After weeks of dogged Algemeiner coverage of antisemitism at Rutgers University, we expected that the school’s president, Robert Barchi, would respond. But when he finally did, it left us astounded.
Speaking over the weekend at a town hall event sponsored by the student government, Barchi dedicated the first part of his remarks to the series of antisemitism scandals plaguing his campus. The first story related to Jasbir Puar, a women’s studies professor who has written a book accusing Israel of injuring Palestinians “in order to control them.” The second concerned Professor Michael Chikindas, who called Judaism “the most racist religion in the world,” and accused Jews — and not the Ottoman Turks — of perpetrating the Armenian genocide. The third called attention to the employment at Rutgers of Mazen Adi, an adjunct professor who formerly served as a UN spokesman for the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and who has accused Israeli officials of trafficking children’s organs.
President Barchi rightly noted that the controversies facing the three members of his faculty staff originated with exposés published by The Algemeiner – but his goal wasn’t to offer a vote of thanks to Shiri Moshe, our reputable journalist who brought these vital issues to the public attention. His intention was clearly to disparage, undermine and delegitimize. And on what basis? On the basis that the reports had originated in a Jewish newspaper.
He referred to The Algemeiner, incorrectly, as “a blog out of New York, which is the follow-on to what was a Yiddish-language newspaper that folded 10 years ago.” And then, later in his speech, he advised students to “keep in mind when you hear things and those things get picked up by another newspaper, there is very often a back-story to it.”
“Trace it back to where it’s coming from and ask why is it coming from there and what’s going on,” he insisted, “and you may often get a little different perspective on those happenings.”
In fact – shamefully — Barchi spent more time praising the employees in question than he did explaining to students why their views are deeply problematic. He celebrated Puar as “a well-respected scholar.” He lauded Chikindas’ teaching record as “actually very strong,” and he defended Adi – who was a spokesman for the Syrian regime’s UN mission in 2014, when Assad first used illegal chemical weapons– as having “not said or done anything in his academic life here that would be actionable.”
Barchi was vociferous in his defense of the free speech rights of those who have offended Jewish sensibilities. One wonders, however, if he would have taken the same approach if another minority group had taken offense. I doubt it.
From his remarks, it would appear that Barchi has little concern for the students who are required to sit through the classes, undertake assignments and have their papers graded by this cast of bigoted characters. Consider for a moment how difficult this must be for a Jewish student. As a newspaper, it’s our responsibility to shine a spotlight on this troubling state of affairs and we will not shy away from doing so.
Barchi’s deplorable attempt to deride The Algemeiner only encourages us to redouble our commitment to covering antisemitism on American campuses. Students attend university to learn how to think and how to judge, not to be regaled with grotesque conspiracy theories dressed up as scholarship, as they are in some classes at Rutgers. And now that it is known that the university is under such poor management, Barchi should rest assured that we will be paying even closer attention to the Rutgers campus.
Dovid Efune is the editor-in-chief and CEO of The Algemeiner.