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May 19, 2014 2

Vassar College President To Investigate Anti-Israel Student Group Activity

In response to a series of anti-Semitic posts pub­lished on social media accounts affil­i­ated with Vassar’s Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine (SJP) chap­ter, Catharine Hill, the Pres­i­dent of Vas­sar Col­lege, announced that “the col­lege is ini­ti­at­ing a full inves­ti­ga­tion and action on the mat­ter” and that she will be ask­ing the Vas­sar Stu­dent Asso­ci­a­tion (VSA) to review SJP’s pre-organization sta­tus; the group is a “pre­lim­i­nary orga­ni­za­tion” on campus.vassar-sjp

Anti-Semitic and racist mes­sages allegedly dis­sem­i­nated by the Vas­sar chap­ter of SJP included an arti­cle that was reposted from The Occi­den­tal Quar­terly, a racist print pub­li­ca­tion that in its own words, hopes to “defend the racial group that cre­ated and sus­tains our civ­i­liza­tion.” Another post that appeared on Vas­sar SJP’s Tum­blr page was of a car­toon that used offen­sive Holo­caust imagery to con­demn alleged Israeli poli­cies. It depicted a so-called “Holo­caust” in Gaza, with a pile of human skulls topped with a sign that read “Gaza.”

On May 13, a day before Hill’s state­ment, Vas­sar SJP posted a state­ment on its Face­book page claim­ing that, “Up until this point, the social media plat­forms (tum­blr and twit­ter) asso­ci­ated with SJP Vassar’s name have been man­aged by one per­son and the SJP gen­eral body was not involved in deci­sions made about what was being posted.” The group also con­demned hate speech and apol­o­gized for the offen­sive posts.

Con­cern over Vas­sar SJP’s activ­ity first began in Feb­ru­ary when the group orga­nized a protest out­side of an Inter­na­tional Stud­ies class, whose pro­fes­sor co-led a trip to Israel to explore water issues as part of the course. The protest report­edly lasted for at least 30 min­utes, as stu­dents enrolled in the course attempted to enter the classroom. 

As the stu­dents tried to make their way into the class­room, the pro­test­ers called on them to drop the class because of the orga­nized trip to Israel. They also handed out fly­ers, which apart from call­ing for Boy­cott, Divest­ment and Sanc­tions (BDS) cam­paigns against Israel, also claimed that “The sim­ple act of enter­ing and mov­ing within the state of Israel is a free­dom denied to over 5 mil­lion Pales­tin­ian refugees who were eth­ni­cally cleansed from their homes…The indige­nous peo­ple of Pales­tine do NOT want you to come.” 

Hill’s state­ment is an impor­tant step toward ensur­ing that Jew­ish and pro-Israel stu­dents on cam­pus are made to feel com­fort­able and that bla­tant anti-Semitism and hos­tile rhetoric will not be tol­er­ated on campus.

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