Two Students, Two Views, One Campus Conflict in the Midwest

They represent opposite corners at the University of Michigan, two sides of student activism who have hunkered down and almost never communicate.

Salma Hamamy is one of the most prominent faces of the pro-Palestinian movement on campus.

“One, two, three, four, open up the prison doors!” she shouts, bullhorn in hand, as she leads anti-Israel rallies in front of crowds of fellow students. “Five, six, seven, eight, Israel is a terrorist state!” Ms. Hamamy has helped lead over 20 protests since Hamas’s deadly attacks against Israel on Oct. 7 and the resulting bombardment of Gaza.

As she booms out calls for an end to war, or rails against a university administration that she believes has been tone deaf toward Palestinians, she knows she can look into the audience and find a familiar, though vexing, face: Josh Brown, a fellow student and Ms. Hamamy’s opposite in nearly every way.

Ms. Hamamy has become one of the most prominent faces of pro-Palestinian activism at the University of Michigan.Credit…Nic Antaya for The New York Times

Mr. Brown is perhaps the most fervent counterprotester at Michigan. A hard-and-fast supporter of Israel and Zionism, he shows up for almost every pro-Palestinian rally at his school, sometimes alone, always with a cellphone at the ready so he can record what he believes to be rampant antisemitism.

“These are extremists,” says Mr. Brown, speaking of the groups that Ms. Hamamy is a part of and helps lead. “What they are calling for is the destruction of my people.”

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