Arab-Israeli Journalist Yoseph Haddad, Assaulted at Columbia, Says Campus Protests Are Middle Eastern Phenomenon

Yoseph Haddad (Via Yoseph Haddad)
May 15, 2024

TEL AVIV—Arab-Israeli journalist Yoseph Haddad hates extremists, and the feeling is mutual.

While Haddad was fighting for the Israel Defense Forces in the 2006 Lebanon war, Hezbollah terrorists nearly blew off his right leg with an anti-tank missile. In August, a group of Palestinian men attacked Haddad and his family on an airplane in Dubai. And, last month at an anti-Israel rally outside Columbia University’s main entrance, a protester wearing a keffiyeh and a face covering punched him in the mouth.

"I’m not saying the anti-Israel protesters at American universities are the same as terrorists, but I am saying they are bringing the same extremist mentality from the Middle East," Haddad, 38, a reporter at Israel’s i24News and a pro-Israel activist, told the Washington Free Beacon. "I know the mentality because I’m an Arab. I know what they mean when they chant for ‘intifada.’"

In a three-hour interview at a Tel Aviv cafe on a Friday afternoon last month, Haddad said the anti-Israel protests that have roiled more than 100 universities across the United States in recent weeks are misunderstood as a feature of American democracy. In fact, according to Haddad, the protests are an anti-democratic import from the Middle East—and should be handled accordingly.

"The anti-Israel and [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions] activists behind these protests are people who are from the Middle East or whose families are from the Middle East," said Haddad, who has long been involved in opposing the BDS movement and has given talks at dozens of U.S. universities. "These people fled horrible dictatorships, but instead of embracing democracy and flourishing, they are abusing democracy for their own anti-Israel and anti-America agenda."

The protesters have occupied university campuses with tent encampments, violently taken over school buildings, clashed with police, bullied Jewish students, and advocated genocidal violence against "Zionists." The protests’ core demand is that universities divest from Israel amid its war against the Palestinian terror group Hamas, which carried out a historic bloodletting in the Jewish state on Oct. 7.

Many of the protesters are among the surging ranks of foreign students at U.S. universities, and others are outside agitators, according to students and authorities. Students for Justice in Palestine, one of the campus groups organizing the protests, has documented links to charities that the U.S. government shuttered for funding Hamas.

Haddad recalled that the crowd of protesters he confronted at Columbia’s New York City campus last month was mostly Arabic speaking, "and if I didn’t speak with them in Arabic, it wasn’t because they were locals but because they were from [non-Arabic-speaking Middle Eastern countries] Afghanistan or Pakistan."

After Haddad was assaulted, he filed a police report and canceled his planned talk with Columbia campus group Students Supporting Israel. He later identified a local Arab-American man as his assailant.

"There are no arrests and the investigation remains ongoing," the New York Police Department's deputy commissioner of public information told the Free Beacon.

Haddad argued that various Middle Eastern forces have fueled the protests: Radical anti-Israel faculty from the region indoctrinate students, and Persian Gulf regime Qatar, a key backer of Hamas, ideologically "weakens the administrations" with billions of dollars in funding.

"The people who know what's going on here are lying and brainwashing the people who don't know what's going on, and it's working," Haddad said. "Especially among the progressive extreme, it's easy for them to feel affiliated with the Palestinian cause because the pro-Palestinian groups draw the Palestinians as the victim, as the one who is oppressed by the ‘apartheid’ State of Israel."

Kyle Shideler, the director for homeland security and counterterrorism at the Center for Security Policy, a think tank in Washington, D.C., recently gave a similar analysis to Tablet magazine:

What you’re seeing is a real witches’ brew of revolutionary content interacting on campuses. … On the left-wing side, you have a broad variety of revolutionary leftists, who serve as rent-a-mobs, providing the warm bodies for whatever the leftist cause of the day is. And on the other side you have the Islamist and Palestinian networks: American Muslims for Palestine and their subsidiary Students for Justice in Palestine, CAIR, the Palestinian Youth Movement. We’re seeing a real mixture of different kinds of radical foment, and it’s all being activated at the same time.

Many university administrations have wavered in enforcing their own rules against the protesters, with Harvard University on Tuesday becoming the latest to make concessions as part of a hudna of sorts with the reprobate students.

Haddad likened such attempts at appeasement to Israel's policies toward Hamas in the years before Oct. 7.

"Part of the reason we got Oct. 7 was our weakness toward terrorism," Haddad said. "Part of the reason American universities are about to undergo total destruction is their weakness toward the protesters."

Haddad’s rhetoric once sounded overblown to some Israelis. During an April panel discussion on Israel’s left-leaning Channel 13 news, Haddad called for the IDF to immediately respond "with power" to an uptick in Palestinian violence led by Hamas. Otherwise, he warned, the country would pay a "much heavier" price in the future.

"I’m an Arab who knows this region well. I mean no disrespect to anyone here, [but] it’s time for the IDF to speak Arabic," Haddad said, using a term that refers to embracing Middle Eastern ruthlessness. "When we won’t speak this language … this postpones the end. And remember, when you postpone the end, the payment is much heavier, much heavier."

Haddad’s co-panelists objected, with the host quipping: "Violence has always solved things around here amazingly."

But Haddad continued: "Do you know what I’m hearing from people from Lebanon, from Syria, from Gaza, from the West Bank? They tell me, ‘Yoseph, Israel fell off—you’re fighting among yourselves, your army is not prepared.’ In response to [Hamas] rockets, the heaviest bombardment since the second Lebanon war, this is how you respond? Wow, great, wonderful—we will continue like this."

Haddad also raised the alarm before Oct. 7 about the Arab threat to U.S. universities. Following an April 2022 visit to a university in Santiago, Chile, home to the largest Palestinian population outside the Middle East, Haddad told Hebrew media that the fearful state of Jews on the campus was a preview of where American universities were headed.

"Jewish students, of whom there are less than a hundred, are vastly outnumbered by Palestinian students, and are routinely harassed each time tensions with Israel arise. Some former students even reported having pictures of injured Palestinians being put on their classroom desks every day," Haddad’s fiancée, Emily Schrader, wrote in a Jerusalem Post op-ed expanding on his argument.

"The problem with ignoring what’s happening in Chile … is that the same path Chilean campuses have followed over the last few years is the path that U.S. campuses are now rapidly taking. … We must stand united with Chilean Jews in the fight against anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, and we must take Chile’s situation as an example, before it gets to that point on U.S. campuses."

Already famous in Israel before Oct. 7, Haddad has since become something of a national icon. Israel’s Channel 12 news in late October aired a profile that lauded him as the closest thing the country has to an official spokesman. On Monday, Haddad served as one of the torch lighters in Israel’s national Independence Day celebration, a high honor in recognition of his public diplomacy. As he lit the flame, he shouted in Arabic, "The people of Israel live!"

During Haddad's interview with the Free Beacon, at a table on the street in south Tel Aviv, Israelis constantly interrupted to solicit selfies, handshakes, or hugs.

Yoseph Haddad, center (Andrew Tobin)

"This is what gives me the strength to continue—the unbelievable, endless support and love," Haddad said after posing for a photo with a pair of rifle-toting IDF commandos. "Israelis are grateful for what I do because I’m proud of my identity as an Arab, but I’m also proud of my identity as an Israeli, and I fight for my country."

Haddad acknowledged that his relationship with other Arab Israelis is more complicated. Last year, partly in response to death threats from the community, he started carrying a pistol whenever he left his apartment in Nazareth, the Arab city in northern Israel where he grew up.

But the Oct. 7 attack has apparently inched Arab Israelis, who comprise about one fifth of the population, closer to Haddad, who is Christian, even as Arabs and Muslims around the world have sided with Hamas. A March survey by the Israel Democracy Institute think tank found that 44 percent of Arab Israelis support the IDF, more than double the rate before the war.

"When the protesters in the United States chant, ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,' they are not helping us, and they are not helping the Palestinians," Haddad said. "What they are really calling for is total death, because I can tell you, if the Jewish people go down, they are not going down quietly."