Rutgers caves to pressure from pro-Palestinian group, apologizes for statement condemning anti-Semitism

Chancellor Christopher Molloy and Provost Francine Conway of Rutgers University issued a statement on Thursday apologizing for condemning rising anti-Semitism against Jews and hate in all forms after facing backlash from a pro-Palestinian group on campus. 

The group, Students for Justice in Palestine, released a lengthy condemnation of Molloy and Conway’s statement in which they declared that the leaders’ statement came “at such a critical time involving global protests” that the “decision cannot be separated from widespread attempts to conflate antizionism with antisemitism and derail Palestinian voices and activism.”

The original statement from Molloy and Conway, released Wednesday, read:

We are saddened by and greatly concerned about the sharp rise in hostile sentiments and anti-Semitic violence in the United States. 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.  

“Last year’s murder of George Floyd brought into sharp focus the racial injustices that continue to plague our country, and over the past year there has been attacks on our Asian American Pacific Islander citizens, the spaces of Indigenous peoples defiled, and targeted oppression and other assaults against Hindus and Muslims.

“Although it has been nearly two decades since the U.S. Congress approved the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act, the upward trend of anti-Semitism continues. 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. 

“This recent resurgence of anti-Semitism demands that we again call out and denounce acts of hate and prejudice against members of the Jewish community and any other targeted and oppressed groups on our campus and in our community.”

 

The Students for Justice in Palestine went on to claim that by lumping together the experience of black Americans, AAPI, and indigenous people, Conway and Molloy “trivialized” the issues and demanded an apology.

The chancellor and provost then issued an apology on Thursday affirming that “our diversity must be supported by equity, inclusion, antiracism, and the condemnation of all forms of bigotry and hatred, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.”

Molloy and Conway committed themselves to “taking the lesson learned to heart” and “doing better. We will work to regain your trust, and make sure that our communications going forward are much more sensitive and balanced.”

Students for Justice in Palestine followed by releasing a second statement Friday criticizing Molloy and Conway’s apology, saying it “persists on the nonnecessity of actually supporting Palestinian students, faculty and allies as we grieve, organize, and resist the Zionist occupation of Palestine. Our existence is not contingent on the University’s acknowledgment, and the empty assertion that our community is ‘supported’ may remain with the University, as it is an assertion that has not been backed by any tangible efforts,” according to the New York Post. 

Many notable, Jewish alumni of Rutgers took to Twitter to voice their disapproval of the university’s handling of the situation:

Washington Examiner executive editor and former New York Post opinion editor Seth Mandel tweeted that the situation was “infuriating beyond belief” and the “bald erasure of the humanity of the Jewish people will forever stain Molloy, the university and all of us with any association with the school.”

Democratic Alliance Initiative executive director Noah Pollak broke down why Progressives are so obstinate about support of Jews, “Progressives don’t actually believe anti-semitism is real. Jews are wealthy & successful and therefore cannot be victims of bigotry.” He continued,  “Oppressors cannot be oppressed. Remember their formula: racism = prejudice + power”.

David French, senior editor of The Dispatch noted it’s “pathetic” that the original statement’s condemnation of hate in all forms was not enough.”

The conflict even captured the attention of some lawmakers in Washington. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) tweeted, “Under pressure, the Rutgers chancellor *apologized* for condemning the surge of anti-Semitic violence,” followed by, “How can someone this weak lead a university?”

The New York Post reported that the university “has no further comment at this time” and representatives of Rutgers Hillel or Rutgers Chabad did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The conflict at Rutgers unfolds at a time when antisemitism continues to steadily rise in the United States. The Anti-Defamation League tracks incidents of antisemitism and reports that “an analysis of Twitter in the days following the recent outbreak of violence [in the Middle East] showed more than 17,000 tweets which used variations of the phrase, “Hitler was right” between May 7 and May 14, 2021. ADL has also seen an increase in on-the-ground activity that demonizes Israel and that has crossed at times into antisemitism.”

Since the most recent conflict in Israel began, ADL received 193 reports of anti-semitism, up from 131 the previous week.

Kay Apfel

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