University faculty take a stand against anti-Palestinian racism on campuses
The conservative front group Accuracy in Media has been driving this 'doxxing truck' around several university campuses, broadcasting the names and faces of students active in the Palestine solidarity movement. | via Accuracy in Media

NEW HAVEN, Conn.—Amidst a nationwide wave of anti-Palestinian racism on college campuses, the faculty of many universities have stepped up to demand that university administration and elected officials take steps to protect student safety and freedom of expression.

Such campaigns, including a promise by some faculty to risk arrest in order to protect students’ right to speech, have become all the more urgent as students face relentless defamation, stalking, and even violence.

On Saturday, Nov. 25, three Palestinian students—Kinnan Abdalhamid, Hisham Awartani, and Tahseen Ali Ahmad—were taking a walk near the University of Vermont’s campus in Burlington when a gunman opened fire on them, resulting in serious injuries. They had been wearing keffiyehs, a well-known symbol of Palestinian liberation, and speaking both English and Arabic. The students were staying with family over the Thanksgiving holidays, traveling from Trinity College in Connecticut, Brown University in Rhode Island, and Haverford College in Pennsylvania, respectively.

The attempted murders came after weeks of Israel’s relentless war on Gaza, which has killed at least 15,200 Palestinians. Widespread destruction, attacks on journalists, and communication outages in Gaza have made it difficult to ascertain the full extent of the genocide, but evidence of war crimes is piling up.

Palestine solidarity erupts in the crowd at the Harvard-Yale football game. | Photo via Yalies4Palestine and Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee

The dehumanization of Palestinians in Gaza has provoked a sharp rise in anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab racism in the United States.  Student groups have been raising alarms about the danger this racism poses for marginalized groups on campuses, issuing countless statements and petitions to university administration for weeks.

Rights groups like Palestine Legal say that university administrators are not taking enough action to protect their communities, putting students in danger.

Students, in particular, have been subjected to “doxxing” campaigns, which seek to reveal the identities of Palestinian students and their allies in an effort to quash their employment prospects and fuel anti-intellectual culture war narratives about the indoctrination of young people into “woke ideology” by educators.

“Universities have not only failed to respond to their students’ fears and concerns about these doxxing campaigns and the resulting avalanche of racist and threatening messages they receive,” Palestine Legal said, “they have also targeted their own students, condemned them, policed them, and subjected them to investigations and disciplinary proceedings, some of which have led to suspensions and other consequences for students’ speech activities.”

Supporters of militarism and imperialism have felt threatened by the upsurge of worldwide solidarity with the Palestinian struggle, resulting in a climate of Islamophobic alarmism that has no doubt contributed to the wave of intimidation, harassment, and physical attacks. Profiteers of the military economy in particular have taken rhetorical aim at Palestinian-Americans and their allies, often through media outlets which are discreetly funded by the ultra-rich.

One such outlet is Accuracy in Media (AIM), which describes itself as a group promoting “citizen activism” to expose so-called “media bias.” Though it poses as a media watchdog, in reality it is a conservative front group. The organization maintains an LED billboard truck, referred to as the “doxxing truck” by students, which is equipped with electronic video displays on all sides. It has been sent to drive around the campuses of multiple universities in the New England area, displaying the faces and names of students it labels as “anti-Semites.”

The students targeted are mainly people of color who are either involved in social justice organizations or cultural affinity groups, like the Muslim Students Association (MSA). In the recent past, AIM has deployed a similar truck to the University of California, Berkeley, dubbed by the press as the “Hitler truck,” on which it displayed large images of Adolf Hitler in response to a pro-BDS resolution passed on campus. According to Jewish campus organizations, many students were disturbed by the imagery, and the truck was subsequently damaged by rocks.

AIM touts itself as a grassroots non-profit organization which empowers citizens, but the vast majority of its funding comes from charities that collect money from rich donors, who then dictate where that money goes. AIM is discreet about its funding sources, but according to a database on non-profit grants, the largest contribution it received in 2021 was from the Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program.

Vanguard Charitable is a donor-advised fund that allows large donors to choose what organizations their money goes toward while allowing them to keep their identity secret. Essentially, it is a right-wing financial clearinghouse. Prior investigative reporting has shown that from 2014 to 2017, such donor-advised funds have funneled nearly $11,000,000 to hate groups.

“Ultimately, these [donor-advised fund] companies are serving as pass-throughs to hate groups,” said Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, back in 2019 in response to journalists investigating the funds.

Although AIM claims to combat media bias, it has a decidedly fringe right-wing orientation. Founded in 1969 by anti-communist agitator Reed Irvine, AIM has actively participated in the suppression of pro-peace activists throughout its history, getting its start by red-baiting journalism on the Vietnam War, including a 1986 PBS documentary.

The current AIM president, Adam Guillette, brags on the organization’s website about previously “defeating more than $370 million in tax increases.”

Due to the provocative posturing of AIM, the doxxing truck has been a particularly disturbing sight on college campuses in the Northeast. Students have attempted to block or cover its billboards to prevent names from being visible. One Columbia student is suing AIM “for violation of civil rights, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress,” after his name and image appeared on the truck.

Multiple students and organizations have raised concerns about the possibility of violence being provoked in response to such racist harassment campaigns. In mid-November, amidst posting about the doxxing truck’s visit to Yale University in anticipation for the yearly Yale-Harvard football game, Guillette posted a picture of himself at a shooting range on X (formerly Twitter), remarking that it was “practice” for potential encounters with “inclusive” individuals. He then deleted the post.

Accuracy in Media leader Adam Guillette posted this image of himself at a firing range. | via X (Twitter)

“Really feels like Harvard is just waiting for someone to get hurt at this point,” a former Editorial Chair at Harvard’s student newspaper, The Crimson, commented on X. The post came approximately a week before the attempted murders of the Palestinian students.

In response to the truck’s visits to universities and general danger to campus communities, faculty members at some institutions are standing up against intimidation towards students.

At Yale University, over 100 faculty members signed a letter decrying “vicious targeting, public shaming, and surveillance of faculty and students of color in particular.” The letter asserts the danger of the AIM truck and similar baseless accusations of anti-Semitism in particular, stating “the wrongful accusation of ‘anti-Semitism’ for any persons who question Israel’s current actions creates a climate of intimidation and harassment that is detrimental to the mission of educational institutions.”

The statement includes four promises to students as follows:

  1. We will protect your rights to free speech and nonviolent assembly on campus.

  2. If censoring and/or censoring groups try to suppress these rights, we are prepared to engage in nonviolent direct action, up to and including arrest, in order to protect you.

  3. We will amplify your voices so that your cries for justice are louder than the voices that seek to misrepresent and criminalize you.

  4. We will maintain curious, critical, open spaces for you to learn, not only in our classrooms but all around campus. 

Similar statements have been made by faculty members at other institutions, including Brown, Rutgers, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard. Haverford Faculty for Justice in Palestine (FJP), has also issued a statement in support of the students who were shot in Vermont, as well as calling for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza. The statement was additionally signed by faculty from 32 institutions, as well as many more members of the academic community who signed in solidarity.

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Renee Kraemer
Renee Kraemer

Renee Kraemer writes from Connecticut.