Over 25 years ago, when I was a student reporter at the Daily Targum at Rutgers University, I wrote a story on how students and campus officials reacted to a spate of racist and anti-Semitic graffiti that cropped up all over campus in the winter of 1990. The article rests in a dusty portfolio somewhere in my basement.
It’s still all out there. The cowardice too. The kind of cowardice that makes a person go into the dorm suite at the University of Minnesota and draw a swastika and a concentration scene on the white board outside a Jewish student’s bedroom. The student – a 3G Holocaust survivor.
With the current person running the White House, I fear it will only get worse.
Here is my current story in this week’s Detroit Jewish News.
Following last week’s rash of antiSemitic incidents on two Michigan college campuses, including emails rigged to look like they originated from a University of Michigan computer science professor and a Valentine’s Day card delivered at a Central Michigan University event featuring the image of Adolf Hitler, administrators, students and several Jewish organizations are standing up against the hatred.
Campus Hillels continue to offer support to those disturbed by the incidents as well as programs that engage Jewish students and encourage dialogue with the wider student body.
At U-M, the FBI, along with campus police, continue to work to uncover the distributor of the emails. Though their origin is not clear, they read as if they came from Professor Dr. Alex Halderman.
The messages, sent to Computer Science and Engineering students on Feb. 7, read:
“Hi (N-word), I just wanted to say that I plan to kill all of you. White power! The KKK has returned!!!”
An email addressed to Jewish people read:
“I just wanted to say the SS will rise again and kill all your filthy souls. Die in a pit of eternal fire! … Heil Trump!”
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the emails were sent from a “spoofed” account attributed to Halderman. Unlike a hacked email where someone gains control of an email account, a spoofed email is a forgery designed to look like it came from out of the country.
“These messages were spoofed,” Halderman wrote in a statement on the U-M website.
“I did not send them, and I don’t know who did. As I teach in my computer security classes, it takes very little technical sophistication to forge the sender’s address in an email.”
In fact, computer science and engineering student Daniel Chandross, 20, of West Bloomfield, who received the spoofed email, said he and fellow students figured out in 15 minutes that the email was a fake.
In a Feb. 8 statement to U-M Hillel students, parents, alumni and donors, Hillel Executive Director Tilly Shames said Hillel is working with the FBI and U-M authorities regarding the next steps to take and are being kept informed of any developments in the investigation. “The messages sent to our students were deeply disturbing and upsetting to our Jewish community,” Shames’ statement said. “It is important we come together in this moment to show this kind of hate will not be tolerated. Hate has no place on our campus. We will not be defined by these hateful messages but rather by the way we come together in response to them, showing our support for one another. We stand with all students and faculty impacted by these emails, and will continue to seek ways to offer support and unite as a campus community.”
The leaders of the U-M Central Student Government in a written statement also expressed disturbance at the “overtly racist, anti-Black and antiSemitic” emails and stressed “they have no place on this campus.” “An offense against any member of this university is an offense against all,” the CSG statement read. “Even if you are not a member of a targeted group, it is still your place, today and every day, to stand against injustice and fight discrimination. To our Black and Jewish friends, classmates and peers: You matter, and you belong here.”
On Sunday, the Detroit FBI field office stated, in part: “If, in the course of investigation, information is developed suggesting a federal violation of law, the FBI will coordinate with the United States Attorney’s Office to identify the best course of action toward prosecution.”
At Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, another hate incident took place, this time involving a Valentine’s Day card distributed at a Feb. 9 College Republicans event with a message containing a photo of Adolf Hitler that read:
“My love 4 u burns like 6,000 Jews.”
A statement on CMU Hillel’s Facebook page and website as well as the Hillel Campus Alliance of Michigan site said they are “deeply concerned and disappointed students would use anti-Semitic rhetoric and references to the Holocaust in a joking manner. We find these references to trivialize an incredibly dark period in history when more than 6 million Jews perished.”
The College Republicans apologized for the incident, saying they were not aware someone had slipped such a note into one the Valentine’s Day candy bags they were giving out. According to the Associated Press, school leaders Feb. 10 said the woman responsible for distributing the card was not a CMU student and admitted her “misguided action.” CMU said members of the student group “were unaware of the card when distributing the party gift bag containing it.” ADL Detroit Regional Director Heidi Budaj said, “The message conveyed in this Valentine’s Day bag is outrageous and deeply offensive. This anti-Semitic distribution not only affects the campus community, but also trivializes the horror that Holocaust victims and their families have experienced.” Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon
According to the Associated Press, school leaders Feb. 10 said the woman responsible for distributing the card was not a CMU student and admitted her “misguided action.” CMU said members of the student group “were unaware of the card when distributing the party gift bag containing it.”
ADL Detroit Regional Director Heidi Budaj said, “The message conveyed in this Valentine’s Day bag is outrageous and deeply offensive. This anti-Semitic distribution not only affects the campus community, but also trivializes the horror that Holocaust victims and their families have experienced.” Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wisenthal Center (SWC) in Los Angeles harshly criticized the CMU incident and said universities do not go far enough in their reactions when such incidents arise on campus.
In an interview, Cooper said he was not satisfied the woman responsible for creating the card at CMU was not named by the university and still wanted to know who within the student organization invited her to the event.
“It is very nice the club apologized, but they still owe the community full disclosure as to how this vile incident happened,” Cooper said. “At the minimum, it is time to begin to name and shame such cowards.”
Cooper said harsher consequences for perpetrators of anti-Semitism and better protections for Jewish students cannot be implemented at colleges and universities because there is no legal definition of antiSemitism. According to Cooper, the SWC is working with other groups to pass legislation in Congress to sharpen discrimination and hate acts aimed at Jews. Late last November, the bipartisan Anti-Semitism Awareness Act was introduced to Congress and, in December, passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate. In response to the rising hate acts against Jewish students, the SWC in 2014 developed a mobile app called “combathateU” to help Jewish students and other supporters of Israel deal with hate, bias, anti-Semitism and extreme anti-Israel harassment on campus. Submissions to the app are answered within 24 hours so the SWC can elicit additional information and suggest possible solutions.
On both campuses, Jewish students reacted to the events with shock and confusion, but also continued to engage Jewish students as well as non-Jewish students in inclusive programming to pave the way to dialogue and understanding.
Chandross, a U-M sophomore, said he was “surprised and confused” when the email landed in his inbox. But he and fellow computer science majors who received the same email learned quickly from the email’s metadata it was a fake.
“We’re all pretty much reacting in the same way,” Chandross said. “Some people are bigots and you just can’t let it phase you. It’s just not a way to move forward.”
U-M junior Mara Cranis, 20, of West Bloomfield, who has a leadership position at U-M Hillel, said that since September, there has been an increase in antiSemitism on campus.
The day after the email, she and other students and professional Hillel leaders were on hand at the Hillel building to serve as a support source for students. The organization also went ahead with its already-scheduled Jewish Engineering Students Associated Shabbat and extended the invitation to the National Society of Black Engineers.
Hillel at CMU President Hadley Platek, 21, of Woodhaven was preparing a Tu b’Shevat “unplugged” Shabbat event when she received a text from a friend containing the photograph of the offensive card. In response, she and other concerned students quickly assembled an anti-hate rally attracting approximately 60 students, where she shared her dismay about the card as well as her experience of visiting Yad Vashem on her recent Birthright trip to Israel.
“Many of my friends were shocked that something like this could happen at our campus,” Platek said. “I know that in stressful times people use humor to cope, but I don’t know how people can think this is funny. There was a clear lack of judgment from the person who created this.”
Platek, a senior, said this was the first time she could recall something of this nature happening at CMU and that, in general, she said there has been a “great coming together” against hatred and racism toward minorities, especially since the Trump administration’s temporary ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries. “Our campus [student body] is very good about inclusion, coming together to make things better.” •
If you are like me and you comment a lot – I mean a lot – to refute false claims and narratives that are piled upon Israel – you may have felt the virtual masking tape gag your mouth as I did by Jewish Voice for Peace.
In an effort to increase its membership and its own voice, #JewishVoiceforPeace recently cleansed its Facebook page of any facts that counter their lies.
It wasn’t enough to be called a Hasabra troll, with people spewing lies that I get paid to Stand Up for Israel online.
It wasn’t enough to be called stupid, racist, ignorant, bigotted and a hateful Zionist pig by the self-righteous over at Jewish Voice for Peace
But about a month ago, JVP completely shut down my account. They blocked me from commenting. From “liking” their page. From sending private messages to their admins. And from what it appears, all the others who tried to refute the lies and anyone else who tried to address false claims of JVP’s posts, their tireless garbage of calling Zionists oppressors and occupiers anyone whose comments did not fall in line with their twisted way of seeing Israel, was also blocked from commenting.
The last post I was ever able to make on JVP’s Facebook page was a post on May 11 where, in a sympathetic nod to the fate of teen terrorist Ahmed Manasra as he faces 20 years in prison. They showed the video of Mansra, 13 at the time, lying bleeding in the street of the Pisgat Zeev neighborhood while people cursed at him. Jewish Voice for Peace in the post called for the release of the poor Palestinian
What the post failed to do – as do many who tell only half-truths about the Arab/Israeli conflict – was to pull back the lens.
JVP failed to mention that back in October, this kid, along with his big cousin, went on a Jew hunt, taking knives from their mom’s kitchen to go stab some Jews to bring some dignity to their people.
What the post failed to do was to show the security video of Manasra and his cousin, who was shot dead, running through the streets stabbing Jews, including a 12-year-old boy on his bicycle who lost so much blood he had to be put into a medically induced coma to survive.
So, I posted the video.
Shortly afterward, I was blocked from commenting anywhere ever again on JVP’s Facebook page.
But that’s okay.
I am old. Old enough to remember a time of activism long before the invention of social media.
It’s called phone calls.
I remember as a kid making phone calls to “Let my People Go” to the Soviet Consulate. I remember marching in Soviet Jewry rallies.
Look what we accomplished.
I told you, I’m old.
This week, after watching their Facebook page put up post after post of lies and distortions, I called up their office in Oakland, Calif. at (510) 465–1777
I expressed my dismay and disappointment that JVP has decided to censor all dissenting viewpoints that counter theirs on their Facebook page. I asked the woman why that was and she said they take off comments that are hateful, violent and abusive.
I guess being hateful and violent and abusive against Zionists is perfectly fine.
All I did was post facts.
Facts that do not mesh with the Palestinian narrative. Because a narrative is not history.
Unsafe space facts.
And as I talked, I realized what I wanted to say, and it was not as much as what I wanted to say was what I wanted to ask.
What was the thing that JVP hates most of all?
So I asked: Do you know what the Hebrew word Tziyon means?
She replied: No, I don’t.
It means Zionism. Do you know what Zionism translates into, I am talking about the meaning of the word?
No I really don’t.
And I explained. It means excellence. It means treating others with excellence and living up to standards of excellence. It means that Jewish people have the right to live independently in their ancient homeland.
She then said: We have different interpretations of what it means to live in a homeland.
I then questioned her about JVP’s stance on a two-state solution. She said that JVP does not believe in a two-state solution, that all people should share the land with freedom and dignity and that the apartheid occupation had to end.
I said there is already a two state solution. It is called Jordan.
She said she found that remark very insulting.
I said, you may be insulted but it is a fact.
I questioned her more.
She did not know anything about the Balfour Declaration of 1917.
Or the San Remo Conference of 1920.
She did not know that half of the land of the British Mandate of Palestine that was meant to be set aside for the Jewish state was used to create the country of Jordan the same year that the State of Israel was created.
She told me that she and I held different interpretations of history.
I’m thinking, this is not an interpretation. These are historical dates. Facts.
It was when I corrected her claims that Israel is an apartheid state and I mentioned that 1.5 Million Muslim Arabs live in Israel with full rights, she said she and I had a different interpretation of rights, and she would need to end this conversation.
And there you have it.
Because JVP does not want to bother with history.
Or the truth.
But that is where we come in and that is where we, Jews, have gone oh so wrong. If the folks at JVP truly are Jewish, they are the Jews are are the product of a weak Jewish education that dismisses learning history at the price of convenience and reduced hours of instruction.
So, call JVP. If you’ve been blocked. Find a post you strongly disagree with them. And now that they’ve blocked you, just call and tell them what you were going to write.
Just do it with civility. And you had better come knowing your stuff.
Because they certainly don’t.
Last week, the whole world – rightly so – mourned for France.
Skyscrapers were lit the color of the French Flag.
Many changed their Facebook profile photos to the Eifel Tower in a peace sign. Many of you draped your faces in the French Flag or showed old photos of you perched high atop the Eifel Tower or standing in front of the Lourve.
You were horrified at this act of terror.
You cried for the victims.
A week later?
Maybe it is because many of you have no real connection to Israel.
Maybe it is because you never traveled there. Have family there. Maybe it is because you do not speak the language or simply cannot identify.
Whatever the case, when Jewish blood spills, unlike last week, you were – for the most part – all silent.
For the most part, you are all demonstrating what most of us already know: we are completely alone.
And you should feel ashamed of that. You have no idea how that hurts. Yes, it fucking personally hurts your Jewish friends who are sitting in their houses, stunned, functionless, to learn one of our own, a boy who could have been our own son, friend, boyfriend, brother, was murdered today just because he was Jewish.
There are not many of us. But Israel, I want to tell you what I saw in Detroit last Sunday: some of our own young sons, no more than 16, organizing a pro-peace, pro-Israel rally that was attended by hundreds. They wanted to say: israel – we are here. Our numbers are small but we care, we cry when you cry. We are here.
Here is my story about the Israel Rally in this week’s Detroit Jewish News:
When three local Jewish teens recently witnessed a pro-Palestinian rally on the corner of Maple and Orchard Lake roads, they decided to counter it with their own rally for Israel at the very same spot in the low setting November sun last Sunday, Nov. 9. About 200 Israel supporters capped off a very busy “Fall Fix Up” Sunday by waving Israeli flags, singing and dancing to Israeli music, and visibly showing their support for the Jewish State.
Several weeks ago, Ben Rashty, a student at Frankel Jewish Academy said he was driving to meet some friends for dinner when he passed a “large, well organized anti-Israel rally.”
“From my car I heard them chanting very cruel things about the land of Israel and its people, said Rashty, of West Bloomfield, who has immediate family in Israel and traveled there many times to visit. He pulled into a parking lot and started calling friends to gather on an adjacent corner to counter their protest. With only minutes to respond, Rashty was only able to get five friends to come out with Israeli flags, stand on an adjacent corner, and sing the Hatikvah.
He decided that was not enough.
“The Arabs were cheering with joy and celebration as if they had ‘won,’” said Rashty.
Rashty realized that planning a counter rally on his own was more easily said than done. So he called on the help of some of his school chums Nisim Nesimov, and Cole Levine. Together, they created a Facebook event, made flyers and spoke to leaders in the Jewish community for publicity. Rashty also contacted the West Bloomfield Police Department to notify them for planning and security, he said.
A big challenge of getting numbers to the rally was it coincided at end of the community-wide “Fall Fix Up” sponsored by Jewish Family Service. But people came. They traded in work gloves from the day’s work assignments out on Belle Isle, the B’nai David Cemetery, or helping homebound seniors for Israeli and American flags as they pulled into Shops of Old Orchard parking lot. Passersby in cars honked in support as rally participants waved Israeli and American flags, sang, and danced.
Debbie Szobel Logan, 57, a freelance writer from Bloomfield Hills, came to the rally with her husband Stuart Logan, 59, to “be counted and show their vocal support for Israel.” She said she did not realize that teens had organized the rally until she arrived.
“It was so heartening and gave me so much hope to learn that teens cared enough about Israel to organize this rally,” said Szobel Logan. “I see and hear so much virulent anti-Israel rhetoric from unsurprising and surprising sources. It was important for me to contribute to the numbers and visibility of pro-Israel supporters, and it was thrilling to see all the smiles and waves from people passing by in their cars.”
Globally and across the country, pro-Israel supporters have rallied throughout the fall to show solidarity with Israel as it faces the latest wave of terror and calls to boycott Israeli products and academics in Europe. Recently, the European Union announced it would start labeling all products created in Judea and Samaria with a special label.
“Everywhere you look in the media there is a lot of anti-Israel propaganda popping up in an effort to destroy the Jewish people and Israel,” said Rashty. “I felt it was a vital time to hold this rally to show our community’s support.”
It is getting way close to home now.
This month, Detroiters traveling down the Southfield Freeway around eight mile get treated to this huge billboard:
Why now? Why now, when Israelis are facing stabbing attacks on the streets of their cities each day? Why now when the world, as represented by the United Nations, is delegitimizing Israel further by considering and even passing resolutions that Judaism’s claims to its holiest sites are bogus and they are Mulsim sites?
Most will speed by the billboard and only see those big words. They will not pay attention to who sponsored a group: a blatantly anti-Semitic organization that actively denies the Holocaust by refuting the claim that gas chambers existed; seeks to hold Jews in America accountable for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and promotes the lie that American Jews send American troops to their death. (http://blog.deiryassin.org/page/2/)
Here is my article on the topic, including an interview with American Jew Henry Herskovitz, who has asked an Ann Arbor synagogue to remove the Israeli flag from its sanctuary and who protests outside of it each Saturday morning as his fellow Jews go to worship inside. Please sign the petition that asks Lamar Advertising not to take any more money to advertise hatred here.
An intensely anti-Israel organization— whose local advisory board member has led Shabbat morning protests outside an Ann Arbor synagogue for the past 12 years — has placed a billboard at Eight Mile and the Southfield Freeway that reads “America First … NOT ISRAEL.”
“This billboard was placed to do one thing: To drive a wedge between Israel and the American people,” said Heidi Budaj,
Michigan regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. “It follows the age-old adage that falsely accuses Jews of not being loyal to the countries in which they live.”
The $3,000-a-month Lamar Advertising billboard is paid for by the advocacy group Deir Yassin Remembered (DYR) and will be on display until Nov. 15. The organization is trying to raise funds to keep it up for successive months.
Since 2012, DYR placed similar ads in 12 major cities across the country intended to, according to the ADL’s Budaj, “unravel the legitimacy of U.S.-Israel ties.”
DYR, with an address in western New York, is headed by Paul Eisen, a pro-Palestinian British Jew who believes Israelis committed slaughter of Arabs to drive them out of their villages during the 1948
War of Independence. He styles himself as a Holocaust denier.
Henry Herskovitz, a Jewish Ann Arborite and a member of DYR’s board of
advisers, said, “While the ADL is accusing us of creating a wedge, we think the wedge
already exists.” Since 2003, he has led an anti-Israel vigil Shabbat mornings outside
Ann Arbor’s Beth Israel Congregation. Herskovitz’s main grievances against
“the Jewish supremacist state” include the lack of separation between church and
state, no voting rights for Palestinians and penalties of the Israeli court system —
including prison time — for questioning the “standard narrative of Holocaust.”
Herskovitz added, “There is no closeness between the U.S. and the State of Israel. The
only reason Americans think this is true is propaganda put out by the Jewish lobby.”
A motorist, Robert Shaw of Oak Park, spotted the ad on a recent drive, pulled
over, snapped a photo and placed it on his Facebook page. The post was shared so
widely on Facebook that it was picked up by national and international media, and
there is now a fundraising campaign to place another ad to counter the original’s
“disturbing” message, he said.
“I fully believe in First Amendment rights because that is what makes America
strong,” Shaw said. “But freedom of expression must be tempered with common
sense and dignity toward others.”
Roni Leibovitch of West Bloomfield felt the ad was not a political statement but
an attack on American Jews. He set up an online petition asking the billboard company
to take it down.
In the first five days, the petition, accessible at chn.ge/1M0niLB, got some 800
signatures. It says, in part, “Please remove this billboard which causes hatred of
American Jews, and feeds off the same kind of dual-loyalty accusations which
were leveled against the Jews by Nazis in the years leading up to the Holocaust.”
DYR, bases its name upon Deir Yassin, one of the most controversial battles during
Israel’s War of Independence in 1948. There are conflicting reports on the circumstances
that left more than 200 Arabs from this village dead.
The New York Times report said more than 40 were captured and 70 women and
children were released. No hint of a massacre appeared in the report. According
to http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org, many of the Arabs who were killed were fighters
disguised as women or civilians. The DYR website says the event was an outright
massacre of innocent Arab civilians. DYR claims it has received support from
far-leftist British Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, according to London’s Jewish
Chronicle. Corbyn is running for British prime minister. *
2 November 5 • 2015