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May 28, 2021 5:23 pm

Rutgers Chancellor Apologizes for Lack of Support for Palestinians in Prior Statement Denouncing Antisemitism

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Rutgers University’s college avenue campus. Photo: Tomwsulcer.

A Rutgers University chancellor and provost apologized on Thursday for a previous message that condemned recent incidents of antisemitic violence in the US after it was denounced by a pro-Palestinian campus group — with school administrators regretting that their original statement “failed to communicate support for our Palestinian community members.”

The original message, issued Wednesday by Rutgers–New Brunswick Chancellor Christopher J. Molloy and Provost Francine Conway, was titled “Speaking Out Against Acts of Antisemitism,” and expressed sadness over a rise in anti-Jewish harassment and attacks during the past several weeks.

“This recent resurgence of antisemitism demands that we again call out and denounce acts of hate and prejudice against members of the Jewish community and any other targeted and oppressed groups on our campus and in our community,” the statement read.

The Wednesday statement also mentioned the conflict in the Middle East, saying, “We have also been witnesses to the increasing violence between Israeli forces and Hamas in the Middle East leading to the deaths of children and adults and mass displacement of citizens in the Gaza region and the loss of lives in Israel.”

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“Although we face many challenges and may have differing perspectives, we must condemn acts of violence and all forms of bigotry,” it continued. “We will continually strive to realize the aspiration embodied in [Rutgers] President Jonathan Holloway’s articulation of a vision for Rutgers as a ‘beloved community’ — a community where we welcome and affirm humanity and find strength in our diversity.”

On Thursday, the New Jersey university’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) blasted the message, writing that the “statement exclusively addressing antisemitism comes during a time when Israel’s occupation of Palestine is finally receiving widespread criticism.”

“Despite mentioning the ‘deaths of children and adults and mass displacement of citizens in the Gaza region,’ [it] conveniently ignores the extent to which Palestinians have been brutalized by Israel’s occupation and bombing of Gaza,” Rutgers SJP said.

The group asserted that “there have been no publicly reported acts of antisemitism against members of the Rutgers community” since the school’s Jewish fraternity was egged during a 24-hour reading of the names of Holocaust victims names on Yom HaShoah, and argued that the administrators’ message “cannot be interpreted as anything other than a deflection from Rutgers University’s role in financially supporting the Israeli state.” The group demanded an apology from Molloy and Conway, for “dismissing the voices and visibility of Palestinians and allies.”

The two university administrators issued one later on Thursday, in a second statement titled “An Apology.”

“We understand that intent and impact are two different things, and while the intent of our message was to affirm that Rutgers–New Brunswick is a place where all identities can feel validated and supported, the impact of the message fell short of that intention. In hindsight, it is clear to us that the message failed to communicate support for our Palestinian community members. We sincerely apologize for the hurt that this message has caused,” they wrote.

“Rutgers University–New Brunswick is a community that is enriched by our vibrant diversity,” they continued. “However, our diversity must be supported by equity, inclusion, antiracism, and the condemnation of all forms of bigotry and hatred, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. As we grow in our personal and institutional understanding, we will take the lesson learned here to heart, and pledge our commitment to doing better. We will work to regain your trust, and make sure that our communications going forward are much more sensitive and balanced.”

The school announced earlier in May that Chancellor Molloy is set to step down from his position in June, and return to his position as a faculty member in the University’s school of pharmacy.

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