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Rutgers University chancellor issues groveling apology for condemning anti-Semitism



CHANCELLOR’S INTITIAL STATEMENT OF MAY 26  

Speaking Out Against Acts of Anti-Semitism

Dear Rutgers–New Brunswick Community,

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.

At a time when the ravages of the pandemic and the proliferation of global conflict are leading to death, destruction, and ethnic strife, the university stands as a beacon of hope for our community. We have the opportunity amidst the turmoil to serve as a model for institutions that respect and value the dignity of every human being.

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.

Our commitment to creating a safe learning environment that is inclusive of difference requires that we hold ourselves and each other accountable for our behaviors.

Therefore:

  • We call out all forms of bigotry, prejudice, discrimination, xenophobia, and oppression, in whatever ways they may be expressed.
  • We condemn any vile acts of hate against members of our community designed to generate fear, devalue, demonize, or dehumanize.
  • We embrace and affirm the value and dignity of each member of our Rutgers community regardless of religion, race, ethnic background, sexual orientation, gender, and ability.

If you have been adversely impacted by anti-Semitic or any other discriminatory incidents in our community, please do not hesitate to reach out to our counseling and other support services on campus. Our behavioral health team stands ready to support you through these challenging times. In addition, our Student Affairs Office is already working in close partnership with leaders of the Rutgers Jewish community, and meetings have been held with students to assess and respond to their needs. If you are aware of hate incidents on campuses or places that have been made unsafe due to expressed bigotry and other unacceptable and insensitive acts, please report them using the bias reporting system.

Although we face many challenges and may have differing perspectives, we must condemn acts of violence and all forms of bigotry. We will continually strive to realize the aspiration embodied in President Holloway’s articulation of a vision for Rutgers as a ‘beloved community’—a community where we welcome and affirm humanity and find strength in our diversity.

Sincerely,

Christopher J. Molloy

Chancellor

Francine Conway

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Research and Academic Affairs

SJP RESPONSE ON MAY 27 

On behalf of the Students for Justice in Palestine at Rutgers University, New Brunswick campus:

We are deeply concerned by the statement released from the desks of Chancellor Christopher Molloy and Provost Francine Conway yesterday evening. The Chancellor and Provost’s statement exclusively addressing antisemitism comes during a time when Israel’s occupation of Palestine is finally receiving widespread criticism, and despite mentioning the “deaths of children and adults and mass displacement of citizens in the Gaza region,” conveniently ignores the extent to which Palestinians have been brutalized by Israel’s occupation and bombing of Gaza.

Since the already addressed antisemitic attack on the Alpha Epsilon Pi house during Yom HaShoah, which occurred prior to global attention on the ongoing forced displacement of Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah, there have been no publicly reported acts of antisemitism against members of the Rutgers community as the Chancellor and Provost claim. This statement from the Chancellor and Provost is then unprecedented, and the fact that it comes at such a critical time involving global protests and critiques against Israel’s occupation of Palestine is a decision that cannot be separated from widespread attempts to conflate antizionism with antisemitism and derail Palestinian voices and activism. The statement released by Chancellor Molloy and Provost Conway thus cannot be interpreted as anything other than a deflection from Rutgers University’s role in financially supporting the Israeli state, and thus its human rights abuses and occupation of Palestine, by direct or indirect means.

Chancellor Molloy and Provost Conway proceed to refer to “increasing violence between Israeli forces and Hamas in the Middle East.” By choosing to center the crossfire between Israeli Occupation Forces and Hamas, rather than Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestine, the Chancellor and Provost minimize the impact of settler-colonialism on Palestinians and attempt to portray the violence as an equal conflict, which we know it not to be in the slightest.

In addition, we have deep concerns about the Chancellor and Provost’s decision to lump the murder of George Floyd and attacks against the AAPI community, Indigenous persons, Hindus, and Muslims. 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 and the experiences of their students who are impacted by them on a consistent basis.

Most importantly, the Chancellor and Provost notably neglected to use the words “Palestine” or “Palestinian” in their statement, instead opting to use phrases such as “the Middle East” and “the Gaza region.” This refusal to acknowledge and affirm the existence of Palestine, and thus the Palestinian faculty and students at Rutgers University, reveals the administration’s inability to stand in genuine solidarity with the Palestinian members of its University, a community that is grieving the death of over 200 Palestinians including many women and children. It isolates them and shows that Rutgers does not stand with or support them in their struggle for freedom and liberation, and contributes to the racist efforts of zionists to erase Palestinian identity and existence. If the Chancellor and Provost were truly committed to creating “a safe learning environment that is inclusive of difference” as claimed in their statement, they would stand in active support of the Rutgers New Brunswick Palestinian population as well as its Jewish population, instead of regurgitating empty platitudes via email every few months.

We therefore demand an apology from Chancellor Molloy and Provost Conway for dismissing the voices and visibility of Palestinians and allies, as well as demand an acknowledgement and explanation of why they did so. We demand that the Rutgers administration call out and expose any and all ties to Israeli apartheid and commit to action that reflects a global call to uplift the humanity of Palestinians, to recognize their violent displacement by the state of Israel, and acknowledge the gross mass murders occurrings at the hands of the Israeli Defense Forces, adjacent to the American police violence condemned by the University.

Sincerely,

The Students for Justice in Palestine Team

CHANCELLOR MOLLOY’S APOLOGY ON MAY 27

An Apology 

Dear Members of the Rutgers–New Brunswick Community,

We are writing today as a follow-up to the message sent on Wednesday, May 26th to the university community. We understand that intent and impact are two different things, and while the intent of our message was to affirm that Rutgers–New Brunswick is a place where all identities can feel validated and supported, the impact of the message fell short of that intention. In hindsight, it is clear to us that the message failed to communicate support for our Palestinian community members. We sincerely apologize for the hurt that this message has caused.

Rutgers University–New Brunswick is a community that is enriched by our vibrant diversity. However, our diversity must be supported by equity, inclusion, antiracism, and the condemnation of all forms of bigotry and hatred, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. As we grow in our personal and institutional understanding, we will take the lesson learned here to heart, and pledge our commitment to doing better. We will work to regain your trust, and make sure that our communications going forward are much more sensitive and balanced.

Our goal of creating a beloved community will not be easy, and while we may make mistakes along the way; we hope we can all learn from them as we continue this vital work together.

Sincerely,

Christopher J. Molloy

Chancellor, Rutgers University–New Brunswick

Francine Conway

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Research and Academic Affairs

Rutgers University–New Brunswick

SECOND SJP STATEMENT ON MAY 28

On the evening of May 26th, Chancellor Chrisopher Molloy and Provost Francine Conway released a statement addressing antisemitism. Briefly cited were also the death of George Floyd, and attacks against the AAPI community, Indigenous persons, Hindus, and Muslims, altogether in attempts to assert a blanket disposition against “racial injustice”. This statement was unwarranted due to the absence of any publicly reported antisemitic incidents in the Rutgers New Brunswick community that had not already been addressed by the administration, making it clear that its primary goal was to deflect from Rutgers University’s complicity in the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Despite the statement’s mention of the “the deaths of children and adults and mass displacement of citizens in the Gaza region and the loss of lives in Israel,” it was devoid of any clear acknowledgment of the Palestinian community at Rutgers, who are currently grieving the loss of more than 250 Palestinian lives at the hands of Israel’s hate-driven militant occupation of Palestine. 

Following our response on May 27th rejecting the statement released to the Rutgers general body on May 26th, and the support of Rutgers community members who sent action letters demanding accountability, Chancellor Molloy and Provost Conway have released a follow up titled “An Apology.” The Students for Justice in Palestine have the following sentiments regarding this statement from Chancellor Molloy and Provost Conway: 

The mission of our organization is to shed light on injustices currently taking place in Palestine, as well as to empower students to elucidate truths and eradicate such injustices. Among the most egregious of injustices against Palestinians is the attempt to erase the ongoing Palestinian occupation and ethnic cleansing crisis. Chancellor Molloy and Provost Conway contributed blatantly to this effort. No statement, announcement, or acknowledgement is released from the administration without careful review – what is delivered to the Rutgers staff and student body is an intentional representation of the views of the Chancellor’s and the Provost’s office. Yesterday, the Students for Justice in Palestine and our allies demanded full accountability for the University’s statement. While Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey is at liberty to state its “condemnation” of hate, its endowment investments and inclination to ignore a massive international crisis that affects Palestinian students and faculty indicate otherwise. 

The “apology” released by Chancellor Molloy and Provost Conway 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 and therefore will not be accepted by SJP Rutgers New Brunswick. 

Over 250 Palestinian lives have been lost, and the University has yet to blatantly acknowledge this tragedy at the hands of Israel. While the possibility remains that those martyred were of the Muslim faith, this does not serve as a prerogative for Chancellor Molloy and Provost Conway to address Islamophobia, which was cited in “An Apology.” Israel’s occupation of Palestine is an egregious injustice which transcends religious conflict; to reduce the occupation to an attack on Muslims is to erase the Palestinian Jewish and Christian populations also experiencing settler-colonialism. 

To the same extent that Islamophobia was regarded, Chancellor Molloy and Provost Conway had no urgent or context-based prerogative to address antisemitism. Condemnation of the unjust murders conducted by a Zionist institution does not equate to condemnation or attack upon Judaism or Jews; to explicitly cite the Jewish community in need of support in context to global criticisms of the Zionist occupation of Palestine is to conflate antizionism with antisemitism and derail Palestinian voices and activism. 

We stand in solidarity with our Jewish community, regardless of their allyship to Palestine, because no form of faith-based hate or violence is warranted under any circumstance. Zionism exists separately from faith to subjugate and oppress indigenous Palestinians. The Students for Justice in Palestine at Rutgers New Brunswick shall continue to denounce Zionism, and maintain that our efforts, as well as the efforts of our community and allies, have never included faith-based hate or attacks, and never will. To address recent instances of antisemitism when there has been no public reporting of any such attacks having occurred is exclusively an implication that recent demonstrations in support of Palestine are the alleged antisemitic attacks. We resent and reject these implications. 

The Students for Justice in Palestine at Rutgers will now reaffirm our initial demands of Chancellor Christopher Molly, Provost Francine Conway, and the President’s office, which they have neglected to fulfill: 

We demand an apology to the Palestinian community and our allies who are grieving the loss of lives in Gaza and mourning the displacement of Palestinians in the West Bank, particularly in Jerusalem; the administration must acknowledge forced displacement in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan as violations of international law that affect members of the Rutgers community in addition to Palestinians worldwide. We demand that this apology acknowledge the mentioned violence as white supremacist efforts and a zionist political agenda which the University condemns. 

We demand an official statement from the University transparently addressing the exclusion of Palestine from recent releases. We demand an explicit and detailed explanation for the University’s apathy toward Palestinian deaths. 

We demand that Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, publicly announce its ties to Israel, including its investments, and endowment usage, and provide the general body of the University a justification for such spendings. Given recent efforts of the University community in support of Palestine, SJP Rutgers New Brunswick does not believe the use of tuition and student fees to invest in the apartheid state of Israel represents the interests of the student body.

With the above, SJP Rutgers New Brunswick welcomes dialogue between Rutgers administration and the students it serves but will accept only transparent statements and releases going forward. And, as always, #FreePalestine.



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