it is billed as an effort to develop “the skills that empower and enable us to live together.”

Loggins was suspended from teaching duties and an investigation was opened; this angered pro-Palestine activists, who organized a petition that garnered more than 1,700 signatures contesting the suspension. A pamphlet from the petitioners argued that Loggins’s behavior had not been out of bounds.

The day after the class, Stanford put out a statement written by Saller and Jenny Martinez, the university provost, more forcefully condemning the Hamas attack. Immediately, this new statement generated backlash.

Pro-Palestine activists complained about it during an event held the same day, the first of several “teach-ins” about the conflict. Students gathered in one of Stanford’s dorms to “bear witness to the struggles of decolonization.” The grievances and pain shared by Palestinian students were real. They told of discrimination and violence, of frightened family members subjected to harsh conditions. But the most raucous reaction from the crowd was in response to a young woman who said, “You ask us, do we condemn Hamas? Fuck you!” She added that she was “so proud of my resistance.”

David Palumbo-Liu, a professor of comparative literature with a focus on postcolonial studies, also spoke at the teach-in, explaining to the crowd that “European settlers” had come to “replace” Palestine’s “native population.”

Palumbo-Liu is known as an intelligent and supportive professor, and is popular among students, who call him by his initials, DPL. I wanted to ask him about his involvement in the teach-in, so we met one day in a café a few hundred feet away from the tents. I asked if he could elaborate on what he’d said at the event about Palestine’s native population. He was happy to expand: This was “one of those discussions that could go on forever. Like, who is actually native? At what point does nativism lapse, right? Well, you haven’t been native for X number of years, so …” In the end, he said, “you have two people who both feel they have a claim to the land,” and “they have to live together. Both sides have to cede something.”

The struggle at Stanford, he told me, “is to find a way in which open discussions can be had that allow people to disagree.” It’s true that Stanford has utterly failed in its efforts to encourage productive dialogue. But I still found it hard to reconcile DPL’s words with his public statements on Israel, which he’d recently said on Facebook should be “the most hated nation in the world.” He also wrote: “When Zionists say they don’t feel ‘safe’ on campus, I’ve come to see that as they no longer feel immune to criticism of Israel.” He continued: “Well as the saying goes, get used to it.”

Z ionists, and indeed Jewish students of all political beliefs, have been given good reason to fear for their safety. They’ve been followed, harassed, and called derogatory racial epithets. At least one was told he was a “dirty Jew.” At least twice, mezuzahs have been ripped from students’ doors, and swastikas have been drawn in dorms. Arab and Muslim students also face alarming threats. The computer-science section leader, El Boudali, a pro-Palestine activist, told me he felt “safe personally,” but knew others who did not: “Some people have reported feeling like they’re followed, especially women who wear the hijab.”

In a remarkably short period of time, aggression and abuse have become commonplace, an accepted part of campus activism. In January, Jewish students organized an event dedicated to ameliorating anti-Semitism. It marked one of Saller’s first public appearances in the new year. Its topic seemed uncontroversial, and I thought it would generate little backlash.

Protests began before the panel discussion even started, with activists lining the stairs leading to the auditorium. During the event they drowned out the panelists, one of whom was Israel’s special envoy for combatting anti-Semitism, by demanding a cease-fire. After participants began cycling out into the dark, things got ugly.

Activists, their faces covered by keffiyehs or medical masks, confronted attendees. “Go back to Brooklyn!” a young woman shouted at Jewish students. One protester, who emerged as the leader of the group, said that she and her compatriots would “take all of your places and ensure Israel falls.” She told attendees to get “off our fucking campus” and launched into conspiracy theories about Jews being involved in “child trafficking.” As a rabbi tried to leave the event, protesters pursued him, chanting, “There is only one solution! Intifada revolution!”

At one point, some members of the group turned on a few Stanford employees, including another rabbi, an imam, and a chaplain, telling them, “We know your names and we know where you work.” The ringleader added: “And we’ll soon find out where you live.” The religious leaders formed a protective barrier in front of the Jewish students. The rabbi and the imam appeared to be crying.

scenes from student protest; row of tents at Stanford

S aller avoided the protest by leaving through another door. Early that morning, his private residence had been vandalized. Protesters frequently tell him he “can’t hide” and shout him down. “We charge you with genocide!” they chant, demanding that Stanford divest from Israel. (When asked whether Stanford actually invested in Israel, a spokesperson replied that, beyond small exposures from passive funds that track indexes such as the S&P 500, the university’s endowment “has no direct holdings in Israeli companies, or direct holdings in defense contractors.”)

When the university finally said the protest tents had to be removed, students responded by accusing Saller of suppressing their right to free speech. This is probably the last charge he expected to face. Saller once served as provost at the University of Chicago, which is known for holding itself to a position of strict institutional neutrality so that its students can freely explore ideas for themselves. Saller has a lifelong belief in First Amendment rights. But that conviction in impartial college governance does not align with Stanford’s behavior in recent years. Despite the fact that many students seemed largely uninterested in the headlines before this year, Stanford’s administrative leadership has often taken positions on political issues and events, such as the Paris climate conference and the murder of George Floyd. After Russia invaded Ukraine, Stanford’s Hoover Tower was lit up in blue and yellow, and the school released a statement in solidarity.

Thomas Chatterton Williams: Let the activists have their loathsome rallies

When we first met, a week before October 7, I asked Saller about this. Did Stanford have a moral duty to denounce the war in Ukraine, for example, or the ethnic cleansing of Uyghur Muslims in China? “On international political issues, no,” he said. “That’s not a responsibility for the university as a whole, as an institution.”

But when Saller tried to apply his convictions on neutrality for the first time as president, dozens of faculty members condemned the response, many pro-Israel alumni were outraged, donors had private discussions about pulling funding, and an Israeli university sent an open letter to Saller and Martinez saying, “Stanford’s administration has failed us.” The initial statement had tried to make clear that the school’s policy was not Israel-specific: It noted that the university would not take a position on the turmoil in Nagorno-Karabakh (where Armenians are undergoing ethnic cleansing) either. But the message didn’t get through.

Saller had to beat an awkward retreat or risk the exact sort of public humiliation that he, as caretaker president, had presumably been hired to avoid. He came up with a compromise that landed somewhere in the middle: an unequivocal condemnation of Hamas’s “intolerable atrocities” paired with a statement making clear that Stanford would commit to institutional neutrality going forward.

“The events in Israel and Gaza this week have affected and engaged large numbers of students on our campus in ways that many other events have not,” the statement read. “This is why we feel compelled to both address the impact of these events on our campus and to explain why our general policy of not issuing statements about news events not directly connected to campus has limited the breadth of our comments thus far, and why you should not expect frequent commentary from us in the future.”

I asked Saller why he had changed tack on Israel and not on Nagorno-Karabakh. “We don’t feel as if we should be making statements on every war crime and atrocity,” he told me. This felt like a statement in and of itself.

In making such decisions, Saller works closely with Martinez, Stanford’s provost. I happened to interview her, too, a few days before October 7, not long after she’d been appointed. When I asked about her hopes for the job, she said that a “priority is ensuring an environment in which free speech and academic freedom are preserved.”

We talked about the so-called Leonard Law—a provision unique to California that requires private universities to be governed by the same First Amendment protections as public ones. This restricts what Stanford can do in terms of penalizing speech, putting it in a stricter bind than Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, or any of the other elite private institutions that have more latitude to set the standards for their campus (whether or not they have done so).

So I was surprised when, in December, the university announced that abstract calls for genocide “clearly violate Stanford’s Fundamental Standard, the code of conduct for all students at the university.” The statement was a response to the outrage following the congressional testimony of three university presidents—outrage that eventually led to the resignation of two of them, Harvard’s Claudine Gay and Penn’s Liz Magill. Gay and Magill, who had both previously held positions at Stanford, did not commit to punishing calls for the genocide of Jews.

Experts told me that Stanford’s policy is impossible to enforce—and Saller himself acknowledged as much in our March interview.

“Liz Magill is a good friend,” Saller told me, adding, “Having watched what happened at Harvard and Penn, it seemed prudent” to publicly state that Stanford rejected calls for genocide. But saying that those calls violate the code of conduct “is not the same thing as to say that we could actually punish it.”

Stanford’s leaders seem to be trying their best while adapting to the situation in real time. But the muddled messaging has created a policy of neutrality that does not feel neutral at all.

When we met back in November, I tried to get Saller to open up about his experience running an institution in turmoil. What’s it like to know that so many students seem to believe that he—a mild-mannered 71-year-old classicist who swing-dances with his anthropologist wife—is a warmonger? Saller was more candid than I expected—perhaps more candid than any prominent university president has been yet. We sat in the same conference room as we had in September. The weather hadn’t really changed. Yet I felt like I was sitting in front of a different person. He was hunched over and looked exhausted, and his voice broke when he talked about the loss of life in Gaza and Israel and “the fact that we’re caught up in it.” A capable administrator with decades of experience, Saller seemed almost at a loss. “It’s been a kind of roller coaster, to be honest.”

He said he hadn’t anticipated the deluge of the emails “blaming me for lack of moral courage.” Anything the university says seems bound to be wrong: “If I say that our position is that we grieve over the loss of innocent lives, that in itself will draw some hostile reactions.”

“I find that really difficult to navigate,” he said with a sigh.

By March, it seemed that his views had solidified. He said he knew he was “a target,” but he was not going to be pushed into issuing any more statements. The continuing crisis seems to have granted him new insight. “I am certain that whatever I say will not have any material effect on the war in Gaza.” It’s hard to argue with that.

P eople tend to blame the campus wars on two villains: dithering administrators and radical student activists. But colleges have always had dithering administrators and radical student activists. To my mind, it’s the average students who have changed.

Elite universities attract a certain kind of student: the overachieving striver who has won all the right accolades for all the right activities. Is it such a surprise that the kids who are trained in the constant pursuit of perfect scores think they have to look at the world like a series of multiple-choice questions, with clearly right or wrong answers? Or that they think they can gamify a political cause in the same way they ace a standardized test?

Everyone knows that the only reliable way to get into a school like Stanford is to be really good at looking really good. Now that they’re here, students know that one easy way to keep looking good is to side with the majority of protesters, and condemn Israel.

It’s not that there isn’t real anger and anxiety over what is happening in Gaza—there is, and justifiably so. I know that among the protesters are many people who are deeply connected to this issue. But they are not the majority. What really activates the crowds now seems less a principled devotion to Palestine or to pacifism than a desire for collective action, to fit in by embracing the fashionable cause of the moment—as if a centuries-old conflict in which both sides have stolen and killed could ever be a simple matter of right and wrong. In their haste to exhibit moral righteousness, many of the least informed protesters end up being the loudest and most uncompromising.

Today’s students grew up in the Trump era, in which violent rhetoric has become a normal part of political discourse and activism is as easy as reposting an infographic. Many young people have come to feel that being angry is enough to foment change. Furious at the world’s injustices and desperate for a simple way to express that fury, they don’t seem interested in any form of engagement more nuanced than backing a pure protagonist and denouncing an evil enemy. They don’t, always, seem that concerned with the truth.

At the protest last month to prevent the removal of the sit-in, an activist in a pink Women’s March “pussy hat” shouted that no rape was committed by Hamas on October 7. “There hasn’t been proof of these rape accusations,” a student told me in a separate conversation, criticizing the Blue and White Tent for spreading what he considered to be misinformation about sexual violence. (In March, a United Nations report found “reasonable grounds to believe that conflict-related sexual violence,” including “rape and gang rape,” occurred in multiple locations on October 7, as well as “clear and convincing information” on the “rape and sexualized torture” of hostages.) “The level of propaganda” surrounding Hamas, he told me, “is just unbelievable.”

The real story at Stanford is not about the malicious actors who endorse sexual assault and murder as forms of resistance, but about those who passively enable them because they believe their side can do no wrong. You don’t have to understand what you’re arguing for in order to argue for it. You don’t have to be able to name the river or the sea under discussion to chant “From the river to the sea.” This kind of obliviousness explains how one of my friends, a gay activist, can justify Hamas’s actions, even though it would have the two of us—an outspoken queer person and a Jewish reporter—killed in a heartbeat. A similar mentality can exist on the other side: I have heard students insist on the absolute righteousness of Israel yet seem uninterested in learning anything about what life is like in Gaza.

I’m familiar with the pull of achievement culture—after all, I’m a product of the same system. I fell in love with Stanford as a 7-year-old, lying on the floor of an East Coast library and picturing all the cool technology those West Coast geniuses were dreaming up. I cried when I was accepted; I spent the next few months scrolling through the course catalog, giddy with anticipation. I wanted to learn everything.

I learned more than I expected. Within my first week here, someone asked me: “Why are all Jews so rich?” In 2016, when Stanford’s undergraduate senate had debated a resolution against anti-Semitism, one of its members argued that the idea of “Jews controlling the media, economy, government, and other societal institutions” represented “a very valid discussion.” (He apologized, and the resolution passed.) In my dorm last year, a student discussed being Jewish and awoke the next day to swastikas and a portrait of Hitler affixed to his door.

David Frum: There is no right to bully and harass

I grew up secularly, with no strong affiliation to Jewish culture. When I found out as a teenager that some of my ancestors had hidden their identity from their children and that dozens of my relatives had died in the Holocaust (something no living member of my family had known), I felt the barest tremor of identity. After I saw so many people I know cheering after October 7, I felt something stronger stir. I know others have experienced something similar. Even a professor texted me to say that she felt Jewish in a way she never had before.

But my frustration with the conflict on campus has little to do with my own identity. Across the many conversations and hours of formal interviews I conducted for this article, I’ve encountered a persistent anti-intellectual streak. I’ve watched many of my classmates treat death so cavalierly that they can protest as a pregame to a party. Indeed, two parties at Stanford were reported to the university this fall for allegedly making people say “Fuck Israel” or “Free Palestine” to get in the door. A spokesperson for the university said it was “unable to confirm the facts of what occurred,” but that it had “met with students involved in both parties to make clear that Stanford’s nondiscrimination policy applies to parties.” As a friend emailed me not long ago: “A place that was supposed to be a sanctuary from such unreason has become a factory for it.”

Readers may be tempted to discount the conduct displayed at Stanford. After all, the thinking goes, these are privileged kids doing what they always do: embracing faux-radicalism in college before taking jobs in fintech or consulting. These students, some might say, aren’t representative of America.

And yet they are representative of something: of the conduct many of the most accomplished students in my generation have accepted as tolerable, and what that means for the future of our country. I admire activism. We need people willing to protest what they see as wrong and take on entrenched systems of repression. But we also need to read, learn, discuss, accept the existence of nuance, embrace diversity of thought, and hold our own allies to high standards. More than ever, we need universities to teach young people how to do all of this.

F or so long , Stanford’s physical standoff seemed intractable. Then, in early February, a storm swept in, and the natural world dictated its own conclusion.

Heavy rains flooded campus. For hours, the students battled to save their tents. The sit-in activists used sandbags and anything else they could find to hold back the water—at one point, David Palumbo-Liu, the professor, told me he stood in the lashing downpour to anchor one of the sit-in’s tents with his own body. When the storm hit, many of the Jewish activists had been attending a discussion on anti-Semitism. They raced back and struggled to salvage the Blue and White Tent, but it was too late—the wind had ripped it out of the ground.

The next day, the weary Jewish protesters returned to discover that their space had been taken.

A new collection of tents had been set up by El Boudali, the pro-Palestine activist, and a dozen friends. He said they were there to protest Islamophobia and to teach about Islam and jihad, and that they were a separate entity from the Sit-In to Stop Genocide, though I observed students cycling between the tents. Palestinian flags now flew from the bookstore to the quad.

Administrators told me they’d quickly informed El Boudali and his allies that the space had been reserved by the Jewish advocates, and offered to help move them to a different location. But the protesters told me they had no intention of going. (El Boudali later said that they did not take over the entire space, and would have been “happy to exist side by side, but they wanted to kick us off entirely from that lawn.”)

When it was clear that the area where they’d set up their tents would not be ceded back to the pro-Israel group willingly, Stanford changed course and decided to clear everyone out in one fell swoop. On February 8, school officials ordered all students to vacate the plaza overnight. The university was finally going to enforce its rule prohibiting people from sleeping outside on campus and requiring the removal of belongings from the plaza between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. The order cited the danger posed by the storm as a justification for changing course and, probably hoping to avoid allegations of bias, described the decision as “viewpoint-neutral.”

That didn’t work.

About a week of protests, led by the sit-in organizers, followed. Chants were chanted. More demands for a “river to the sea” solution to the Israel problem were made. A friend boasted to me about her willingness to be arrested. Stanford sent a handful of staff members, who stood near balloons left over from an event earlier in the day. They were there, one of them told me, to “make students feel supported and safe.”

In the end, Saller and Martinez agreed to talk with the leaders of the sit-in about their demands to divest the university and condemn Israel, under the proviso that the activists comply with Stanford’s anti-camping guidelines “regardless of the outcome of discussions.” Eight days after they were first instructed to leave, 120 days after setting up camp, the sit-in protesters slept in their own beds. In defiance of the university’s instructions, they left behind their tents. But sometime in the very early hours of the morning, law-enforcement officers confiscated the structures. The area was cordoned off without any violence and the plaza filled once more with electric skateboards and farmers’ markets.

The conflict continues in its own way. Saller was just shouted down by protesters chanting “No peace on stolen land” at a Family Weekend event, and protesters later displayed an effigy of him covered in blood. Students still feel tense; Saller still seems worried. He told me that the university is planning to change all manner of things—residential-assistant training, new-student orientation, even the acceptance letters that students receive—in hopes of fostering a culture of greater tolerance. But no campus edict or panel discussion can address a problem that is so much bigger than our university.

At one rally last fall, a speaker expressed disillusionment about the power of “peaceful resistance” on college campuses. “What is there left to do but to take up arms?” The crowd cheered as he said Israel must be destroyed. But what would happen to its citizens? I’d prefer to believe that most protesters chanting “Palestine is Arab” and shouting that we must “smash the Zionist settler state” don’t actually think Jews should be killed en masse. But can one truly be so ignorant as to advocate widespread violence in the name of peace?

When the world is rendered in black-and-white—portrayed as a simple fight between colonizer and colonized—the answer is yes. Solutions, by this logic, are absolute: Israel or Palestine, nothing in between. Either you support liberation of the oppressed or you support genocide. Either Stanford is all good or all bad; all in favor of free speech or all authoritarian; all anti-Semitic or all Islamophobic.

At January’s anti-anti-Semitism event, I watched an exchange between a Jewish attendee and a protester from a few feet away. “Are you pro-Palestine?” the protester asked.

“Yes,” the attendee responded, and he went on to describe his disgust with the human-rights abuses Palestinians have faced for years.

“But are you a Zionist?”

“Then we are enemies.”


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