Experts Struggle with First Amendment Rights as Anti-Israel Backlash Intensifies

( – The new documentary “Israelism” portrays the political evolution of Simone Zimmerman, raised to be a staunch Zionist, she had a complete transformation after witnessing the Israeli occupation of Gaza first-hand.

She’s a founder of IfNotNow which is an organization that opposes Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. The group is a left-leaning Jewish organization, challenging accusations of antisemitism coming from critics.

A recent showing in November came under scrutiny by university officials who refused permission to feature the film on campus. They claimed they had a concern about a “negative response on campus.” The students went ahead and showed the film regardless and now face potential punishment.

Hunter College in New York also canceled a showing of “Israelism” claiming there was too much danger of “antisemitic and divisive rhetoric.” It was rescheduled for December 5th.

The consequences of the October 7th surprise attack by Hamas included an upswelling of pro-Palestinian protests across the United States and Europe. Many of those events featured overtly anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli messaging, including positive sentiments about the attacks themselves, despite the victims being primarily civilians.

The response to that has been a condemnation from major donors to schools which were perceived as hotbeds of antisemitic sentiments. New York University and the University of California Berkeley are currently defendants in lawsuits where the plaintiffs allege the schools tolerate antisemitism.

Part of the problem is a split over the definition of antisemitism. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance defined “rejection or demonization” of Israel as antisemitic in 2016 which is a widely used standard in obvious conflict with the First Amendment.

Filmmakers for Israelism cited that there is a definite rise in antisemitic sentiments, but it was safer to allow them to be aired in public by speakers who expose themselves as such than it was to attempt to censor and control what speech is allowed.

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