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February 16, 2022 12:00 pm

Does American University Accept Anti-Israel and Anti-Jewish Hate?

avatar by Michal Cohen


Former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Photo: Reuters / Stefan Wermuth.

As a vocal Israeli on social media, I am used to the constant harassment—from being held accountable for the actions of the Israeli government, to outright being called a Nazi. But I never thought this xenophobic sentiment would seep into the comment section of an American University (AU) Instagram post.

On Tuesday, February 3, American University’s School of Public Affairs made an Instagram post promoting an event with former Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni, who was scheduled to speak over Zoom for American University’s 2022 Amos Perlmutter Memorial Lecture on February 7. As a recent alumnus of American University, I was excited to see a high-level Israeli political figure be recognized by the university, but many Instagram users apparently disagreed.

I soon found myself reading comments ranging from students claiming that Israel should not exist and calling it an “illegitimate state,” to blaming all Israelis for the suffering of Palestinians, while equating Zionism with racism. Among these statements were countless students commenting that Zionists were not welcome on campus.

As I spent the afternoon trying to engage students in conversation, all I could think about was the university’s silence in the face of this blatant anti-Israeli hatred and xenophobia.

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As an administration that prides itself on inclusion and equality, where was the university when students accused Jewish and Israeli members of the community of war crimes, telling Zionists (around 82% of American Jews) they were no longer welcome on campus in the comment section of an official university account?

As an Israeli, I am used to anti-Israeli xenophobia being pushed under the rug and justified as simply criticism of the Israeli government; but seeing a comment section of my alma matter flooded with xenophobia, lies, and hatred espoused by current students was disheartening.

Later in the week, Jewish students were targeted with comments such as “1488,” “88,” and “6MWE — ” all neo-Nazi code words for Heil Hitler and “6 Million Weren’t Enough.” University students should be able to engage in intellectual debate without facing backlash or hatred for who they are. The exact opposite occurred in the comment section of AU’s post — and the university stood by while it happened.

Michal Cohen is the Chief Marketing Officer of Jewish on Campus. 


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