Colleges and universities across the United States have experienced periods of highly charged anti-Israel and anti-Zionist activity since the start of the second Palestinian uprising against Israel, in September 2000. Many rallies and events, often organized or supported by radical Muslim student groups, have gone beyond legitimate criticism of Israel and have been marked by hateful attacks against Jews and the Jewish state, crossing the line into blatant anti-Semitism.
On a number of campuses, Jewish students were verbally harassed or threatened and Jewish property (such as Hillel buildings) vandalized. Many incidents grew out of anti-Israel or anti-Zionist demonstrations in which some participants expressed overt anti-Semitism. These episodes created an atmosphere of intimidation and fear among Jewish members of university communities.
Criticism of Israel by anti-Israel college activists further increased in 2003 leading up to and following the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Opposition to the U.S. war in Iraq was increasingly linked with opposition to Israel. Antiwar and anti-globalization activists on campus often attacked both Israeli and American policies in the Middle East, while the Palestinian cause was seen as a "progressive" issue on college campuses. Activists also worked to expand the campaign to encourage divestment from companies doing business with Israel and to increase the visibility of this issue in 2003.