Fact Check: University of Pennsylvania Protest Chant Did NOT Urge 'Jewish Genocide' -- It Said 'We Charge You With Genocide'

Fact Check

  • by: Sarah Thompson
Fact Check: University of Pennsylvania Protest Chant Did NOT Urge 'Jewish Genocide' -- It Said 'We Charge You With Genocide' Misrepresented

Did University of Pennsylvania students chant, "We want Jewish genocide!" at a pro-Palestine rally in Philadelphia? No, that's not true: The chant was, "Israel, Israel, you can't hide, we charge you with genocide." The student group posted a clarification on Instagram after their chant was misrepresented.

The claim appeared in a post on Instagram published by @jewishlivesmatter on October 17, 2023 (archived here). The post, which included a video, was captioned:

Students @uofpenn gathered chanting 'We want Jewish genocide' 'there is only 1 solution' in reference to the Nazis 'final solution'. There has possibly never ever been a more dangerous time to be a Jewish student as Antisemitism continues to grow as a disease. These are not peaceful protests, they are asking for more Jewish lives to be lost by terrorists. @uofpenn identify these students, expel them, they are a danger to society and don't bring any value to your institution. If not, Jewish students will go elsewhere.

This is how the post appeared at the time of writing:

(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Thu Oct 19 17:07:53 2023 UTC)

Captions that appear in text boxes in the video read:

"We want Jewish genocide"... this is my Alma Mater. This is the University of Pennsylvania. They are cheering for my death & the death of all Jews.

This is terrifying and horrifying. As a good friend said to me... we were just not alive for these existential threats becoming

A response to this post (pictured below and archived here) was published on October 18, 2023, on Instagram by the student group Penn Against the Occupation (PAO), which organized the rally. The post was captioned:

PAO's response to the misinformation being spread.


(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Thu Oct 19 05:03:43 2023 UTC)

The body of the message's bold text was formatted to fit the square Instagram layout:

Yesterday evening, @jewishbreakingnews shared an instagram post that claimed students at the walkout on Oct. 16th chanted 'We want Jewish genocide.'

PAO would like to explicitly state that this claim is false and did not happen whatsoever. The chant was, 'Israel, Israel, you can't hide, we charge you with genocide.' Members of the press, including the Daily Pennsylvanian, can testify to this information as false. This post is spreading blatant disinformation, and it is dangerous to spread false narratives about the protest.

This chant was one of many chants. Other chants included 'Hey, hey, ho, ho, the occupation has go to go,' and 'From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.'

The chant in question is recorded in the video posted by @jewishlivesmatter, but the audio quality is not very clear.

The Anti-Defamation League posted a debunk on October 18, 2023, in their running list of "Myths and False Narratives About the Israel-Hamas War" (archived here). This claim was also debunked in the October 19, 2023, University of Pennsylvania student newspaper The Daily Pennsylvanian in an article titled, "Organizers of pro-Palestine rally at Penn clarify chants after misinformation spreads online" (archived here):

In a statement posted on Instagram on Oct. 18, PAO said that attendees were chanting 'Israel, Israel, you can't hide, we charge you with genocide' and did not use the phrase, 'We want Jewish genocide.' Multiple staffers for The Daily Pennsylvanian who attended the event confirmed this.

Similar protests featured the same chant. A Fox 11 Los Angeles Video shows a pro-Palestine rally held at UCLA on October 12, 2023. At 54 seconds into the video, under the voice of the news reporter, audio of the student protesters chanting, "We charge you with genocide" can be heard. The Harvard Crimson reported an October 18, 2023, protest chant, "Barry, Barry you can't hide, we charge you with genocide." Former President Barack Obama was due to speak at a summit at Harvard but canceled due to 'Covid-like symptoms' that morning.

The established protest chant that ends with the refrain, "We charge you with genocide" has been repurposed to represent a variety of causes. The example embedded below was filmed in Sydney, Australia, on February 23, 2007, protesting the Australian visit of then-U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney during the Iraq war. The chant says, "Dick Cheney you can't hide, we charge you with genocide."

At a October 18, 2023, rally outside the Israel Embassy in Washington DC (video embedded below), the protesters chanted:

Biden, Biden, you can't hide, We charge you with genocide! Netanyahu, you can't hide, We charge you with genocide!

Other Lead Stories fact checks that mention this year's crisis in the Middle East can be found here.

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  Sarah Thompson

Sarah Thompson lives with her family and pets on a small farm in Indiana. She founded a Facebook page and a blog called “Exploiting the Niche” in 2017 to help others learn about manipulative tactics and avoid scams on social media. Since then she has collaborated with journalists in the USA, Canada and Australia and since December 2019 she works as a Social Media Authenticity Analyst at Lead Stories.


Read more about or contact Sarah Thompson

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