Do Something

Help victims of this war

One Family Together is an Israeli organization providing assistance to victims of terror attacks, with financial and legal assistance, mental health services, support groups, and healing camps for the young.

Magen David Adom, Israel’s version of the Red Cross, is peopled by 26,000 volunteers and provides much of the country’s national emergency medical services. 

World Food Program USA is collecting donations to get much-needed food aid into Gaza and the West Bank.

The International Committee of the Red Cross is donating medical supplies to Gaza and is working with authorities to help identify the missing. They are also partnered with Magen David Adom and the Palestine Red Crescent Society to help the wounded and sick.


Be a Better Philadelphia Citizen

Here's how

One of the founding tenets of The Philadelphia Citizen is to get people the resources they need to become better, more engaged citizens of their city.

We hope to do that in our Good Citizenship Toolkit, which includes a host of ways to get involved in Philadelphia — whether you want to contact your City Councilmember about the challenges facing your community, get those experiencing homelessness the goods they need, or simply go out to dinner somewhere where you know your money is going toward a greater good.

Find an issue that’s important to you in the list below, and get started on your journey of A-plus citizenship.

Vote and strengthen democracy

Stand up for marginalized communities

Create a cleaner, greener Philadelphia

Help our local youth and schools succeed

Support local businesses

A Concerned Citizen Responds on Campus Protests

Citizen Co-founder Larry Platt’s column last week on the Penn protests sparked a lot of reaction. Here, one reader’s email in response, and their subsequent civil back and forth

A Concerned Citizen Responds on Campus Protests

Citizen Co-founder Larry Platt’s column last week on the Penn protests sparked a lot of reaction. Here, one reader’s email in response, and their subsequent civil back and forth


Your latest column relies on premises that barely withstand five seconds of critical thinking. I’m concerned for you, and for the media and current national political environment that undermines independent thought to the extent that adults can proudly write and publish pieces like yours.

I will be specific.

First, “a clash between civilization and barbarism” — wait, what did I just read? “Civilization” is what’s filling mass graves full of women & children in Gaza? Did I wake up in Oppositeland?! But no, you protest: the dead women and children (who, even by Israeli accounts, make up the vast majority of the deaths in Gaza) are a tragic “necessity” for the defense of “civilization” (Israel). Which brings us to the root fallacy underpinning this whole thing: Not a single person has presented a convincing argument that killing tens of thousands of innocent civilians in Gaza is necessary or even beneficial to Israel’s continued freedom and security.

In fact, we have reliable evidence that the attacks of October 7 would have been 100 percent prevented if Israeli military leaders had not completely ignored their own intelligence and developed an arrogant (and probably prejudiced) underestimation of their enemy. The binary between massacring Gazans on the one hand, and allowing Israelis to be murdered on the other, is a completely false choice. (To the contrary, the former may actually ensure the latter: the U.S.’s own Director of National Intelligence made clear that she expects a “generational” increase in anti-Israeli terrorism to result from this “war.”) The real choice faced by the IDF was (and is) between massacring Gazans on the one hand, and maintaining military discipline and taking Hamas seriously on the other. We know that the latter alone would have protected the Israeli people on October 7, and we have every reason to believe that it would continue to be effective going forward. The fact that Israel has chosen to massacre Gazans instead — because it is easier, or because Israelis are angry, or because this is what an increasingly vocally right-wing and ultra-nationalist cabinet has hoped for all along: that is the true barbarism.

Second, the idea that a group’s most extreme members speak for or are somehow representative of the whole is an error of attribution at best, intellectual dishonesty at worst. A group’s elected leaders or majority represent the group — no one else. If we were to hold every group to the standard of their worst members — a standard that is repeatedly trotted out by the American right to condemn left-wing protests specifically — then no one would be safe: Catholics would be child rapists, U.S. soldiers would be war criminals, and Republicans would be anti-democratic fascists. (Oh wait. As a group, they did overwhelmingly re-nominate the Election-Overturner-in-Chief. I guess this is a good example of the distinction between justified and unjustified attribution.) Worrying, troubling, violent disgrace all around.

It gets worse, though: Despite the ubiquity of cell phone videos and the widespread nature of these protests (over 100 campuses around the country and counting), your op-ed scrapes the bottom of the source barrel for evidence like uncorroborated claims published in the tabloid-adjacent New York Post as some of your (presumably) best examples of protestors showing their “pro-Hamas” colors… then immediately goes on to cite as evidence a specific group’s failure to mention Hamas at all as “telling” evidence of the same. (Again: Oppositeland?!) To anyone with the slightest capability for critical thinking, these accusations read as either insanely weak, or just plain insane.

Third and finally, let’s talk about the oft-repeated idiocy that protestors must condemn Hamas as a precondition for the legitimacy of their protest. The fundamental “why” of protest in this country is — and always has been — to get our own government to change course. This is the reason for the freedom of assembly and petition for redress enshrined in the First Amendment. U.S. citizens have exactly zero influence over what Hamas does. What we do have influence over is our government’s ongoing provision of military, financial, and political aid to a military government that is currently perpetrating genocide: Israel. There is, therefore, only one appropriate call to action we can make in the face of the ongoing atrocities in Gaza. Put simply: Our country needs to stop making the guns, bombs, and missiles that we know are going to be used to kill women and children in Gaza. It’s really not that complicated. The fact that you are waiting for protestors to condemn Hamas before you’re willing to hear them state this simple truth says much more about you than it does about them.

– A Concerned Philadelphia Citizen

[Ed. note: The reader asked to remain anonymous.]

Hey Concerned,

Thank you for your thoughtful note regarding my column last week. I think we’re actually in more agreement than you suspect, at least on a couple of fronts. Just a couple of responses:

First, the “clash between civilization and barbarism” I refer to is not in reference to Israel and Gaza, where, you are correct, barbarity is on display. It’s a reference to the global illiberal war waged on freedom and modernity by religious zealots and autocrats — from Al Qaeda to Putin in Ukraine. There were no college protests in 2001 cheering for Osama Bin Laden to fly planes into buildings or for Putin to blow up apartment buildings in Kyiv.

As I wrote, a segment of the protesters (some percentage of whom are not even students) have morphed from anti-war to pro-Hamas. That’s not only a morally untenable place to be, it’s also practically dicey if the goal is to save actual Palestinians, who have been essentially held hostage by Hamas for nearly two decades of cruel rule. (Ever since, ironically enough, Israel gave back 9,000 Gazan settlements in 2005). That’s why two-thirds of Gazans don’t support Hamas, and why Hamas has not stood for election since coming to power some two decades ago.

You make a good case for the Israeli government’s complicity, and I would even take it further. Netanyahu’s literal propping up of Hamas for his own political benefit, for example, comes to mind. As Jimmy Carter warned in 2006, Israel’s apartheid-like behavior in the West Bank jeopardizes its moral standing in the world; I have a tough time getting past the settlements, which have all but eliminated the possibility of a two-state solution. Moreover, I’ve taken on the bullying Jewish donors of Ivy League schools who are seeking to use their muscle to silence campus dissent. But what keeps getting lost in all the tumult is that October 7 was not about occupation. We should take Hamas at its word. Theirs is a holy war.

That’s why it matters, morally, who you get in bed with if you’re a progressive. Do you want to be aligned with Students for Justice in Palestine, which cheered the rapes and massacres of Oct. 7, which has within its leadership numerous figures with direct ties to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and which called the murderous acts of October 7 a “historic win for the Palestinian resistance” and boasted that “Gaza broke out of prison”? If so, you’re not only on morally shaky ground, you’re also not likely to persuade your fellow Americans to your point of view. 76 percent of Americans are opposing the campus protests right now, because groups like SJP are not made up of anti-war human rights activists rightly deploring what is happening in Gaza; they are, instead, essentially arms of Hamas. Being pro-Palestine and anti-war is one thing; being pro-Hamas is quite another.

Did you see that photo Jewish Voice for Peace recently posted of a crowd of Houthis in support of the campus protesters (who have been chanting “Yemen, Yemen, make us proud / Turn another ship around”)? If you look closely, you can see they’re carrying a poster of the Houthi slogan: God is Great, Death to America, A Curse Upon the Jews, Victory to Islam. This is not a group that any progressive activist should support, or even be neutral on. And that’s why the “bad apples” argument falls flat. At some point, a tipping point is struck. After the execution of George Floyd, I argued that enough evidence was in plain sight to warrant retiring the bad apples excuse. Clearly a culture had taken hold in policing. Similarly, enough evidence exists to suggest that, despite the presence at protests of well-meaning justice seekers like yourself, there exists in plain sight (and auditory apprehension) a movement’s shift towards aligning with terrorists — which, again, does not excuse Israel’s barbaric response. (But it is a response.)

Finally, where we strenuously disagree, and I think this gets to the heart of the matter, is in your contention that “It’s really not that complicated.” Seems to me these issues are super complex, which is why they’re so intractable. And they thus require an army of the well-intentioned, coming together in good faith. I don’t proclaim myself either a liberal or conservative; I don’t even know what those terms mean anymore. I’m interested in holding up to inspection ideas that can lead to peace and progress — and I grant you the respect of assuming that you share that starting point. Which is why I’m so grateful that you reached out to share your perspective. Thank you.

Best, LP

Hi Larry,

Thanks for your response.

I’ve been thinking about your concept of a “tipping point” where we can say a problem is systemic, and in particular your comparison to police brutality. I’ve also been thinking about the fear and dislike of immigrants on the part of Americans who watch Fox News.

Our brains are hardwired to function on impressions formed from a series of anecdotes. This is why brands focus on “recognition” or “awareness,” and advertisers know that exposing you (even briefly) to the same product four times makes you much more likely to buy it. Politically, anecdotes rule our perceptions as well. For example, while study after study have shown that immigrants (especially undocumented immigrants) commit crimes (including violent crimes) at a much lower rate than the U.S.-born citizen population, people who watch Fox News are much more likely to view immigrants as harmful, dangerous, unable to assimilate, etc., because they’re bombarded by repeated anecdotes of immigrants doing bad things. This is just one of the many reasons why liberals thought that Trump’s “they’re not sending their best” speech would be the end of his campaign, but instead, Republicans ate it right up.

I think the key question is this: Are the anecdotes underlying your perceptions just the tip of the iceberg, or are they all that there is to see (and more)?

Part of my (and, I assume, your) understanding of police brutality is the realization that we only ever see the highest-profile incidents: incidents that happened in public, in broad daylight, and are filmed. The backdrop to any Mike Brown or George Floyd remains the over 1,000 Americans killed by police every year, the entire communities (think Ferguson) crying out with one voice about over-policing and extractive policing (later well documented by federal investigations), Black people receiving disparate treatment at every stage of the justice system from arrest to sentencing, revelations from prosecutors around the country that they maintain lists of unreliable police witnesses who will never be called to testify because they have perjured themselves repeatedly on the stand … And of course the many instances of brutality that as reasonable people we must assume were never brought to light due to fear or lack of evidence or hostility on the part of the local justice system. I think we’d probably both agree that cops who wantonly torture civilians do it because they know that others have gotten away with it, and they think they can too.

On the other hand, looking at pro-Palestine protests, the anecdotes of extremism are not the tip of the iceberg; they’re the entire iceberg. (In fact, as exemplified in the false New York Post’s “veterans displacing immigrants” story that I linked to above, I’d be willing to wager good money that some of what you’re seeing is more than the iceberg: In the backdrop of physical attacks, doxxing, and propaganda on the part of counter-protestors, taking thinly sourced anecdotes from places like the NY Post at face value is probably a mistake.) Every single thing that the protestors do right now (or, yes, post on social media) is being done in the open, with dozens of cell phone cameras (or the entire internet) present to watch. There are pro-Israel bloggers, journalists, commenters, and even entire outlets that are dedicating themselves to undermining the case for a Gaza ceasefire and the groups promoting it. What you see is all there is.

So, yes, there are extremists in the mix. It would be pretty surprising if it were otherwise. Protests are messy, and open. They aren’t invite-only affairs; no one performs a background check on each participant. Sometimes you don’t even know who’s going to bring a megaphone.

Official platform posts definitely deserve to be taken more seriously. To your points: I have serious misgivings about Students for Justice in Palestine; on the other hand, I question whether it makes (moral or practical) sense to try to bar a group from a protest because the U.S. government, probably relying on Israeli intelligence sources, has found that one of the board members of one of its funders has ties to a terrorist organization. The fact that someone who runs JVP posted a photo of Arabs holding a banner showing solidarity with U.S. student protests in English, with a Houthi “death to America” slogan in Arabic in the background, only shows ignorance on the part of one person; that JVP later deleted it is a good indication that they realized it wasn’t something that represented their views. If you’re reading nefariousness into JVP as a group or the protests as a whole because of these incidents, then I’d encourage you to ask yourself where you think the rest of the iceberg is hiding.

All that being said, what makes your original piece obviously misguided is the framing that somehow the extremists are running the show. You start by saying that “instead of” debate, there is “hate and defacement.” This is provably false: There is robust debate, and while I’ll wager that your media diet has shown you most every instance of “hate and defacement” at the 100+ college campus protests already, it’s clear to me that you haven’t even begun to read or hear the many, many thoughtful and morally-grounded arguments that students are making on the awful situation in Gaza. I’ll also point out again, since you dodged the point in my first email, that your entire reasoning for calling another group (AAUP) was “pro-Hamas” was their failure to mention Hamas in their brief statement about treating student protestors with respect — about the thinnest justification for the “pro-terrorism” label imaginable.

So is there debate, “or” is there hate? Is there freedom of speech, “or” is there pro-terrorism sentiment? The answer is, of course, that there’s both; it’s irresponsible and just plain wrong to imply otherwise.

The second question: How much hate is there? How much pro-terrorist sentiment is there?

Well, add up all of your dozen anecdotes, then re-examine them in the context of the tens of thousands of student protestors and the hundreds of thousands of words written publicly by those same protestors on the situation in Gaza. Really spend some time with the less salacious (and therefore less reported) bulk of the protests. Read some of the books — like Palestine: A Socialist Introduction — that students are discussing in reading groups around the country. Then tell me how you think those anecdotes of yours measure up.

– Concerned Citizen

Hey Concerned,

Thanks again for the thoughtful and well-written response, and for agreeing to let me post our exchange.

I want you to essentially have the last word, but I’ll make just one final point for context. I love your iceberg analogy, and I think we part company over it. I think more and more of the iceberg is actually coming into view every day. When you and I first started corresponding, hundreds of protesters weren’t chanting “Fuck You, Larry!” at Penn Interim President Larry Jameson. Anecdote? Of course. But the latest one of many to suggest that the movement is veering more and more into intolerance. Similarly, I hadn’t seen the footage of the protesters harassing a Jewish student by shining bright lights into his eyes; they didn’t sound like Penn students. After some digging, more iceberg appears: The degree to which local anarchists have declared their desire to take the protests over from student leaders. To wit:

Calling all neighbors, organizers, radicals, militants, anarchists, outside agitators, and people of conscience to converge upon the UPenn Gaza Solidarity Encampment…History has taught us that this WILL end in conflict and violence, “peaceful protest” claims be damned. The same pigs who played soccer with children in the quad yesterday will be back with pepperballs and batons tomorrow. The students who are more interested in cosplaying as revolutionaries before finals start, than actually exerting pressure to approach meaningful change, are not prepared for this reality.

Materially speaking, the camp is full of tents, food, resources, and bodies. There is still an opportunity to escalate, but the window is closing quickly. Come join us before it’s too late.

Free Palestine

No Arena In Chinatown

Stop Cop City

Chinga La Migra

Abolish The Police


Yes, protests, like democracy, are messy, but I know you well enough just from our week of email exchanges to suspect you know that rhetoric like this, even if from a minority of protesters, is counterproductive — and doesn’t help a single Palestinian. Primal screams don’t change minds.

All that said, you’ve given me much to chew on, and I’ll pay you the highest compliment one citizen can bestow upon another by deeming you worthy of Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Yours in Citizenship,



The Philadelphia Citizen will only publish thoughtful, civil comments. If your post is offensive, not only will we not publish it, we'll laugh at you while hitting delete.

Be a Citizen Editor

Suggest a Story

Advertising Terms

We do not accept political ads, issue advocacy ads, ads containing expletives, ads featuring photos of children without documented right of use, ads paid for by PACs, and other content deemed to be partisan or misaligned with our mission. The Philadelphia Citizen is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization and all affiliate content will be nonpartisan in nature. Advertisements are approved fully at The Citizen's discretion. Advertisements and sponsorships have different tax-deductible eligibility. For questions or clarification on these conditions, please contact Director of Sales & Philanthropy Kristin Long at [email protected] or call (609)-602-0145.