Police at Northeastern University have launched an investigation after swastikas were drawn on two fliers posted on campus to publicize a lecture this week by an Israeli military official.Northeastern president Joseph E. Aoun condemned the incident in an e-mail to students, faculty, administrators, staff, and others, calling it “completely unacceptable and an affront to our entire community and the values of our university.”“Let there be no doubt: We have absolutely no tolerance for anti-Semitism, prejudice, and hate crimes of any kind, including this incident,” Aoun wrote.
The e-mail was sent Friday at 11:53 p.m. with the subject line “An affront to our community.”
The vandalized fliers were displayed in Dockser Hall and promoted an event featuring Eran Shamir-Borer, an Israel Defense Forces lieutenant colonel who is scheduled to speak Monday night at the School of Law.The event is hosted by two student organizations at the law school that support Israel: the Alliance for Israel at Northeastern and the School of Law’s chapter of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law.
A statement from the alliance and the Jewish Law Student Association said the lecture is expected to take place as scheduled. Shamir-Borer is a presenter for Our Soldiers Speak, a nonprofit organization that presents lectures by reservists or active officers with the Israel Defense Forces, according to the group’s website.
Sergeant Benjamin Anthony, founder of the speaker series and a reservist with the Israel Defense Forces, said this type of vandalism has occurred at previous events. Speakers also frequently encounter hecklers on college campuses, he said.Anthony said allegations that Israeli soldiers today act the same way that Nazis did toward Jews are based in hatred.“That’s not free speech. That’s hate speech,” he said.
Rudy Breteler, a law student and member of the Alliance for Israel and the Jewish Law Student Association, said be believes everyone “should be alarmed by a hate symbol that symbolizes oppression of all nonwhite Christians.”“It’s absolutely horrifying,” he said. “We did not expect something like this.” Kenneth L. Marcus, president and general counsel for the Louis D. Brandeis Center in Washington, D.C., said it is ironic that campus groups combatting anti-Semitism were subjected to an anti-Semitic act of vandalism.
The nonprofit center seeks to advance the “civil and human rights of the Jewish people” and tackle the “resurgence of anti-Semitism” on university and college campuses, according to its website.The organization was established in 2011 and has chapters at law schools nationwide, Marcus said.This is the first time fliers publicizing an event associated with the center have been vandalized, he said.
“We’ve never had this sort of problem before,” Marcus said Saturday. “It’s something we usually see at undergraduate campuses. It’s disturbing to see it affecting the law schools as well.”Aoun said university police have evidence and are “actively investigating.”
Marcus praised Northeastern’s response. He said he recently traveled to the campus to meet with members of the Brandeis center’s Northeastern chapter, which was established in the spring.“We haven’t always been pleased with the way Northeastern responds to anti-Semitic incidents, but in this particular case we are very pleased,” Marcus said.
In 2012, two Northeastern students confessed to damaging a decorative menorah, a candelabrum used for Jewish worship during Hanukkah, according to Globe coverage of the incident.Marcus said there have also been allegations about two or three professors making anti-Israel comments that were perceived as anti-Semitic, and concerns about vandalism to a statute of alumnus Robert J. Shillman.“Our sense has been the situation has been getting much better recently,” Marcus said. “This particular incident looks ugly, but the administration’s response is strong.”
On campus, many students said they were not aware of the incident. Several who said they knew about the vandalism declined to comment. Joseph Ruane, 20, who is studying computer science at Northeastern, called the vandalism shocking.
“I thought we were more tolerant here,” he said. “They are a guest and we should show them respect. I don’t care what their stance is.”
Globe correspondent Anne Steele contributed to this report.