(JTA) — Vandalism against a temporary art installation erected for Brandeis Hillel’s Israel Week celebration violate the university’s recently adopted principles of free expression, the university’s president said. The celebration took place earlier this month. The art installation was erected on the University’s Great Lawn. In one incident, graffiti that read “Free Palestine” was written on the installation. In a second, a sign that read “Stop lying to young Jews #FreePalestine” was affixed to its side.
“The targeting of Hillel, a Jewish organization, could easily lead one to interpret the acts as antiwemitic, and the university strongly condemns antisemitism,” Brandeis President Ron Liebowitz said in a statement. “These acts of vandalism violate the university’s recently adopted principles of free expression. If the messages left on the installation had been conveyed without vandalizing property and in accordance with university policy, the speech would have been protected. But this case involved vandalism targeted at a specific group,” he also wrote. “Free speech does not allow one to destroy, deface, or disrupt the free speech or activities of others, including those with whom one disagrees.”
Liebowitz said that the university investigated both cases. There were no witnesses to the first act and the culprits have not been identified, he said, and students who committed the second act of vandalism took credit on social media and are “going through the university’s conduct process.”
The Brandeis Students for Justice in Palestine chapter claimed responsibility for the vandalism in posts on Facebook. In a response to Liebowitz the group wrote in a statement that “One Jewish organization’s support of the oppression of the Palestinian people does not mean that all Jews must agree.” “Also, the idea that the graffiti is antisemitic because it ‘targeted Hillel’ is extremely hurtful, given that the graffiti did not target Hillel nor its members, but rather was targeting the ideological support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine — support that is absolutely not shared among the Jewish people,” the group also wrote.