[Update March 16: A similar letter now appears in the Oberlin review, this time with two significant differences: First, the organization that was originally described as connected to it, but apparently disavowed it as well, was not listed as Oberlin JVP but rather Students for a Free Palestine (SFP). Second, it lists the actual names of the students currently signed on the letter. The Oberlin Review has offered the following disclaimer: “Editor’s Note: This letter was published in our print issue on Friday, March 11, which was signed by Jewish Students of SFP. SFP refrains from actions or letters on Jewish students’ behalf, given that it is a Palestine solidarity organization.” We will continue updating as new developments regarding the provenance of the letter come to light.]
[Update: As of March 14, the letter published on Jewschool no longer is attributed to Oberlin JVP, and instead is attributed merely to unnamed “Oberlin Jewish Students.” At the top of the letter now appears the following: “Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly attributed this post to students associated with Jewish Voice for Peace.” What follows is the original article as published.]
Students at Oberlin College affiliated with the anti-Israel organization Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) wrote in an open letter Thursday that they “greatly admire” Prof. Joy Karega, who has become the subject of controversy after The Tower uncovered Facebook posts that led many, including Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin and the chair of Oberlin’s Board of Trustees, to accuse her of anti-Semitism.
In the letter, which was published on the website Jewschool, the students took issue with the fact that the original Tower article also mentioned a January letter written by Oberlin students and alumni alleging that anti-Israel student activists promote tactics that “intimidate, threaten, and coerce Jewish students” and contribute to a culture of anti-Semitism.
JVP dismissed these charges as “false,” and claimed that “pro-Israel organizations and voices, intent on discrediting the [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions] movement, are loudly and falsely insisting that college campuses are hotbeds of anti-Semitism and are unsafe spaces for Jewish students because of pro-Palestine activism.” Despite this, the letter admitted that at least one of her Facebook posts were objectionable.
Singling out the Rothschilds as masterminds of global capitalism, as Karega did in her posts, has historically worked to blame and scapegoat Jews, while distracting attention from broader systems of capitalist exploitation and imperialism. We want to call in Professor Karega, whom we greatly admire as a professor and activist, and are confident that productive dialogue about collective liberation can occur without vitriolic attack or Zionist apologetics.
Karega shared a grotesque-looking image of Jewish financier Jacob Rothschild, accompanied by the text, “We own nearly every central bank in the world. We financed both sides of every war since Napoleon. We own your news, the media, your oil and your government.” Karega introduced the image approvingly, writing, “Yep. This family and several others.”
Karega also linked to a video of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan accusing “Israeli and Zionist Jews” of being behind the 9/11 terror attacks. Karega claimed that Farrakhan was “truth-telling” in the video.
Abraham Socher, an associate professor of religion at Oberlin and director of the college’s Jewish Studies program, described last week how the Rothschild image evoked a centuries-old anti-Semitic trope:
The most infamous of these conspiracy theories was The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a bizarre, incoherent transcript of supposed secret meetings by powerful, shadowy Jews plotting to take over the world by manipulating the world economy and fomenting war. It drew on 19th-century French royalist documents and was published by ultra-nationalist Russian anti-Semites in 1903. Henry Ford — and, later, Hitler — promoted it, and it’s still a favorite of cranks worried that a nefarious New World Order is about to take over. As a key anti-Semitic document in the 20th century, The Protocols were instrumental in persecutions, riots and, eventually, genocide. The Protocols conspiracy theory was parallel to — and sometimes combined with — the claim that the Rothschilds, a famous Jewish banking family, were also guilty of planning world domination. A Google search will quickly lead you to claims by neo-Nazis that The Protocols are a “Rothschild handbook,” often focusing on the 87-year-old English philanthropist Jacob Rothschild.
On Thursday, Karega expressed her gratitude for the support JVP gave her on her Facebook page.
Kevin Barrett, a writer for Veterans Today, a website that prominently features anti-Israel conspiracy theories, also offered his support for Karega and her 9/11 musings last week. Karega thanked Barrett, whose writings are often picked up by the neo-Nazi website Stormfront, for his support.
Yona Schiffmiller wrote last month in The Tower that JVP “has frequently romanticized Palestinian terror attacks, which are intended to murder and maim innocent Israeli civilians, including stabbing pregnant women and murdering mothers in front of their children.
Incredibly, JVP referred to the stabbings and shootings plaguing Israel as “Palestinian popular resistance” and shared a statement on its Facebook page that praised “a new generation of Palestinians … rising up en-masse against Israel’s brutal, decades-old regime of occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid.”
[Photo: OberlinOES / YouTube ]