Jewish Journal

Emory Investigation Concludes Mock Eviction Notices Weren’t Anti-Semitic

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Emory University’s Senate Standing Committee on Open Expression concluded in an April 15 report that Emory Students for Justice in Palestine’s (ESJP) mock eviction notices were not anti-Semitic.

The notices, which found in Emory residence halls April 2, told residents that their suites were “scheduled for demolition in three days.” They went onto say that these types of notices “are routinely given to Palestinian families living under Israeli occupation for no other reason than their ethnicity.”

As Scholars for Middle East executive director Asaf Romirowsky and board members Lauri Regan noted in a May 3 Jerusalem Post Op-ed, the committee’s report stated, “We do not know whether the motives of those who wrote or distributed the flyers were anti-Semitic; clearly, different readers’ perceptions differ on this point. In any event, it is the objective content of the flyers that matters, not the speakers’ or distributors’ subjective motives.”

While the notices claimed that Israel is attempting to “ethnically cleanse the region of its Arab inhabitants,” the committee believed that this was simply “an expression of disagreement with the actions of a government.” The committee went onto say that the flyers do not fall under the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism because “it is not clear that the flyer uses such double standards” against Israel, adding that “in any event, we cannot police these sorts of factors.”

Additionally, while the committee determined that the notices violated university policy for being posted on residents’ doors, freedom of speech protects the notices themselves. Therefore, ESJP should not be disciplined, the committee concluded.

“Those who disrupt the pro-Israel activities seek to justify their actions with claims that Zionism is racism or ‘settler colonialism.’ The organizers of the pro-Israel activities, for their part, often view these acts as grounded in anti-Semitic motivations,” the committee’s report stated. “But our [university] policy protects both sides in this debate. The content-neutrality that allows ESJP to sharply criticize Israeli government policy is the same content-neutrality that allows Emory’s pro-Israel organizations to sharply criticize the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.”

The committee also stated that there was no evidence to suggest that ESJP targeted Jewish students with the notices.

Romirowsky and Regan criticized the committee’s conclusions.

“Consider Emory’s reaction if a group of Jewish students posted faux flyers from the Islamic Republic of Iran with threats to throw gay students off roofs, something that actually has been done in that and other Islamic nations,” they wrote. “Those students would have been labeled Islamophobes and faced consequences because both homosexual and Muslim students are considered protected groups on campuses. Jews? Not so much, at least apparently not from Emory’s perspective.”

They added that the committee’s verdict that the notices weren’t anti-Semitic in “an emboldened SJP chapter, anti-Semitic flyers approved for posting, and an administration more interested in protecting hate-speech than Jewish students” at Emory.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean and director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said in a statement to the Journal, “Emory is willfully deaf, dumb, and blind to the fears of Jewish students.  Those ‘eviction notices’ were of course meant to denigrate and intimidate.  Had Emory bothered to ask the Israeli consul general in Atlanta they could have learned that the mock notices presented falsehoods as fact. Palestinians facing eviction often connected to terrorist activity all have and often use the rights to challenge in Israeli courts. And how convenient they didn’t (have to) refer to the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism, they wouldn’t have had the chutzpah to decide for Jews what is anti-Semitic and what isn’t. Further proof we need legislation so that the US Department of Education can protect Jewish students from harassment. Clearly Emory won’t.”

Rena Nasar, managing director of Campus Affairs at StandWithUs, similarly said in a statement to the Journal, “SJP’s flyers were antisemitic in their slanderous and dehumanizing portrayal of the Jewish state. Furthermore, the flyers attempt to smear Jews as racist simply for exercising their inalienable rights to self-determination. The Emory committee failed to address these problems at all and as such, their judgement about what is or is not antisemitic has no credibility.”

A university spokesperson did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.