Both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian students feel under siege on campus. Who’s right?

A pro-Palestinian student group erected a fake wall to protest against Israel on a Chicago campus. (Photo by Benjamin Stone/Flickr Creative Commons)

Last month, a report from the pro-Palestinian group Independent Jewish Voices came out, titled “Unveiling the Chilly Climate – The Suppression of Speech on Palestine in Canada.” Those cited in the report claim that the institutional adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism, otherwise known as the IHRA definition, has had a chilling effect on any open discussion of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.

At the same time, there is a mirrored feeling among some Jewish students that if they talk about ties to Israel, or refuse to condemn—let alone support—Israel’s actions, they’ll be labelled racist and colonialist.

On today’s episode of Bonjour Chai, The CJN’s weekly current affairs podcast, we’re asking: How can these two dynamics exist at once? What evidence or data do we have that might shed light on how well founded both those fears are? And does evidence really matter to the emotional reality of the students involved?

To help us unpack all this is Kenneth S. Stern, a lawyer, writer and current director of the Bard Center for the Study of Hate—who was also the lead drafter of the IHRA definition. After that, David and Ilana talk to Michele Freed of Resetting the Table about how to have less toxic conversations about Israel.


Bonjour Chai is hosted by Avi Finegold, Ilana Zackon and David Sklar. Zachary Kauffman is the producer and editor. Michael Fraiman is the executive producer. Our theme music is by Socalled. The show is a co-production from The Jewish Learning Lab and The CJN, and is distributed by The CJN Podcast Network. To learn how to support the show by subscribing to this podcast, please watch this video.