By Jackson Richman
(JNS) More than a dozen antisemitic and anti-Israel posters were discovered outside the Hillel at Tufts University on Tuesday morning, Feb. 12, bearing images of militarized pigs, including at least one consisting of a caption that reads “DESTROY ISRAELI APARTHEID FORCES AND AMERIKKKAN PIGS WHICH FUND IT. FREE PALESTINE.”
Rabbi Naftali Brawer, Tufts Hillel executive director and the school’s Jewish chaplain, found the posters on the exterior of the Granoff Family Hillel Center and contacted the university’s police department after he and other Hillel faculty members took down the posters from the building.
Similar posters have not been found elsewhere on campus.
“This was a cowardly and shameful act targeting the Jewish community on campus,” Brawer told JNS.
Robert Trestan, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Boston office, told The Tufts Daily: “I think what makes this one unique and particularly upsetting is that [the posters] targeted the Jewish community at Tufts. The fliers were targeting the Jewish students at Tufts in the place where they feel safest and most welcome—the Hillel building.”
Tufts alumnus Adam Billig told JNS, “Honestly, it doesn’t surprise me. After my experience at Tufts, it seems as if students are blindly loyal to ‘social justice’ issues without actually doing much research behind them.
“I do think that it’s blatantly antisemitic solely due to the location of posters [Hillel],” he said. “These anonymous propaganda fliers are retrogressive when it comes to setting the stage for a legitimate conversation about the issue. To continue to spread hate instead of understanding only adds fuel to the fire and further polarizes the two sides.
“You would never see anything like these posters that express an anti-Palestinian nature on campus, mostly because I think that the Jewish students on campus are more open to dialogue,” continued Billig. “I am pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian. As are many of the Jewish students I know on campus. But that doesn’t seem to be the case for many of the students who get involved with the debate due to their ties to the Palestinian narrative,” for whichever reason that may be.
University president Anthony Monaco, in an email to the Tufts community on Tuesday afternoon, did not explicitly label the posters as anti-Israel or antisemitic, rather as “disturbing and hurtful” to the school.
“The derogatory images and symbolism in these posters were profoundly disturbing and hurtful to those targeted and to others in our community,” said Monaco. “Our Jewish students, faculty and staff, and all those who participate in Hillel programs, have my support as members of our community.”
He added that the school would investigate the incident.
Tufts executive director of public relations Patrick Collins told The Tufts Daily that “after President Monaco issued his statement to the community this afternoon, we became aware of additional information on one of the fliers that heightens our concern about this disturbing incident. We will refer this additional information for further investigation.”
When asked by JNS why Monaco did not explicitly condemn the posters as antisemitic or anti-Israel, Collins only said that Monaco forcefully condemned this incident and expressed his support for the Jewish members of our community.” He then referred to Brawer’s reaction.
Last August, Tufts University leadership also was criticized for standing by a course planned for the fall semester titled “Colonizing Palestine,” citing academic freedom.
‘We must call it what it is: antisemitism’
Pro-Israel groups on and off campus lambasted the posters.
Tufts Friends of Israel (FOI) co-president Ben Shapiro, a junior, and FOI’s Director of Outreach Annika Witt, a sophomore, said in a joint statement that the posters were racist.
“Holding Jews collectively responsible for the actions of the State of Israel is blatantly antisemitic, and is defined as such by the State Department and the Department of Education,” they said. “If we want to fight oppression and bigotry, especially on campus, we must call it what it is: antisemitism.”
“While the content of the posters is directly related to Israel and anti-Zionist sentiment, the fact that they’re only targeting the Jewish community with the sentiments feels antisemitic to me,” Freddie Birnbaum, student co-president of Hillel, told The Tufts Daily.
“Last month, anti-Israel activists at Tufts promoted a campaign of hate which scapegoats Israel and Jewish groups for police brutality in America,” Max Samarov, executive director of Research and Campus Strategy at StandWithUs, told JNS. “Now, disturbing fliers with the same hateful themes are being used to target Jewish students. We urge Tufts leaders to hold the perpetrator accountable, make clear that antisemitism has no place on campus, and use this as an opportunity to educate about tolerance in their community.”
Jeremy Burton, executive director of Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, told JNS, “We’re grateful to the ADL for their leadership in moments like this, and know that they are working with the Hillel and campus officials to address this act of antisemitism appropriately.”
While Talia Inbar, a senior and regional co-chair of J Street U and former co-chair of its Tufts chapter, slammed the “manifestations of anti-Semitism and white supremacy on our campus,” she also linked the posters to legitimate criticisms of Israel.
“These posters are damaging to the Tufts community because they get in the way of the important and productive conversations and legitimate criticisms of Israeli policy,” she told The Tufts Daily.
“Nobody should be ‘shocked’ by the blatant antisemitism of these posters,” Club Z executive director Masha Merkulova told JNS. “It is time for Hillel to come to terms with the fact that anti-Zionism is modern-day antisemitism and start the work of normalizing Zionism on every campus.”
“We must clearly declare that Judaism doesn’t exist without Zionism,” she continued. “Otherwise, these attacks will only grow and eventually will lead to physical altercations between Jewish students and the militant left or alt-right.”
Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, director of the AMCHA Initiative, told JNS that this incident at Tufts highlights how antisemitism and anti-Israel rhetoric intersect.
“These fliers against Israeli government policies were plastered across the Tufts Hillel, targeting all Jewish students and blaming them for the actions of the Israeli government, and they were clearly aimed at intimidating, harassing and silencing Jewish students.”
“We see this type of harassment, intimidation and ostracizing of Jewish students happening on campuses across the country. University presidents must do more than just respond after an incident occurs; they must proactively teach, encourage, and painstakingly cultivate an environment of respect and civility that does not allow intolerant ideologies, such as antisemitism, to erupt into actions that harm students,” she said.
CAP: One of the antisemitic posters found outside the Hillel at Tufts on Feb. 12. Courtesy: Naftali Brawer.