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October 26, 2021 5:21 pm

Legal Advocacy Group Seeks University of Massachusetts Inquiry Over Altercation at Anti-Israel Rally

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

The University of Massachusetts, Boston campus. Photo: bostonphotosphere / Wikimedia Commons

A Washington, DC-based legal advocacy group wrote to administrators at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, on Tuesday, calling for an inquiry into an alleged assault on a pro-Israel writer at an off-campus rally organized by the school’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter.

The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights said that Dexter Van Zile, a writer for the pro-Israel media watchdog CAMERA, was “accosted, spat at, [and] shoved” at a June 24 Boston rally led by UMass Students for Justice in Palestine, “solely based on his perceived identity as a Zionist.”

In Tuesday’s letter, the group contended that the university’s code of conduct applies to off-campus events hosted by student organizations, and that sanctions are warranted.

“Should the University fail to investigate as required, it will send a message to UMass Boston students that the Code has no teeth, and that students and student organizations are free to intimidate, harass, and assault individuals who attend their events, based on such individuals’ perceived support of Israel,” wrote the Brandeis Center to UMass chancellor, provost and general counsel. “Since Jewish students are most likely to be perceived as supporters of Israel, this affects every Jewish student on campus.”

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An Algemeiner request for comment was not immediately returned by the UMass Boston SJP.

Dexter Van Zile argued Tuesday that the assault bears on the safety of Jewish students at the school.

“Being singled out by the crowd, shouted at, spit at, and shoved was a frightening experience that has marked me to this day,” he told The Algemeiner by email. “I simply had no idea what the crowd was going to do next. But as bad and traumatic as it was, I was able to go home and be with my family after it was over. But if this had happened to a student on campus, that student would have to go back to her dorm room, or classroom and sit next to the other students who perpetrated the mobbing.”

On Friday, a university spokesperson told The Algemeiner that the school had conducted a student disciplinary investigation over the June incident, adding that it could not provide additional details, citing student privacy regulations.

The spokesperson also noted Chancellor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco’s July statement affirming the school’s “resolute opposition to antisemitic hate in any form and specifically sharing with the community the processes by which members of the community can file complaints about behavior and access resources.”

Editor’s note: Dexter Van Zile has previously contributed opinion articles to The Algemeiner

Editor’s note, 10/20/21: This piece has been updated with a response from the University of Massachusetts, Boston

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