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December 5, 2018 5:04 pm

University of Vermont Flies Palestinian Flag After Israeli Flag Raised in Solidarity With Victims of Pittsburgh Massacre

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A Palestinian flag flies at the University of Vermont. Photo: Ashley Smith / Facebook.

A Palestinian flag was raised over the student center at the University of Vermont early last week, after anti-Zionist students objected to the display of an Israeli flag in the wake of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre.

The flag was flown outside the Davis Center following a request by Students for Justice in Palestine, which surrounded the flagpole with handmade signs featuring various accusations against Israel. Some messages promoted the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign, while others called for a “Free Palestine” — both in English, Arabic, and broken Hebrew.

Signs erected outside the Davis Center at the University of Vermont by Students for Justice in Palestine. Photos: Aaron Goren.

The signs were placed under the flag on Thursday during an SJP gathering in honor of the United Nations’ International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, as well as the Palestinians’ “rejection of UN Resolution 181,” which called for the creation of both Jewish and Arab states in Mandatory Palestine. A university spokesperson told The Algemeiner that they were put up in violation of university policy against solicitation, and consequently removed.

The whole display was seen by some as a direct response to the recent flying of an Israeli flag at the same location — an initiative spearheaded by Aaron Goren, a senior who is president of Catamounts Supporting Israel, following the massacre of 11 Jewish worshipers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in October.

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Goren told The Algemeiner that he saw the Israeli flag “as a mark of resilience against antisemitism here in the USA,” noting that it has “always stood tall against oppression, and the resilience to it that the Jewish people have.”

The flag flew for a week with the cooperation of the administration, and Goren said he heard from “so many Jews who have expressed gratitude and pride to me seeing the flag they identify with flown by UVM.”

The effort was nonetheless quickly rebuked by SJP as “evidence of the moral bankruptcy of Zionist ideology,” as well as — at least momentarily — by J Street UVM.

The “pro-Israel, pro-peace” group, part of a national advocacy and lobbying organization, had initially denounced the display of the Israeli flag in a social media post, and endorsed a petition that called it a symbol of the “ethnic cleansing of Palestinian civilians,” as well as “racist and oppressive … sexist, homophobic, and transphobic policies.”

Yet that post was removed on November 7th following inquiries by The Algemeiner, and replaced with a note expressing “regret” over wording that failed to “fully reflect our views and values as pro-Israel, pro-peace, anti-occupation activists.” The group also said that it did not create the petition against the Israeli flag — a responsibility SJP likewise denied.

Goren said that while SJP ultimately had a right to free speech, the way it decided to raise the Palestinian flag was “inflammatory.”

“It was accompanied by antisemitic signs, and was clearly part of a larger political response to the Israeli flag, which was never a political statement in the first place,” he explained. “It shows their true face.”

SJP and J Street did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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