Students at Emory University awoke earlier this month to find flyers posted in their dorm rooms informing them they would be evicted in the coming days. Intended to intimidate Jewish students on college campuses, these mock eviction notices are a common tactic of Students for Justice in Palestine, an antisemitic group with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
What distinguished this year’s annual week of harassment of Jewish students on Emory’s campus from other SJP events was that the eviction notices were officially sanctioned by the Emory Office of Campus Life, replete with a stamp of approval indicating that a faculty member or administrator had approved of the notice.
After being forced to start a website with “FAQs” to set the record straight, Emory recognized that the official stamp might have been “confusing” and said the practice would be discontinued. Alas, that is as good as it gets in terms of an adequate response to blatant antisemitism and intimidation of Emory’s Jewish students.
Emory interim vice president and vice provost Paul Marthers issued the initial statement. In justifying the posting of the flyers, Marthers stated they were “posted as part of a communication campaign by a student organization concerned with human rights in the Middle East.”
Where does one begin to address the basic ignorance and dishonesty in this statement? Is it really possible that Emory administrators, entrusted with the safety of all students on campus, are not aware that SJP is an antisemitic organization with funding sources tied to terrorist organizations, including Hamas? Does Marthers not know that one of his campus groups’ mission, through incitement of hatred and violence against Jewish students, is the isolation, demonization and ultimate destruction of the only Jewish country in the world?
If human rights are worthy of attention by Emory administrators, why were they not focused on the rights of Jewish students who no longer feel safe walking on campus – the exact intent of the SJP haters.
It gets worse. Emory president Claire Sterk waded into the mess in a typically confused and inane manner. In the first of two statements, Sterk used the obligatory language about “the need to protect free speech and the security and dignity of all in our community,” and soft-peddled on the “flaws” of the approval process. She then concluded with a comparison of “antisemitic and anti-Muslim hatred and violence” while completely ignoring that the event in question involved anti-Jewish hatred and threatened violence against Jews.
Sterk’s simple statement exemplifies the problem with college administrators who obsess over free speech rather than the safety and well-being of their students; who fear being labeled Islamophobes if they honestly address where the majority of antisemitic incidents on their campuses originate; and who disingenuously spin facts to cover their own transgressions.
Is Sterk not aware that FBI hate-crime statistics reflect that hate crimes against Jews far outnumber those against any other demographic in the country, with Jews experiencing approximately 60% of hate crimes compared to Muslims at 18%)? Is she really not aware that there is a seven-time greater incidence of antisemitic incidents on campuses where there is an SJP chapter? Instead, Sterk simply made a politically correct, incongruous and nonsensical attempt to dismiss the entire incident as soon as possible without offending Muslim students, thinking it would appease the Jewish community? It did not.
As if Sterk’s nonsensical responses were not bad enough, Emory’s “Senate Standing Committee for Open Expression” investigation into the incident concluded that other than wrongly placing the flyers in dorms, “The rest of the flyer is fully protected political speech under the Open Expression Policy, and Residence Life staff acted properly in approving the flyers for posting.”
THE COMMITTEE’S nonsensical opinion stated, “We do not know whether the motives of those who wrote or distributed the flyers were antisemitic,” proving they had no interest in truly investigating the incident. It went on to compare criticism of Israeli policy with that of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Making a moral equivalency between the democratic government of Israel and the terrorist dictatorships of the PA and Hamas would be laughable were it not so frighteningly ignorant and morally bankrupt.
In concluding that the flyers were not antisemitic, the committee admitted it had ignored nationally and internationally-recognized definitions of antisemitism, and instead, relied upon the opinion of supporters of the antisemitic boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. A BDS cofounder flatly stated, “Definitely, most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.”
Message to Jewish students interested in attending Emory: Expect to face an emboldened SJP chapter, antisemitic flyers approved for posting, and an administration more interested in protecting hate-speech than Jewish students.
This latest antisemitic attack is but a microcosm of what is transpiring on university campuses across North America. College administrators are clueless as to how to deal with it or disinterested in trying. Desperate to appease the loudest haters on campus while obsessing over diversity initiatives and safe spaces for everyone but Jews, administrators have made little or no attempt to understand the nature of SJP and other campus groups organized under the guise of “human rights in the Middle East.” They have no idea how to balance their interests in maintaining free speech – including incitement and hate speech – over the more important responsibility of ensuring the safety of students under their care. They fear being labeled racist or Islamophobic, so they refuse to single out the racism and antisemitism that pervades the “free speech” of those attacking Jews on their campuses. To be clear, antisemitism is not free speech.
Consider Emory’s reaction if a group of Jewish students posted faux flyers from the Islamic Republic of Iran with threats to throw gay students off roofs, something that actually has been done in that and other Islamic nations. Those students would have been labeled Islamophobes and faced consequences because both homosexual and Muslim students are considered protected groups on campuses. Jews? Not so much, at least apparently not from Emory’s perspective.
Another recent incident exemplifies the way in which administrators are helping to mainstream antisemitic voices on college campuses. New York University’s SJP chapter was just awarded the President’s Service Award for its “positive impact on the community.” In addition to posting mock eviction notices across campus, Jewish students at NYU have seen Israeli flags destroyed, swastikas painted in dorms, and anti-Israel BDS resolutions passed by student groups. They have faced screams of “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” – a crystal-clear expression of the desire to eliminate the State of Israel –as they walk past “apartheid walls” covered with hateful anti-Israel propaganda. If that is considered a positive model for the school community, we are certainly living through Orwellian times – which are looking more and more like pre-WWII German times.
Antisemitism is growing in the United States by leaps and bounds on both the Right and Left. On college campuses, there is no denying that the loudest Muslim voices are those of radical antisemites. As long as college administrators continue to support these bigots, the hatred will become more widespread and their purveyors more emboldened, and Jews will once again find themselves more marginalized, fearful, and more often the victims of hate crimes.
Asaf Romirowsky is the executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. Lauri B. Regan is a board member and treasurer of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and board member and New York chapter president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth.