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December 7, 2021 2:58 pm
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‘Antisemitic’ Messages, Palestinian Flag Chalked Outside University of Wisconsin Hillel

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avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Bascom Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. Photo Credit: Richard Hurd / Flickr

Antisemitic messages were chalked on the sidewalk outside the Hillel building at the University of Wisconsin-Madison last week, prompting pushback from the Jewish community on campus.

The messages, “Happy Hanukkah & happy day of int’l solidarity with the Palestinian people,” an image of the Palestinian flag, and the hashtag “Palestine Day,” were drawn after UW Jewish students celebrated the first night of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, according to photos shared by Hillel. The incident came months after Madison’s Jewish community experienced a rise in reported hate crimes.

UW student Rachel Rosen, a leading member of the Badger Alliance for Israel, told the Badger Herald campus newspaper on Monday that the act was “purposeful” and “disrespectful.”

“These sort of antisemitic attacks are trying to disguise themselves as social justice protests,” she said. “Using the language of ‘Free Palestine,’ they’re sort of trying to frame it like, ‘We’re not antisemitic, we’re just standing up for what the Israeli government is doing to Palestinians.’ But we can see that if their intention really was to help Palestinians, they would probably be acting differently.”

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Responding to the incident on Instagram, UW Hillel said, “No religious celebration should be used as an opportunity to promote divisiveness, and to attempt to hold our diverse Jewish community responsible for the actions of the Israeli government is a modern manifestation of antisemitism.”

“Unfortunately, this is not the first time that our building has been targeted for such political messaging,” the group added.

In a statement to the Badger, UW spokesman John Lucas said the university’s goal is “to create an environment where everyone is at home and feels welcome. We encourage respectful and courteous dialogue in our community.”

Rosen argued that the incident ultimately fostered more cohesion among Jewish UW students.

“I think that by targeting a group, you end up bringing them close together because people find unity in the group,” she said. “So if this person’s intention was to weaken the Jewish community in some way, I think it honestly would just have the opposite effect.”

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