Western Washington University president caves to demands of Gaza campers

The violent faculty-backed Gaza camp at Western Washington University in Bellingham was finally disbanded last week.

Ari Hoffman Seattle WA
The violent faculty-backed Gaza camp at Western Washington University in Bellingham was finally disbanded last week after the university president caved to the demand of anti-Israel activists even in the face of alleged hate crimes by the campers against Jewish students. Activists and WWU president Sabah Randhawa finalized the agreement on Wednesday, and campers were given a 5 pm Thursday deadline to pack their tents and leave the lawn between Old Main and Viking Union.

The administration agreed to “meet with no more than seven students from the WWU Divest Apartheid Coalition to form a plan of action on relevant short- and long-term divestment matters,” relating to Israeli companies and companies that do business in Israel. Activists specifically called out removing foods in the dining hall such as Sabra dips, a company that was owned by a Jewish family before being sold to Pepsi and is a frequent target of the antisemitic Boycott, Divest, Sanction movement.

The administration also agreed to reevaluate relationships with study abroad programs, as activists have long sought to cut ties with universities in the Jewish state. As part of the agreement, the school’s diversity department will work on the “interpretation and use of terms, including but not limited to anti-Arab racism, sexism, anti-Blackness, anti-trans sentiment, antisemitism, etc., and how various interpretations” impact the community.

The school also pledged to offer scholarships to students from Gaza, despite the overwhelming majority of the population in the terrorist enclave still supporting Hamas, according to their own internal polling. The school also agreed not to pursue legal action or discipline against students who illegally occupied the area.

President Randhawa also agreed to issue a statement acknowledging “the harm caused by this administration to Arab and Arab American students. This email will include a statement on academic freedom that assures that members of the campus community are able to freely express their views and perspectives on international human rights issues in a safe and inclusive environment without fear of backlash when discussing topics such as Palestine.”

In the announcement of the agreement, Randhawa said that the university joins “the calls from around the world for an immediate ceasefire and a cessation to the killing of civilians, the safe return of hostages, and peace in the region.” 

He also fulfilled one of the pledges and acknowledged “that some of my past messages to the community on this issue have caused emotional harm to Palestinian, Arab and Arab American students. In particular, my recent conversations with students from WWU’s Arab Student Association have helped me realize that I misunderstood the complexity of the term Intifada and misrepresented our ASA students’ intended use of the term.”

“Intifada” means an armed uprising. Over 1,000 Israelis including Jews, Christians, and Arabs were killed during the 2000 Intifada in Israel. Randhawa concluded, “While hurting our Arab and Arab American students was never my intent, I offer my heartfelt apologies.” She did not offer apologies to Jewish students and faculty who experienced antisemitism during the encampment. Reaction to the agreement was swift, with many local Jews calling on Randhawa to resign after caving to the activists. Anti-Israel campers crowed at their success.

Since anti-Israel activists erected the encampment on the Old Main Lawn on May 14, the Gaza camp grew to over 70 people and 20 tents. Reported antisemitic incidents and vandalism have increased. The school is also investigating a possible hate crime after a Jewish student was allegedly spat on while walking past the encampment wearing a Star of David on May 17.

Outside agitators who were part of the violent encampment at the University of Washington traveled from Seattle to Bellingham to join the Gaza camp. The agreement the WWU administration made was very similar to the agreement made between campers at UW’s Gaza camp and the administration.  
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