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August 2, 2021 12:51 pm
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My College Experience at Temple University Was Tainted by Antisemitism

avatar by Olivia Horton

Opinion

The student center at Temple University. Photo: Jeannine Keefer.

In the Fall of 2018, I took my first political science course at Temple University. In November of that year, Marc Lamont Hill gave an antisemitic speech at the United Nations, which led to his firing at CNN. During a class discussion, my professor proudly stated that he “fully supported” Marc Lamont Hill’s call for a “Free Palestine from the river to the sea” — a dog whistle to ethnically cleanse Israel of its Jewish population.

One year later, I attended a political science social event. I was repeatedly asked,“how do you feel about Israel and Palestine?” And I soon found myself debating with a notable campus leftist, who violently declared that “Jews are not a people.”

This was just the beginning.

In January 2021, Jewish students were welcomed back to campus with a viral Snapchat video posted by a Temple Student Government representative viciously raising his middle finger at the Israeli flag with the caption “f*** outta here.” Facing backlash, the student resigned from his position.

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On February 26, 2021, a Temple University student spoke through a university program called “Dissent in America Teach-In.” Her presentation was titled, “Israel/Palestine: Can Biden’s Middle East Policy Broker Peace?” I just so happened to see the event advertised in the Temple Political Science Department newsletter, so I decided to attend.

The presentation was riddled with propaganda, antisemitism, and threats.

One slide stated that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is one of the strongest lobby groups in the country, with the speaker stating that “Jewish political participation is important because of [the] dependence of politicians on campaign cash.” This is a classic antisemitic trope — that Jews have financial control over the political landscape.

Another slide displayed a cartoon of Uncle Sam serving then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a drink with an AIPAC umbrella on a golden platter. Bibi was depicted with a pinocchio-like nose, resembling the “hook nose” Jew from 1930s Nazi propaganda, which categorized Jewish people as racially inferior.

How is it acceptable for a university sanctioned lecturer to utilize racist illustrations as educational material on foreign policy?

The speaker then justified Hamas terrorism by stating, “yes, Hamas has launched rockets into Israel but […] Israel has a much bigger military, right? Their civilian population doesn’t necessarily live on the border of Gaza and Israel where a lot of the rockets are being launched, […] and they have access, people can leave if things are getting bad.”

The US Department of State classified Hamas as a terrorist organization 24 years ago, and 65,000-70,000 civilians live on the Gaza-Israel border and are affected by these rockets. There is no moral equivalence between a sovereign state protecting itself from rocket fire, and a terrorist group using random attacks to murder as many Jews as possible. (And if Israel had not spent a fortune in time, effort, and resources to develop the most advanced missile defense systems in the region, many more Jews would have been killed).

The presenter then stated: “Palestinians don’t hate Jews — only Zionists. But 95% of American Jews support the state of Israel.”

And many polls have shown that most Palestinians do hate all Jews.

I later discovered that the presenter was the president of Temple University’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine.

After the event, I teamed up with fellow Zionists to write a letter to the administration. The letter was sent to the Political Science Department Chair Robin Kolodny, the Institutional Diversity, Equity, Advocacy and Leadership Office, and professor Ralph Young, who created and hosts the speaker series.

Several emails were exchanged, and all parties refused to condemn the speaker’s rampant antisemitism.

Following the event, a Jewish student who heard about the incident reached out to me about her teacher, Sheena Sood. The student was taking a course titled: “Border Crossings: Gendered Dimensions of Globalization” — but the course was used to brainwash students into hating the world’s only Jewish state.

Sood provided mandatory readings from staunch antisemites like Noura Erakat, Harsha Walia, Reece Jones, and Jimmy Johnson — the most profound reading being, “When You Come for Rasmea Odeh, You Come For All of Us.

Rasmea Odeh is a convicted terrorist who murdered innocent Israeli Jews, and was expelled from the US for lying about the fact that she was a convicted murderer.

On April 20, 2021, Temple University’s Feinstein Center for American Jewish History hosted an event titled: “The Weaponization of Discourse: Israel/Palestine, Antisemitism, and Free Speech on Campus.” Speakers Kenneth S. Stern and Joyce Ajlouny took the opportunity to attack the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, proclaiming it as an infringement of free speech. But this is the most widely accepted definition of antisemitism with universities, NGOs, local governments, and countries adopting the definition.

Temple University not only turns a blind eye to antisemitism, but actually promotes it. Jewish students — and all those who care about true social justice — should be wary.

Olivia Horton is a graduate of Temple University.

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