'Free Palestine?' Or just 'Hate America'?

As protestors swarm our country’s top universities, their qualms about Israel’s military actions in Gaza have faded behind a deeper anti-Americanism that is finally showing its true colors.

For example, on the evening of April 19, the American flag that waves above Yale’s World War I memorial was yanked down, eliciting widespread cheers from the protesting crowd. Across the country, demands to “free Palestine” have turned into calls for “universal liberation.”

What started as criticisms of the Israeli government have turned into an all-encompassing movement (self-branded as “anti-colonial”) aimed at America’s core institutions and its very existence as a nation.

As co-presidents of Yale’s Alexander Hamilton Society chapter, which advocates for strong American global leadership, we have faced many challenges from fellow students. But never did we expect to see signs in the center of campus claiming that “the United States of AmeriKKKa is a death country” or activists urging listeners to “dismantle the f— out of everything.”

The protests afflicting Yale and many of its peer institutions are permeated by a totalizing, illiberal ideology that demonizes America while demanding that everyone contribute to “liberation.” They urge a complete tear-down of all of our systems.

They hold that American military and law enforcement agencies are forces of evil. As they chalked on the ground during a recent demonstration, the Israel Defense Forces, the Ku Klux Klan and the Yale Police Department “are all the same.” More troubling, they see our democracy and free market not as guarantors of liberty and drivers of innovation, but as the authors of ongoing oppression.

Simply put, these protesters believe that America is fundamentally a bad country, leaving a negative net impact on the world.

Where do these ideas come from? One source is — not coincidentally — university faculty. In the academic buildings that surround the tent cities proliferating across college campuses, professors are teaching students that the U.S. government acts as a force of exploitation rather than liberty. They teach that “decolonization,” broadly defined, requires and justifies violence.

These ideas have gradually become dominant on our campus and others nationwide. The universities have enabled this by hiring, promoting and celebrating professors who cast aside longstanding pedagogical traditions of open debate and critical thinking in favor of an intellectual monoculture.

Today’s college classroom is an echo chamber where conformity is rewarded, ideological diversity is shunned or punished, and America is demonized, all under the guise of promoting diversity, equity and inclusion.

The war in Gaza is only the precipitating event that brought out this long-nurtured anti-Americanism in U.S. academia. Had Hamas not attacked on October 7, and had Israel not responded, some other event would have triggered these campus demonstrations of self-targeted hatred.

By amplifying our universities’ lack of ideological diversity, social media has added fuel to the fire. Just as Osama bin Laden’s letter made the rounds on TikTok last November, students continue to circulate appeals to dismantle America’s core institutions online amongst their classmates. Our adversaries are watching with delight as TikTok’s algorithms promote such divisive and anti-American content.

These trends distinguish today’s protests from past instances of civil disobedience, such as the anti-Vietnam War movement, to which many of our colleagues have been drawing comparisons. Protesters then agreed that America as a concept was worth fighting for, but disagreed with its military policy. Today, we are surrounded by messages that America itself is problematic and should cease to exist.

As a result, we are projecting a divided image abroad. We are the only country in the world that has seen its top educational institutions consumed by protests against our national system and society in such a way. On some campuses, demonstrations have turned violent.


When a nation’s youth stop believing in their country, it bodes poorly for its future. We are living through such a precarious moment. Increasingly, these protests are not about Gaza; they are about America.

Our Gen Z colleagues do not realize what the world would look like without the United States. To combat today’s major threats to freedom and stability, the world needs American leadership. Today’s protests aim to tear that down, just like they did with Yale’s American flag.

Abe Baker-Butler is president of American Jewish Committee’s Campus Global Board. Axel de Vernou is a research assistant at the Yorktown Institute. Both are students at Yale.

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