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The Middle East may be complicated, but what part of antisemitism is so hard for the UPenn administration to understand? Is there any limit to defamatory, bigoted, and downright violent speech directed at those of Jewish and Israeli extraction that would be sufficient to get the administration to condemn the laundry list of antisemitic speakers scheduled to attend an on-campus event titled the “Palestine Writes” festival from September 22-24, 2023?
While I appreciate the administration’s attempt to condemn antisemitism in their statement yesterday, the administration must do more to condemn this hate fest. Otherwise, it brings into question whether there is a double standard when it comes to Jew hatred. The Jewish community writ large supports free speech but that is not what this is about. This is about protecting Jewish students on campus from a ripple effect of antisemitism that will inevitably occur from this hate festival. The administration knows full well that they can do more to stop antisemites like Roger Waters from speaking on campus, contrary to their statement.
The administration had no problem stopping hate speech in the past, as they did with Amy Wax when she brought a known white supremacist to campus. And as FIRE wrote in their 2024 College Free Speech Rankings blue paper, this administration also delayed approving the Hunting, Archery, and Shooting Club as a registered student organization, “claiming that due to the ‘nature of the group’s mission’ it could not make an approval decision until campus returned to normal operations post COVID-19. However, other groups intending to meet in person were approved during the pandemic.”
The administration had no problem stopping hate speech in the past, as they did with Amy Wax when she brought a known white supremacist to campus.
But when it comes to the Jews, it seems as if everything goes, or at least, every speaker is welcome, hate speech or not.
Speakers like musician Roger Waters, who infamously alleged in an interview that “particularly where I live in the United States of America[, t]he Jewish lobby is extraordinar[il]y powerful here and particularly in the industry that I work in…” Not much subtlety there, but this is the same artist who recently performed wearing a mock-SS uniform and projected Anne Frank’s name on stage at a Berlin concert. Is it any shock that Waters is also a prominent supporter of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), a political campaign for the destruction of the State of Israel?
Or Randa Abdel-Fattah, who has written that “Israel is a demonic, sick project and I can’t wait for the day we commemorate its end,” as well as the equally charming observation that “Israel is an abomination. Every single act of violence is calculated & a logical manifestation of its core identity as a racist, Jewish supremacist, settler colonial apartheid regime of hell.”
Or Marc Lamont Hill, who was famously fired from CNN for calls for a “free Palestine from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea,” which would wipe out the Jewish state. Hill also tweeted that calls for Palestinians to “reject hatred and terrorism” are “offensive & counterproductive” and said that terrorist and mass murderer Rasmea Odeh is a “freedom fighter being railroaded for her commitment to justice.”
Or Huwaida Arraf, who made the “inclusive” comment that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) “like the entire Zionist project, is built on the propagation of Jewish supremacy.” Arraf is also the co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), an organization that she herself has disclosed to have worked with terrorists from Hamas, PIJ, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
In a 2002 article titled “Why Nonviolent Resistance is Important for the Palestinian Intifada,” Arraf and her co-author wrote that “[t]he Palestinian resistance must take on a variety of characteristics — both nonviolent and violent… we accept that Palestinians have a right to resist with arms… Yes, people will get killed and injured.” Apparently, UPenn’s administration thinks this is an appropriate message to be shared with students on campus.
Does UPenn President Liz Magill and her administration stop to consider what impact her institution’s hosting of this carnival of incitement will have on her Jewish and Israeli students, visitors, faculty, and staff? Are they supposed to feel comfortable wearing clothing that identifies them as Jews or Israelis, like kippot, clothes with Hebrew letters, or jewelry bearing the Star of David? Does the administration recognize the intimidation and exclusion they are subjecting Jews and Israelis at UPenn to, especially given that at least one-third of all U.S. Jewish college students now experience antisemitism on campus?
If so, the Administration needs to take a stronger stance by ensuring University departments, including The Penn Arts & Sciences Middle East Center and Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, pull their co-sponsorship of the event and implement mandatory antisemitism training for all students, faculty, and administrators before the end of the fall semester. The sooner the better.