Meet the Student Leader of the Group Behind the Viral Anti-Semitic Incident at George Washington University

'For every martyr that Palestine gains, another rises to take their place,' Lance Lokas said during 'Nakba Day' rally

October 26, 2023

The president of the student group that projected pro-Hamas and anti-Semitic messages onto a George Washington University library gave a speech in May glorifying Palestinian terrorist "martyrs" for making the "ultimate sacrifice" and called for violent "resistance" against Israelis, according to a video of the event.

Lance Lokas—a junior at the Washington, D.C., university—as of February served as president of the school's Students for Justice in Palestine chapter, which took credit for the Tuesday evening library stunt. Lokas made his "martyr" speech during a May "Nakba Day" rally held near the Washington Monument. Lokas during his speech glorified Palestinian "martyrs," calling their "ultimate sacrifice" a "compass guiding our work towards liberation," a video obtained by the Middle East Media Research Institute shows. Lokas also defended Palestinian "resistance" in "all its forms" and criticized those who condemn terrorism against Israel.

"The more the Zionists try to extinguish the fire of resistance, the brighter it will grow. For every martyr that Palestine gains, another rises to take their place," Lokas said. "To condemn Palestinian resistance is to demand that the Palestinian people submit passively to the daily violence of colonialism. It is a call to lie down and accept death."

Lokas's anti-Semitic speech came months before the activist's Students for Justice in Palestine chapter projected pro-Hamas images onto the George Washington University library. The images included messages such as "Glory to our martyrs," "Divestment from Zionist genocide now," and "Free Palestine from the river to the sea," a phrase that calls for the Jewish state's eradication.

Students for Justice in Palestine took credit for the Tuesday evening demonstration in anonymous comments made to the GW Hatchet. University students told the Washington Free Beacon that Lokas was one of the four demonstrators who projected the messages.

Neither Lokas nor George Washington University returned requests for comment. While George Washington University police eventually shut down Students for Justice in Palestine's anti-Semitic library demonstration, it took more than two hours to do so. The university on Wednesday released a statement that called the display "unauthorized" and said it "in no way reflects the views of the university."

Seven members of Congress who attended George Washington University, however, did not find that response convincing. Those members, including Reps. Andrew Garbarino (R., N.Y.) and Jared Moskowitz (D., Fla.), sent a letter to university president Ellen Granberg calling on the school to "make clear to its student body that this despicable behavior won't be tolerated."

As of Wednesday morning, a profile photo on Lokas's Instagram showed the activist wearing the same hat he sported during the "Nakba Day" rally. Later in the day, Lokas removed that photo from his profile. By Wednesday afternoon, Lokas removed his account from the platform altogether.

Lokas in a December 2022 statement identified himself as a "mixed-race and Arab student at [George Washington University] majoring in Photojournalism" who has "been involved in organizing against all forms of imperialism and colonialism" through Students for Justice in Palestine.

"The ongoing colonization of Palestine is a matter of great importance to me," Lokas said. Seventy-four "years of exile from the homeland, the ethnic cleansing of our people, the continued violent campaign of indigenous land theft, the endlessly and unforgivably long and growing list of our martyrs: these issues and the suffering of our people weigh heavily on my mind and my heart each and every day."

"It is because of this that I joined [Students for Justice in Palestine] and this year I took on the role of [the group's] president, which is a position I hold with pride," Lokas went on.

Following Hamas's Oct. 7 terrorist rampage against Israel, Lokas's group issued a statement standing "in full support of the liberation of our homeland and our people's right to resist the violent 75-year-long colonization of our homeland by any means necessary." The statement went on to argue that "every Palestinian is a civilian even if they hold arms," while every Israeli "is an aggressor, a soldier, and an occupier even if they are lounging on our occupied beaches."

"GWU Students for Justice in Palestine maintains unwavering support for our people's resistance, in all its forms," the statement said, echoing Lokas's May speech. "Every act of resistance moves us closer to the liberation of our homeland."

The "Nakba Day" rally that featured Lokas as a speaker was organized by American Muslims for Palestine, the Palestinian Youth Movement, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, among other anti-Israel and anti-Semitic groups. American Muslims for Palestine has ties to Hamas—board member Salah Sarsour in the late 1990s played a direct role in fundraising for the terror group, according to an FBI memorandum.

Following the Tuesday library demonstration, some congressional Republicans argued that George Washington University should expel the perpetrators. Utah senator Mike Lee, for example, said the students responsible for the display should be "severely punished."

"These are genocidal messages displayed on a building at George Washington University," Lee said. "Genocide isn't hip, cute, or in any way acceptable. GWU—do the right thing NOW!"