Israel

Former Students, Faculty Members Call on Oberlin to End “Concerted Hostility Toward Israel”

More than 90 alumni of Oberlin College in Ohio called on their alma mater on Wednesday to end “the concerted hostility toward Israel,” saying Jewish students face a challenging environment on campus, Shiri Moshe reported for The Algemeiner on Wednesday.

“The stream of negative messages about Israel creates the distorted impression that Israel is a unique evil in the world,” warned the alumni in an open letter sent to Oberlin President Carmen Twillie Ambar. The former students were joined by six former and current Oberlin faculty members.

The campaign was organized by the group Oberlin Alums for Campus Fairness — which opposes the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. The group observed that “there were eight times as many events portraying Israel negatively as there were portraying Israel positively” at the school during the fall 2017 semester.

While defending the right of veteran BDS activist Ali Abunimah to speak at the private liberal arts college, “we do object to professors endorsing his position by offering extra credit to students who attend,” they continued. “We also believe that without offering students the opportunity to hear counter-narratives and robust debate and dialogue, Oberlin College is engaging in political indoctrination rather than offering rigorous education.”

The group further noted that its “greatest concern is that incessant negative portrayal of Israel perpetuates a campus environment that, despite offering Jewish cultural and religious opportunities unrelated to Israel, is unwelcoming for many Jewish students and triggers blatant attacks of antisemitism.”

They cited as evidence several incidents of antisemitism on campus. A 2016 graduate of Oberlin overheard a fellow student shouting “Free Palestine” while he was walking to a Jewish religious service; a November 2016 attack on the home of a Jewish Oberlin professor, who found a note reading “GAS JEWS DIE”; and the smashing of a window where an Israeli flag was at display.

The Jewish community was again targeted in October 2017, when students circulated flyers on campus on which they called for an end to “Jewish privilege”, after which the college announced that it would no longer notify the community of such incidents to avoid giving the perpetrators “a microphone.”

The group of alumni wrote that they had “attempted to work directly with the administration to address these concerns, but they have not been responsive.” They added that “the status quo has alienated many Jewish students,” and may discourage others from attending Oberlin.

The letter’s signatories issued recommendations to address the hostility Jewish students face on campus, including the “transparent investigation and documentation of all acts of antisemitism,” and the launch of a task force “to create an immediate plan of action to address this continuing crisis.”

They also called for the establishment of a forum for students and alumni where antisemitic incidents could “be treated with the same kind of sensitivity and attention that has been given to other campus incidents of racism and other prejudices.”

In 2016, the same organization issued a letter, which attracted the support of more than 300 Oberlin alumni and students, in which the group expressed concern over “the continued intimidation of Jewish students and the many other forms of antisemitism occurring on campus.”

Days later, The Tower reported that an assistant professor at the college, Joy Karega, shared posts on social media blaming “Israeli and Zionist Jews” for the terrorist attacks that took place in Paris in 2015, saying the atrocities were Jewish revenge for France’s desire to “free Palestine.” She was later dismissed, but concerns have persisted over the college’s failure to adequately address a history of antisemitic incidents.

The Tower’s scoop that Karega had posted theories that ISIS was a Mossad front, Israel was behind 9/11, and banker Jacob Rothschild controls “your news, the media, your oil, and your government” received national coverage and eventually prompted the school’s board of trustees to condemn the professor.

[Photo: Matthew Trump / WikiCommons]