October 20, 2019

‘Jews Did 9-11’ Graffiti Appears on UT Knoxville Rock

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Anti-Semitic graffiti was found on a rock at the University of Tennessee (UT) Knoxville on Sept. 11 accusing Jews of being responsible for the 9/11 terror attacks.

The graffiti read, “Jews did 9-11. Google: Dancing Israelis.”

University Chancellor Donde Plowman condemned the graffiti in an email to community members on Sept. 12.

“In one week, the Rock has brought out the best and the worst. We celebrated the outpouring of love for the young Volunteer who made his own T-shirt, and someone beautifully depicted the shirt on the Rock,” Plowman wrote. The “young Volunteer” is a reference to a Florida boy who was bullied at his elementary school for his homemade UT t-shirt design, prompting the design to be drawn on the campus Rock to counteract those teasing the boy.

“Last night, someone covered that message of love with an anti-Semitic hate message,” Plowman wrote. “We condemn that hate aimed toward members of our Jewish community, and we understand that words are not enough.”

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Southeast Regional Director Allison Padilla-Goodman said in a Sept. 12 statement, “Instead of honoring the lives of those that were lost on that fateful day, someone chose to highlight hate. The Rock, which is meant to represent school pride and unification, has unfortunately, again, been used as a billboard for hate.”

She added that the ADL “unequivocally” condemns the graffiti, stating, “College campuses are no place for hate.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center tweeted, “This anti-Semitic screed besmirches the memory of every innocent victim of 9/11, smears the nation of #Israel, gives cover to Islamist mass murderers. @UTKnoxville inaction in face of #antisemitic attacks portrays gutless university ‘leadership.’”

There were two instances of swastikas being drawn on the Rock in 2018, including one over the words “stronger than hate” which was painted in response to the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in October. The second involved a swastika and the words “Free Palestine” which appeared less than two weeks later. In 2017, the words “white pride” appeared on the Rock.

ADL Southeast noted in a press release that they have contacted the university on working to stop “the disturbing pattern of hate-filled messages against marginalized communities appearing on the Rock.” 

UT’s Alpha Epsilon Pi chapter called on the university to do more in response to such graffiti.

“We are sick and tired of University of Tennessee constantly doing nothing to address this,” they wrote in a Sept. 12 Facebook post. “This happens time and time again and all the university has said is ‘this is unacceptable.’ AEPi at UTK asks the Greek community to share this on their stories and to tag the University. It’s time something is done about this.”

The Psi Deuteron chapter stands firmly against this hate. We are sick and tired of University of Tennessee constantly…

Posted by Alpha Epsilon Pi – University of Tennessee on Thursday, September 12, 2019

UPDATE: Alums for Campus Fairness (ACF) condemned the graffiti in a statement.

“The words ‘JEWS DID 9-11’ have a real and threatening effect on Jewish and Zionist students who attend the university,” the organization said. “This is the third time this year that the Rock has been vandalized with antisemitic symbols and messages. We look forward to working with Chancellor Donde Plowman—who stated ‘we understand that words are not enough’ —to take concrete steps to prevent this from occurring again. ACF will remain actively engaged and continue to support the campus community.”