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29 May, 2021 14:45

Rutgers University condemns anti-Semitic hate, is then forced to apologize by pro-Palestinian students, sparking backlash online

Rutgers University condemns anti-Semitic hate, is then forced to apologize by pro-Palestinian students, sparking backlash online

Rutgers University-News Brunswick in New Jersey has apologized after a pro-Palestinian group slammed its statement against anti-Semitic attacks in the US. The institution’s apology then drew more backlash.

The university released a statement this week condemning the “sharp rise in hostile sentiments and anti-Semitic violence in the United States.”

The statement was signed by Chancellor Christopher Molloy and Executive Vice Chancellor for Research and Academic Affairs Francine Conway. It referred to how the most-recent fighting between the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the Palestinian militant group Hamas had caused “the deaths of children and adults and mass displacement of citizens in the Gaza region and the loss of lives in Israel.”

The university condemned “all forms of bigotry, prejudice, discrimination, xenophobia, and oppression, in whatever ways they may be expressed.”

The university’s activist group, the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), released its own statement the next day, accusing the university officials of ignoring “the extent to which Palestinians have been brutalized by Israel’s occupation and bombing of Gaza.” 

SJP blasted Molloy and Conway for not using the words ‘Palestine’ and ‘Palestinian’ in their statement and argued that it “cannot be separated from widespread attempts to conflate antizionism with antisemitism and derail Palestinian voices and activism.”

The students wrote that school’s leadership was wrong to lump the condemnation of hatred towards different groups together. “By attempting to combine each of these significant issues for the purpose of making a blanket statement decreeing that ‘racism is bad,’ Chancellor Molloy and Provost Conway trivialize these issues,” they wrote.

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Molloy and Conway responded the same day, apologizing for their previous statement and promising “more sensitive and balanced” communication in the future. “In hindsight, it is clear to us that the message failed to communicate support for our Palestinian community members,” they wrote. 

The change of stance sparked backlash from conservative media figures and politicians. “Rutgers actually apologized for condemning antisemitism. We’re turning into Absurdistan,” Izabella Tabarovsky, a writer for the Jewish online publication, the Tablet Magazine, tweeted. 

Conservative podcast host Ben Shapiro wrote that, by apologizing, the university’s chancellor has said “the quiet part out loud: that anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel are intertwined, and that you can’t condemn anti-Semitism without offending the Israel-haters.” 

US Republican Party Senator Tom Cotton blasted Molloy, asking: “How can someone this weak lead a university?” 

“This 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,” Seth Mendel, executive editor of the Washington Examiner, tweeted.

The conflict between Israel and Hamas rapidly escalated on May 10 when militants fired volleys of rockets from Gaza at Israeli cities, to which the IDF responded by bombing targets in the Palestinian enclave. The hostilities ended with a ceasefire on May 21. At least 248 people in Gaza and 12 in Israel were killed in cross-border attacks. 

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