Olivia at the Rockefeller Christmas tree lighting last month.

WATCH: American Miseducation. A New Documentary from The Free Press

How did our universities become hotbeds of hate? Olivia Reingold set out to investigate.

For the last ninety years, New Yorkers have come together for the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center. But this past December, a thousand anti-Israel protesters showed up, determined to disrupt the celebratory spirit. 

“There is only one solution,” organizers shouted into megaphones, “Intifada, revolution.”

Within the hour, punches flew. I saw a cop and a protester tussle on the pavement. One man, his face shrouded in a keffiyeh, lit an NYPD hat on fire. Seven protesters, including one minor, were arrested that night. As for the families who had gathered to celebrate Christmas? Many of them were herded away by the cops to avoid the melee. 

That was one of 14 pro-Palestinian rallies I’ve attended since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7. Like the Rockefeller Christmas tree, the activists behind these events consider innocuous institutions to be their enemies: Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Cancer Center, the American Museum of Natural History, and the U.S. Holocaust Museum

They insist that their aim is to liberate Palestinians, and that they are not antisemitic. But attend enough of these demonstrations and you’ll start to see the swastikas. Some people have looked me in the eyes and said that Israelis are the new Nazis, the prime minister of Israel is the new Hitler, and Palestinians are the new Jews. Out of the scores of people I’ve spoken to, only two demonstrators told me that Israel has a right to exist. 

The word Jew is rarely uttered by these protesters. Instead, people hurl terms like Zionist, settler-colonialist, and occupier. They speak of academic theories like decolonization and intersectionality—concepts many told me they learned at elite institutions like Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania.

I decided to go to the source of these ideas: The American campus, where I spoke to scores of anti-Israel activists and dozens of Jewish college students across the country. 

I asked: How did an ideology once restricted to the ivory tower come to inspire masses of Americans chanting on behalf of Hamas and Yemeni Houthis? How did Gen Z, the most educated generation in U.S. history, become sympathetic to terrorism? And, most fundamentally, how did our colleges come to abandon the pursuit of truth in pursuit of something far darker?

The result is The Free Press’s first-ever documentary, American Miseducation.

Click below to watch, and please join the conversation in the comments.

And a quick thank you to Jack Miller Center for their partnership in making this film possible. If you care about American education and civic responsibility, you’ll want to check out their work, which focuses on reorienting our institutions of learning around America’s founding principles. 

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