More Antisemitic Activity at UMass Amherst Is Not a Surprise
This Holocaust Remembrance Day, as Israel and the rest of the world commemorated the six million Jews murdered in the Shoah, anti-Israel activists thought it was appropriate to vandalize the UMass Amherst Hillel center.
Spray-painted in red graffiti, the name “Palestine” was emblazoned in Arabic on the front of the building.
The university’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter immediately rushed to their own defense, denying any involvement in the incident. They released a backhanded “condemnation” of the act that mentioned nothing about antisemitism, but instead made the incident about themselves. Entitled “End the Criminalization of Palestinian Identity,” the statement alleged that the act of vandalism caused anti-Palestinian discrimination.
This disgraceful display of antisemitism is nothing new at UMass Amherst. The SJP chapter there has a long track record of contributing to the college’s hateful climate.
Only a few weeks earlier, the chapter waged an online attack on the UMass Black Student Union and a Jewish student group for co-hosting a Zoom lecture with a black Jewish Israeli. Calling this event “a larger effort by the Israeli government,” SJP harped on the speaker’s association with AIPAC, playing into the trope that Jewish organizations are conniving and always have an ulterior motive.
The speaker was supposed to discuss her experiences as a black Jewish Israeli, but SJP attempted to dehumanize her as nothing more than a Zionist stooge, blindly carrying out the “nefarious” interests of the Israel lobby.
SJP preached that they must shut down dialogue at all costs when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, because it “normalizes the occupation.” This absurd claim violates the principles of academic freedom, which maintain that while dialogue is welcome on a college campus, inciting hatred against Jewish students on campus is not.
Despite this, some faculty supporters of SJP, like UMass professor Sut Jhally, often propagate antisemitism in the classroom. He produced the movie, The Occupation of The American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the US, narrated by rock star activist Roger Waters. The film itself is a hodgepodge of doctored footage stitched together in an attempt to give credence to antisemitic conspiracy theories of Jewish-controlled governments and media.
All of this from a professor tasked with teaching communications.
But UMass isn’t the only school harboring Jew-hatred. Students for Justice in Palestine chapters have popped up on campuses everywhere. Their antisemitic tirades have had a detrimental effect on campus life for Jewish students.
A 2015 study conducted by researchers at Trinity College revealed that more than half of Jewish college students in the US have experienced antisemitism on their campus. Antisemitic incidents on campus increased by 45% in the following year.
Yet some of these incidents are justified and even celebrated. Why? Because groups like SJP and other anti-Israel activists perform mental gymnastics to convince college administrators that their Jew-hatred is simply a way of advocating for the rights of Palestinians and other minorities.
Antisemitic incidents occur time and again on college campuses everywhere with the same excuse: Israel, the only real democracy in the Middle East, is somehow an “oppressive regime” and therefore, it’s OK to demonize Jewish students on campus for their support of Zionism and Jewish self determination.
As CAMERA on Campus notes, the vandalism at the UMass Hillel center is just another example of a “common pattern displayed by many antisemites: holding American Jews accountable for a conflict happening on the other side of the world.”
A disconcerting trend across colleges and universities is that campus groups are often going unpunished for these actions.
Furthermore, instead of advocating for ways to actually help Palestinians fight corruption within their own government or condemning violence and attempts on innocent lives, Students for Justice in Palestine preoccupies itself with donning Hezbollah T-shirts and publicly celebrating known terrorists, including Rasmea Odeh. Odeh helped plan the 1969 Jerusalem supermarket bombing that murdered two students.
SJP at UMass has, in fact, publicly idolized convicted terrorists — when a representative praised Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine icon Leila Khaled. Khaled has hijacked two airplanes. But UMass SJP’s Nate Taskin says that he’s “inspired by her story.”
And unsuspecting college students, eager to latch on to what they believe is a social justice cause, gleefully jump on the Jew-hating bandwagon. If these “pro- Palestinian” organizations really cared about human rights, where are their protests when terrorist groups like Hamas use Palestinian children as human shields? Where is their outrage when Palestinian school curricula train their children how to “become martyrs” and kill Jews from a young age? Where are their picket signs and boycotts when the Palestinian Authority doubles down on their lifetime “pay-to-slay” salary awarded to those who murder Israeli Jews?
If Students for Justice in Palestine and their faculty supporters ever hope to base their cause on the principle of justice, then it should not come at the cost of injustice toward others.
The author is a student at Syracuse University, Camera on Campus Fellow, and pro-Israel advocate.