‘Run by the Mob’: How Anti-Semites Took Over Stanford’s Campus

Jewish students say they have been harassed and threatened as anti-Semitic protesters camp out on campus green

Pro-Palestinian protestors occupy Stanford's White Plaza
February 16, 2024

On January 24, Stanford University held a forum on combating anti-Semitism. The event, which featured Stanford president Richard Saller and provost Jenny Martinez, was meant to reassure Jewish students that the university had their back amid the wave of anti-Semitism sweeping college campuses.

"We really do want to make sure that all of the communities on campus get the respect that they deserve," Saller told the forum. "We’re committed to equal treatment and equal protection."

The events that transpired that night undercut that message. By the end of the evening, protesters had physically threatened Jewish students, harassed a rabbi, and told employees of the elite university that they would "find out where you live."

David Schuller, 24, a yarmulke-wearing graduate student in Stanford’s physics department, found himself surrounded by a mob of hecklers when he approached a protest outside the forum.

"The IDF killed your hostages," the mob chanted at Schuller, according to videos of the incident obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, which show police standing by as the encounter unfolds. One protester can be seen taking the visibly Jewish student aside and whispering what Schuller described as a threat in his ear.

"He told me, ‘Watch it man, we’re watching you. You better know what you’re getting into,’" Schuller told the Free Beacon. "I had to take a couple steps back and tell the cops he threatened physical violence."

Another confrontation took place on a nearby quad where, in a video that has since gone viral, protesters told Jewish students to "go back to Brooklyn," called white people "terrorists," and promised to destroy Israel and America.

As administrators tried to keep order, some protesters began issuing threats.

"Stanford employees, we know your names and we know where you work," one protester said, according to a new video exclusively obtained by the Free Beacon.

"And we will soon find out where you live," another chimed in.

Other protesters followed people exiting the forum, which took place on the second floor of a large campus building, and pursued them down a flight of stairs, chanting "shame" and brandishing signs in their faces.

Among those targeted was Stanford Chabad Rabbi Dov Greenberg, according to videos obtained by the Free Beacon, who can be seen leading students away from the event with hecklers in tow.

"There is only one solution: Intifada revolution," the protesters chanted at the rabbi. "Zionist, Zionist, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide."

The Washington Free Beacon could not identify the protesters in the videos, who were a mix of Stanford students and members of the surrounding community, according to people who attended the forum.

A university spokeswoman, Dee Mostofi, said that Stanford had been unable to make any positive identifications, adding that "they likely came from outside our community."

The videos, most of which have not been previously reported, paint a picture of a campus in chaos where Jews are subject to physical intimidation and administrators have ceded control to agitators, standing by as keffiyeh-clad mobs rampage through the school. And according to people who have witnessed the mayhem firsthand, that night of protest was just the tip of the iceberg.

Students have called on their peers to "take up arms" and vandalized pro-Israel signage. Classes have been disrupted, buildings defaced, and campus quads commandeered.

Posters promoting the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement were strewn around the room where Ari Kelman—a Stanford professor who has argued that concern about campus anti-Semitism is overblown—taught a fall-semester course called "Understanding Jews." No posters appeared in the adjacent classrooms, a student in the course said, suggesting Kelman’s class was targeted due to its subject matter.

Pro-Palestinian students have camped out overnight in the middle of campus and refused administrators’ orders to pack up and leave. And Jewish students have been harassed by the very instructors who grade their work.

In one particularly shocking incident, Hamza El Boudali, a teaching assistant for an introductory computer science class, approached Stanford’s Blue and White Tent, a pro-Israel display manned by Jewish students, with a sign that read "Ask Me About Jihad," according to audio and video reviewed by the Free Beacon.

When students confronted El Boudali, he told them he would welcome the assassination of President Joe Biden and said that Hamas would be preferable to the current U.S government.

The Jewish students—one of whom is in the computer science course El Boudali grades—asked him how he thought Jews would fare in a Hamas-occupied America.

"Very well," El Boudali replied. "Just like the hostages."

The student in El Boudali’s class, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, said that the university was told about the encounter in an informal meeting, but declined to strip El Boudali of grading duties, citing a policy that lets students request a regrade of their work by a different instructor. The school did move El Boudali’s office hours to Zoom after the incident, the student said.

"Stanford takes accusations about potential discriminatory behavior by instructors very seriously," Mostofi, the university spokeswoman, wrote in an email to the Free Beacon. "Immediate steps are taken to ensure the integrity of teaching and grading."

El Boudali confirmed that the encounter took place but claimed it had been misconstrued.

"For months, the Blue and White Tent has been presenting Islamophobic rhetoric and misinformation to the campus community," he told the Free Beacon. "As a Muslim student who has been here for over 5 years, I took it upon myself to combat their Islamophobia through education."

Experts said the scope and severity of the incidents—verified through video recordings, social media posts, WhatsApp messages, and other materials reviewed by the Free Beacon—could be grounds for a discrimination lawsuit and warranted an investigation. They also stressed that threats and intimidation are not protected by the First Amendment, which applies even to private universities under California law.

Nadine Strossen, the former president of the American Civil Liberties Union, a self-described "free speech absolutist" who has argued that universities should permit calls for the genocide of Jews, said the protesters at the Jan. 24 forum "clearly crossed the line into unprotected harassment and threats."

The conduct "makes it impossible for everyone on campus to have true free speech," said Strossen, who reviewed descriptions of the incidents provided by the Free Beacon. Statements that are allowed in public spaces, she added—such as "the IDF killed your hostages"—can become unlawful when targeted at an individual or paired with threatening behavior.

"The context of the speech matters," said Ilya Shapiro, the director of constitutional studies at the Manhattan Institute, who, like Strossen, has argued that universities should not punish expressions of hate. It is one thing for a student to call for a Hamas caliphate, Shapiro said. It is quite another for a teaching assistant to do the same thing in front of a Jewish student he is grading.

"The grading responsibility strengthens the case that El Boudali’s comments contributed to a hostile educational environment," Shapiro told the Free Beacon. "It’s prima facie evidence of bias."

The comments came after another instructor, Ameer Hasan Loggins, allegedly told Jewish students in October to stand in the corner "like Israel does to the Palestinians."

Other remarks may not be legally actionable but speak to the climate on the elite Palo Alto campus, which has not seen the same level of media scrutiny or donor ferment as some of its East Coast counterparts.

In an Oct. 20 rally that drew hundreds of people and was captured on video, one student, who described himself as an "anti-Zionist Jew," called on his peers to "take up arms" against the "fascism in our communities," eliciting cheers from the crowd.

"On college campuses, including this one, peaceful resistance is met with doxxing, harassment, and intimidation campaigns which endanger Palestinian life," said the student, whom the Free Beacon could not identify. "What is there left to do but take up arms?"

While the militant rhetoric hasn’t yet translated into violence, disruption and disorder are now endemic on campus—emboldened, students say, by Stanford’s unwillingness to enforce its own policies governing student protests.

The university bans behavior that "interrupt[s] instructional activities," including "protest speeches before class begins." That hasn’t stopped students from marching through academic buildings, hijacking lecture podiums, and, according to one video, belting out a pro-Gaza rap from the front of a classroom.

The university does not appear to have sanctioned those students, said Kevin Feigelis, a Ph.D. student in physics and the founder of Stanford’s Blue and White Tent. The disruptions have become so routine that Stanford Sit-In to Stop Genocide, an unofficial student group, created a supercut of them and posted it on Instagram.

Set to Middle Eastern music, the supercut also includes a clip of the encounter with Schuller, promoting it as a protest action.

"Stanford is officially run by the mob," Feigelis said. "They cannot control their students."

Mostofi, the university spokeswoman, said the school has communicated to students that disturbing class is "unacceptable" and "subject to a disciplinary process." She declined to say whether any of the students captured in the videos had been disciplined.

A major site of tension has been White Plaza, an outdoor event space at the heart of campus, where students affiliated with the Sit-In to Stop Genocide have their own canopy across from the Blue and White Tent and have been camping out overnight since October.

The encampment’s proximity has created fertile ground for mischief. One member of the sit-in, Stanford masters student Abi Lopez, broke into the Blue and White Tent in January and attempted to vandalize it with scissors, according to a complaint Feigelis filed with the university, while another student, who could not be identified, stole a sign from the tent in December, per videos reviewed by the Free Beacon. Lopez did not respond to a request for comment.

The harassment escalated into a full blown turf war this month after a storm knocked over the Blue and White Tent. Before it could be rebuilt, members of the sit-in, including El Boudali, occupied the space where the Blue and White Tent had stood—for which the pro-Israel students had a permit—and set up a new "Stop Islamophobia" sit-in in its place.

The encroachment set in motion a chain of events that has raised concerns about discriminatory treatment and the uneven enforcement of campus rules.

Stanford told the occupying students on Feb. 5 that they needed to vacate the area set aside for the Blue and White Tent, which, because of the intrusion, could only be partially rebuilt. When they had not done so by Feb. 8, the university announced that both groups would have to pack up their displays and leave White Plaza by 8:00 PM each day, citing "concerns for the physical safety of our community."

Though the Blue and White Tent complied, the sit-in did not. Instead it doubled down on its nocturnal activities, hosting large late-night rallies and camping out around the clock, according to footage, images, and social media posts reviewed by the Free Beacon.

Rather than call security and clear them out, Stanford spent almost a week negotiating with the pro-Palestinian students, at one point promising not to discipline them "while we are in good faith discussions about the departure of the Sit-In," according to emails from Stanford’s student affairs office.

The result, Feigelis wrote in a Feb. 10 letter to school leaders, was "differential enforcement of University policy in a discriminatory manner."

"The University has become a hostile environment to certain students, faculty and staff precisely because of the University’s selective failure to enforce its own directives in a manner that privileges one group of students over others," Feigelis argued. That selectivity "suggests content-based discrimination and raises multiple additional forms of legal exposure."

The school had given the sit-in until Monday evening to disassemble its overnight encampment. After leaders of the sit-in refused, Stanford extended the deadline, telling students they would not be punished as long as they dispersed by Friday evening—more than a week after the ban on overnight protest.

On Tuesday the university announced that the sit-in had agreed to vacate White Plaza at the end of the week in exchange for meetings with the administration. Those meetings will focus on the protesters’ demands, which include divestment from the state of Israel and a round trip to Gaza covered by the university, so that students can "visit their family and friends and grieve properly."

If the meetings don’t go well, the sit-in has promised to resume its occupation of White Plaza.

"Should the President and Provost fail to make significant progress towards our demands, we will mobilize again, as we have done for 117 days without pause," the group wrote on Instagram.  "Our ultimate commitment is not to the physical space of the Sit-In but to the fight for Palestinian liberation."

As of this writing, the students are still camped out.