A vigil for Israeli victims of Hamas terror was targeted by a celebratory pro-Palestinian protest at a university in the US earlier this week.
The vigil, which had about 1,000 people in attendance at the campus of Indiana University, was targeted by a crowd of around 100 anti-Israel protesters, who were celebrating, waving flags, and harassing the attendees, according to eyewitness reports.
Ruth, an immigrant to Israel who was visiting family in Indiana over the holidays, recounted her experience to the JC.
“The university Hillel and Chabad organized the vigil at the entrance to campus, and then we got word that it had been moved to somewhere else on campus. And as we were arriving we saw people, and we saw candles, and I joked that maybe it was a counter-protest.
“But as we got closer, we saw signs that send ‘end the occupation,’ and we realised that it really was a counter-protest,” she recounts.
“And we put two and two together and realised that obviously it was happening there because they’d heard about our vigil, which had been announced before their protest. So they’d obviously planned their own thing, right in the same place as the vigil.”
While walking from their car to the meeting point itself, Ruth and her family were accosted by the protesters, who were now driving in a car with the sunroof down.
“There were girls standing up out of the sunroof waving Palestinian flags and yelling in Arabic and very obviously celebrating and yelling with pride,” Ruth says.
“And they stopped in front of the entrance to campus and just stood there yelling and waving the Palestinian flag. And I was pretty incensed to see that. Because, you know, there's only one thing that they could be celebrating.”
The overarching theme of the vigil was Jewish pride, with speakers ranging from the university’s religious leadership to Israeli students who had friends serving along the Gaza border.
“I wouldn't call the vigil anti-Palestinian in any way,” Ruth says, reflecting on the content of the event. “It was pro-Israel and it was pro-Jewish, and we condemned Hamas but nobody was condemning any individual Palestinians or anything like that. It wasn’t a protest in any way. It was a vigil.
“And the whole time, the whole time we were holding it, we could hear cheers, constant cheering from down the block at the other protest. And, in my head, there's only one thing they could be cheering for,” she continues.
“If they were holding a vigil for Palestinian lives, that would be one thing, but then what would they be cheering for? So that was pretty disturbing to hear.”
Following the vigil, the attendees were again met with harassment by the counter-protesters, who, according to Ruth, had become increasingly heated.
“And as we passed by them, they were shouting, free, free Palestine, and then as we started to walk away we heard them chanting ‘From the River to the Sea,’ which isn’t surprising at all,” she says.
It was at that point that a group of Jewish students began to surround the members of the anti-Israel protest and shout over them.
“They started to shout back things like ‘f*** Hamas and f*** terrorists. It was just upsetting to see because, you know, they're cheering for the Jewish deaths.”
The altercations between the two groups lasted for some 20 minutes before campus security was called and they were forcibly separated.
Overall, Ruth explained, the incident has left the Jewish student body feeling shaken, as the anti-Israel rhetoric experienced across campuses in the US and the UK has never managed to gain much ground at Indiana University.
“Indiana University has historically been really friendly to its Jewish students and Students for Justice in Palestine hasn't managed to get a foothold,” she says. “So the campus isn't hostile is the way that a lot of a lot of American universities are.
“So seeing this in Indiana and on this particular campus, it says something. It definitely sends a message to the Jewish community.”