A swastika with the caption, “Free Palestine,” was found at San Francisco State University on Wednesday — and it was “far from the first incident on campus of Jew-hatred,” the student who discovered the mark told The Algemeiner.
The image, accompanied by a Star of David and the name of the university, was spotted in a campus bathroom by Daniel Yeluashvili, a senior studying political science.
“I’ve had experiences where my classmates call Jews cheap, glare at me when I wear a Star of David necklace, and hiss when I say the word, ‘Israel,’ in a class discussion,” Yeluashvili recounted.
“Specifically regarding vandalism, phrases like, ‘Zionism is Racism,’ and, ‘Zionists not welcome on campus,’ are common,” he added. “Rhetoric equating Zionism with fascism is mainstream, which helps contextualize this particular image.”
“I’ve never seen a swastika, Star of David, and ‘Free Palestine’ slogan combined with one another, though,” Yeluashvili said. “This seems like an unusually overt expression of a common narrative on our campus: that Jewish sovereignty is a white supremacist idea.”
The university police has launched an investigation into the incident, which outgoing SFSU President Leslie Wong denounced in a statement. “The swastika is a symbol of hatred, violence and anti-Semitism, and SF State strongly condemns this abhorrent act, which runs counter to University values,” Wong said.
Multiple Jewish students have in the past years shared allegations of facing discrimination at SFSU, mostly notably in a lawsuit filed against the school and California State University, which was settled in March before the case was to go to trial. The suit, which accused SFSU of “a long and documented history of institutionalized anti-Semitism,” focused on the exclusion of San Francisco Hillel from a February 2017 “Know Your Rights” fair that was organized in part by SFSU’s College of Ethnic Studies. An internal investigation found that Hillel was “improperly excluded” from the event.
As part of the settlement terms, SFSU — which has denied allegations that it promotes or tolerates antisemitism — committed to hiring a coordinator of Jewish student life, allocating resources to promote viewpoint diversity, and recognizing Zionism, a diverse movement that supports the Jewish people’s right to national self-determination, as part of the identity of many Jewish students.
There have been other efforts to improve the campus climate, including correspondence and meetings between Wong and Jewish students — several of whom stated in April 2017 that they routinely faced “lies, intimidation, and one-sided stereotypes” on campus.
Yeluashvili said he was part of a February 2018 meeting between the president and Hillel, after which the Wong apologized for past comments affecting the Jewish community — particularly a previous interview in which he refused to categorically assert that Zionists were welcome at SFSU.
“We clearly stated that, at our university, Judaism is often defined for us purely as a religion and Zionism purely as a political ideology,” Yeluashvili recalled of the meeting. “Jewish religious organizations like SF Hillel are excluded from campus life, despite claims by university administration and faculty of a tolerant environment, and Zionism is often referred to in our courses and campus events as fascist and, in one case, cancerous.”
Yeluashvili and other Hillel students stated shortly after the meeting that they believed Wong’s apology was “sincere” and appreciated that it took “humility,” but said they were “disappointed and frustrated about the lack of concrete action steps” offered during their meeting with the president.
The president’s apology was denounced by Professor Rabab Abdulhadi, founding director of SFSU’s Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies (AMED) program, who was named in a second, federal lawsuit alleging antisemitic discrimination at SFSU that was ultimately dismissed. She described it as “a declaration of war” against Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians, in a post that was shared by the AMED Facebook page.
That same day, the phrases “Zionists not welcome,” “Zionism = racism,” and, “Judaism =/= Zionism,” were found written in chalk on campus. Wong’s apology was also criticized the following month by the school’s Department of Women and Gender Studies, which linked to the official homepage of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel as suggested “further reading.”
The chancellor of the California State University later denounced Abdulhadi’s message, stating it “explicitly contradicts” the school’s “principles of inclusion,” and said action was taken over the AMED post, which has not yet been removed.
This article has been updated to reflect the status of a post published by the AMED Facebook page.