Jewish Students at U of Michigan ‘Deeply Offended’ by ‘Apartheid Wall,’ Mock Israeli Checkpoints Erected on Campus During Rosh Hashanah
Jewish students at the University of Michigan were “deeply offended” that an “apartheid wall” and mock Israeli checkpoints were allowed to be erected on campus during the high holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the student newspaper The Michigan Review reported on Wednesday.
According to the report, the structures — assembled by the anti-Israel group Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) as part of Palestine Awareness Month — outraged those members of the Jewish community who remained on campus during the holiday and were “left to cope…without the support of many of their peers,” who were away observing the holiday.
According to the report, SAFE needed to receive advance permission from the school to hold the “apartheid” event, “suggesting that the university initially saw no problem” with it.
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— TeamSAFE (@SAFEumich) October 4, 2016
In response, students launched a petition calling on the school’s president, Dr. Mark Schlissel, to condemn the event and its props.
Referring to a message Schlissel recently issued denouncing racially offensive fliers found on campus, the petition states in part:
Just last week, you sent a message to the student body emphatically stating that “behavior that seeks to intentionally cause pain to members of our community is reprehensible.”
We speak on behalf of many students in the Jewish and pro-Israel campus communities and we write that yesterday we felt ostracized and excluded as many of us sat in synagogue unable to share our stories.
The petition asks Schlissel to issue a similar statement in support of Jewish and pro-Israel students.
This is not the first time SAFE has sparked controversy at the University of Michigan. In 2015, the group filed an ethics complaint against a Jewish member of the student government, after he voiced criticism of an anti-Israel protest. Following a probe, the Central Student Government decided it would not seek disciplinary measures against him.
This story was updated Friday, October 7, with a response from a University of Michigan spokesperson:
Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) is a registered student group on the University of Michigan campus. The central-campus Diag is one of the most visible free-speech areas on the U-M campus. SAFE followed all appropriate procedures to reserve the Diag for an all-day Palestinian educational event Oct. 4. SAFE has been scheduling this event on the Diag for at least the past four years. SAFE selected that date from one of three available dates during October to reserve the Diag space for the day (9 a.m.-4 p.m.). Our understanding is that the SAFE event on the Diag proceeded smoothly, even while other events took place for portions of the day. Our understanding is that the Michigan Hillel director and a rabbi were present on the Diag to support Jewish students for much of the day.