This story has everything: the moral bankruptcy and cowardice of Western academia, the obsessive need of Palestinians and their supporters to make everything about them, and the emptiness of their insistence that they are not antisemitic, only “critical of Israel.”
On 26 May 2021, the Chancellor and Provost of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, released a statement* by email condemning recent antisemitic violence, called “Speaking Out Against Acts of Antisemitism.”
Recent incidents of hate directed toward Jewish members of our community again remind us of what history has to teach us. Tragically, in the last century alone, acts of prejudice and hatred left unaddressed have served as the foundation for many atrocities against targeted groups around the world …
If you have been adversely impacted by anti-Semitic or any other discriminatory incidents in our community, please do not hesitate to reach out to our counseling and other support services on campus. Our behavioral health team stands ready to support you through these challenging times …
We have also been witnesses to the increasing violence between Israeli forces and Hamas in the Middle East leading to the deaths of children and adults and mass displacement of citizens in the Gaza region and the loss of lives in Israel.”
On 27 May, the infuriated Rutgers Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) replied in a long post on their Instagram account (here significantly shortened):
… The Chancellor and Provost’s statement exclusively addressing antisemitism comes during a time when Israel’s occupation of Palestine [sic] is finally receiving widespread criticism, and despite mentioning the “deaths of children and adults and mass displacement of citizens in the Gaza region,” conveniently ignores the extent to which Palestinians have been brutalized by Israel’s occupation and bombing of Gaza.
… the fact that [the statement] comes at such a critical time involving global protests and critiques against Israel’s occupation of Palestine [sic] is a decision that cannot be separated from widespread attempts to conflate antizionism [sic] with antisemitism and derail Palestinian voices and activism. …
Chancellor Molloy and Provost Conway proceed to refer to “increasing violence between Israeli forces and Hamas in the Middle East.” By choosing to center the crossfire between Israeli Occupation Forces [sic] and Hamas, rather than Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestine [sic], the Chancellor and Provost minimize the impact of settler-colonialism on Palestinians and attempt to portray the violence as an equal conflict, which we know it not to be in the slightest. …
Most importantly, the Chancellor and Provost notably neglected to use the words “Palestine” or “Palestinian” in their statement, instead opting to use phrases such as “the Middle East” and “the Gaza region.” This refusal to acknowledge and affirm the existence of Palestine [sic], and thus the Palestinian faculty and students at Rutgers University, reveals the administration’s inability to stand in genuine solidarity with the Palestinian members of its University, a community that is grieving the death of over 200 Palestinians including many women and children. It isolates them and shows that Rutgers does not stand with or support them in their struggle for freedom and liberation, and contributes to the racist efforts of zionists [sic] to erase Palestinian identity and existence. …
We therefore demand an apology from Chancellor Molloy and Provost Conway for dismissing the voices and visibility of Palestinians and allies, as well as demand an acknowledgement and explanation of why they did so. We demand that the Rutgers administration call out and expose any and all ties to Israeli apartheid and commit to action that reflects a global call to uplift the humanity of Palestinians, to recognize their violent displacement by the state of Israel, and acknowledge the gross mass murders occurrings [sic] at the hands of the Israeli Defense Forces, adjacent to the American police violence condemned by the University.
On 28 May, the Chancellor and Provost sent a second email,* titled “Apology.”
Rutgers University–New Brunswick is a community that is enriched by our vibrant diversity.
However, our diversity must be supported by equity, inclusion, antiracism, and the condemnation of all forms of bigotry and hatred, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
As we grow in our personal and institutional understanding, we will take the lesson learned here to heart, and pledge our commitment to doing better. We will work to regain your trust, and make sure that our communications going forward are much more sensitive and balanced.
It is absolutely stunning that university officials found it necessary to apologize for condemning antisemitism! But of course the apology was inadequate to calm the fury of SJP, who had demanded far more, and on the same day they produced an even longer Instagram diatribe, from which I will quote just one piece:
… Chancellor Molloy and Provost Conway had no urgent or context-based prerogative to address antisemitism. Condemnation of the unjust murders conducted by a Zionist institution does not equate to condemnation or attack upon Judaism or Jews; to explicitly cite the Jewish community in need of support in context to global criticisms of the Zionist occupation of Palestine [sic] is to conflate antizionism [sic] with antisemitism and derail Palestinian voices and activism.
In other words, SJP holds that the antisemitism university officials have condemned is actually just anti-Zionism, which SJP sees as totally justified! SJP admits that anti-Zionism is essential to Palestinian identity, and therefore to condemn it is to “erase” Palestinian identity. I agree with them: the only uniquely “Palestinian” part of Palestinian culture is its opposition to Jewish sovereignty. But it is becoming more and more clear that the anti-Zionism of Palestinians and their supporters is viciously antisemitic.
At this point, well-deserved criticism for their craven apology rained down on the poor Chancellor and Provost. And so, on 29 May, Rutgers found it necessary to release a third statement, this one by the President of the University, to un-apologize, and to make it clear that like the US Congress, they oppose every imaginable form of bigotry (and therefore criticize no one).
Rutgers deplores hatred and bigotry in all forms. We have not, nor would we ever, apologize for standing against anti-Semitism.
Neither hatred nor bigotry has a place at Rutgers, nor should they have a place anywhere in the world. At Rutgers we believe that anti-Semitism, anti-Hinduism, Islamophobia and all forms of racism, intolerance and xenophobia are unacceptable wherever and whenever they occur.
An Orwellian note: with each iteration of its position, Rutgers replaced the previous one on their website. All the links in the media that pointed to the original statement, the apology, and the un-apology now redirect to the same place, the un-apology. The others have been dropped into the memory hole.
Some 140 members of the Rutgers faculty joined SJP in opposing Israel’s right to self-defense. You can read their letter here. These are the folks that would teach your children if they go to Rutgers.
I can’t imagine that I would want my children to study in a North American or European university today. Far better for them to learn a trade; they will come out with smaller debts and without antisemitic baggage.
* I would have liked to provide “official” links to the complete, original emails, but as I wrote, they no longer can be found. The quotes provided are taken from several news accounts that included the content of the emails.