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November 20, 2013 11:14 pm

SF State University Condemns Anti-Semitic Campus Demonstration After Protest From Jewish Group

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Anti-Semitic stencil used to create signs on the SF State University campus. Photo: AMCHA Initiative.

Anti-Semitic stencil used to create signs on the SF State University campus. Photo: AMCHA Initiative.

San Francisco State University President Les Wong condemned a campus event held by the General Union of Palestine Students as anti-Semitic, after AMCHA Initiative, a group that fights campus hate speech against Jews, wrote to the administration to protest.

In a statement sent to the organization‘s co-founder Tammi Rossman-Benjamin and seen by The Algemeiner, and now posted on the school’s website, Wong wrote: “San Francisco State University is recognized worldwide for making social justice a strategic priority; it is an integral part of our DNA. As president, I was deeply disturbed by incendiary language that marred an annual commemoration of a cultural mural on campus.”

“On November 7, 2013, members of the campus community gathered to celebrate the sixth anniversary of the installation of a mural honoring Edward Said. Nearby, several student organizations were staffing tables to raise awareness of their groups’ activities. One table was set up to allow passers-by to create their own placards with a pre-made stencil, which read, ‘My heroes have always killed colonizers.'”

“I am dismayed by the glorification of violence that this message conveys. There is no place at SF State for celebrating violence or promoting intolerance, bigotry, anti-Semitism or any other form of hate-mongering. We are a university community committed to furthering civil dialogue. Each of us must remain vigilant in working to achieve this goal.”

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In her letter to Wong, AMCHA’s Rossman-Benjamin noted that the group received several thousand dollars from the school to mount the program, the 6th Annual Palestinian Mural Celebration, entitled “We Speak for Ourselves: Honoring our Forebearers.” It was funded by the Associated Students, Inc. and the school’s Cesar Chavez Student Center, as well as co-sponsored by the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative at the College of Ethnic Studies.

Rossman-Benjamin wrote, “During the afternoon, as part of the day’s programming, there were tables set up in Malcolm X Plaza for art projects. On the tables were cans of spray paint and stencils. One stencil was an image of Leila Khaled, a member of the U.S. State Department-designated terrorist organization Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The PFLP was responsible for several plane hijackings, suicide bombings that killed several Jews, and the assassination of a Jewish member of the Israeli Knesset.”

“Another stencil bore the words ‘MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS KILLED COLONIZERS.’ In the context of the day’s events honoring the Palestinian Mural’s subject Edward Said, who notoriously accused the Jewish state of being ‘colonialist,’ the stencil clearly refers to the killing of Jews. Rhetoric that glorifies and honors the murderers of Jews is antisemitic,” she wrote.

In a response to Wong’s statement, AMCHA Initiative commended the school administration for acknowledging the hate speech, and hoped that an investigation leads to sanctions against those students and faculty who were involved.

“We hope that at the end of your investigation, all those responsible for this incident — whether students, faculty, or staff — will be disciplined for their behavior, which violates the tenets of civil discourse and may be unlawful. We and other concerned members and supporters of the Jewish community are eager to know what steps you will take to ensure that such behavior is appropriately addressed and does not re-occur at San Francisco State University,” the group said.

AMCHA Inititive is active on many campuses, including California State University-Northridge, where it also compelled the administration to address acts of anti-Semitism.

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