Iran and its proxies have actively lauded the anti-Israel protests at American universities, claiming the movement represents organic grassroots “changes in the attitudes” of the public, according to experts. 

“These are the mainstream, most important news agencies or websites inside Iran that are covering this,” Dr. Saeed Ghasseminejad, a senior advisor on Iran at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Fox News Digital. 

“They are covering it very religiously, and as you can guess, they definitely back that,” he said, referring to the widespread protests on American college campuses. 

Several Ivy League universities, including Columbia University, Harvard University and Yale University, have faced growing anti-Israel protests that have intensified over the past week. Columbia adopted hybrid learning on its main campus over fears of safety due to the protests. 

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The unrest has spread to other universities, such as the University of Texas at Austin, where an anti-Israel demonstration devolved into arrests as the Austin Police Department and Texas Department of Public Safety tried to maintain order. These protests have received considerable attention in Iran, with officials and news outlets intensely covering them and using them as supposed evidence of growing anti-Israel sentiment in the U.S.

Israel Palestine Gaza

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators at an encampment at Columbia University in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of New York, US, on Monday, April 22, 2024. Columbia University took its classes online after days of anti-Israel protests roiled its New York City campus and prompted condemnation from the White House and City Hall.  (Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian expressed support for those speaking ill of Israel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He also said the law enforcement response to the ongoing protests, and subsequent mass arrests, has them “deeply worried and disgusted.” 

In translated articles that Ghasseminejad posted in a thread on social media platform X, Iranian media has highlighted the Ivy League demonstrations, claiming that they have inspired “other students across the country to stage sit-ins in support of the residents of Gaza, chanting slogans.” 

“According to images and reports from universities like ‘Yale’ and ‘Harvard,’ students have gathered on these campuses to condemn the genocide committed by the Israeli regime in Gaza and demand that academic associations sever ties with the Zionist regime,” an article by Iranian newspaper Kayhan stated. 

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“Harvard students carried a large banner stating: ‘Stop the genocide in Gaza,’” the article continued. “Interestingly, while carrying the Palestinian flag around the campuses and wearing keffiyehs around their necks, students chanted against the crimes of the Zionist regime and the U.S. government’s support for these crimes.”

A broadcast from Iranian news network Al-Alam glorified the protests as evidence of “the emergence of broad changes in the attitudes of the American public and, particularly, the youth towards the policies of their government and its unconditional support for the Zionist regime.” 

State troopers arrest a man at a pro-Palestinian protest

State troopers arrest a man at a pro-Palestinian protest at the University of Texas on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. (Jay Janner/American-Statesman)

“These changes are gradually having an impact on the approaches of these universities – which for years have been a source of power for this regime through promoting its lobbying in America,” the report claimed.

Ghasseminejad was born in Iran but left the country in 2008 after he was abducted and confined – with a suspended sentence – for his student activism. He noted that some Middle Eastern outlets cover the unrest several times a day, every day, and are “closely following it.” 

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Some leaders of Iranian proxies, such as Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, have stressed in recent speeches how important the anti-Israel demonstrations have been in the U.S., according to Steven Stalinsky, the executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) in Washington.

In an op-ed published by the Wall Street Journal, Stalinsky wrote that Nasrallah on March 13 had lauded the “very influential” protests and argued that “we should salute them” for their campaign of “uncommitted” protest votes against President Biden. 

Pro-Palestinian protesters stage a demonstration in front of Sather Gate on the UC Berkeley campus

Hundreds of anti-Israel protesters stage a demonstration in front of Sather Gate on the UC Berkeley campus on April 22, where they set up a tent encampment in solidarity with protesters at Columbia University who are demanding a permanent cease-fire in the war between Israel and Gaza. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Nasrallah called the protest votes “the most important means of pressure on the Biden administration” to affect a change in U.S. policy. 

“It is no coincidence that official statements by Hamas and major jihadist groups about the protests are nearly identical,” Stalinsky wrote. “The statements seem like talking points for pressuring U.S. and Western decision makers. They appear to be working.”

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Stalinsky particularly raised concerns over the way student groups have organized to create a deliberate campaign to appear to be grassroots but have taken cues from the likes of Khaled Barakat, a former Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine member, who hosted a “Resistance 101” course with the Columbia University Apartheid Divest student group. 

During a video call with the student group, Barakat discussed his “friends in Islamic Jihad” and invoked the “strategic vision” of Iran while his wife urged students to explicitly endorse the actions of armed groups, according to The Jerusalem Post. 

Gaza Strip Israel

This file handout picture provided by Hezbollah’s media office on September 2, 2023, shows the Lebanese Shiite group’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah during a meeting with the deputy chief of the Palestinian Hamas movement, Saleh al-Aruri, at an undisclosed location in Lebanon. (Hezbollah’s Media Office/AFP via Getty Images)

“He speaks to, frequently, Hezbollah, Al-Manar TV, which is … it’s illegal for it to air in the U.S., it used to be available on satellite, but it’s now blocked,” Stalinsky told Fox News Digital. The Hezbollah leader did an interview on March 30 to talk about western support for Palestinians against Israel, and said “the vast majority of young Americans and Canadians … support armed resistance,” Stalinsky added. 

Stalinsky also noted that Barakat discussed the way that curriculum has influenced student thought, with professors pushing specific views that highlight more sympathetic angles that push students toward activism. 

“I have a masters in Middle East studies, but … it’s not learning about the Middle East” that causes the problem, he argued. “It’s about who’s teaching about the Middle East.” 

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He pointed to the prevalence of Students for Justice in Palestine, which preys on the notion that university students should engage in activism. But the agitators also show “a lot of ignorance,” with some having admitted over the past six months that they sometimes don’t know what they’re protesting. 

“They are part of instigating [the protests],” Stalinsky said. “It wasn’t just like some students were watching the news on Columbia, and they decided to [do] this.”

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