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July 13, 2021 5:46 pm
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Franklin and Marshall Alumni Letter Backs Faculty Condemnation of Israel’s ‘Jewish Supremacy’

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Philadelphia. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A volley of community statements on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resumed Monday at Franklin & Marshall College (F&M), when over 130 alumni endorsed a hotly-debated faculty expression of “solidarity with Palestine,” criticizing university administrators’ response to it.

The letter was written in support of a June 22 faculty statement that said in part, “The brutal system that controls Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories is ideologically founded upon Jewish supremacy, rules over the lives of Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel alike, and is practically committed to territorial theft from Palestinians who continue to resist physical removal and existential erasure.”

That statement drew sharp responses from other faculty and alumni, who criticized the use of the “misguided” and “libelous” use of the phrase “Jewish supremacy.”

It also drew reaction from the president and other senior staff at the Lancaster, Pennsylvania college, who noted that the original statement had left members of the campus Jewish community “angry, hurt, and confused.”

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On Monday, the group of 130-plus alumni called that response “alarming.”

“While we echo the commitment of the F&M Leadership Team to fight antisemitism along with all other forms of racism, discrimination, and intolerance, we reject the message’s implied connection,” it said. “F&M, as a highly regarded academic institution, must explicitly differentiate between antisemitism and standing up for Palestinian human rights, regardless of how uncomfortable it feels to read about the apartheid reality on the ground.”

It also commented on administrators’ pledge to work with the F&M Klehr Center for Jewish Life on programming about the issue, demanding that a similar commitment be “extended to Palestinian students and their allies.”

“We urge the administration to meet the moment and stand by their students and faculty who speak out against Israeli atrocities and to extend its support to Palestinian students and alumni,” the alumni letter said.

Also on Monday, three student leaders of the campus Hillel published a series of “reflections” on the continuing discussion over the statement.

“The abhorrent and offensive language adopted by these faculty (many of whom we trusted as advisors, professors, and house deans) undermines our impactful work and flat-out jeopardizes the safety of Jewish students on this campus,” wrote Hillel’s Religious Chair Sebastian Mayer.

“We need to be open to education about important moments in history and prioritize coexistence and dialogue with those who hold a different perspective,” commented Sarina Matsil,  Hillel Vice President. “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict exists, and rather than picking sides, as a campus community we must advocate for peace.”

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