The University of Minnesota is one of the nation’s most overlooked academic havens of Jew hatred. Much as Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has revealed her anti-Semitism gradually in tweets and comments, only recently coming under fire for her beliefs, the University has also thus far managed to avoid a high degree of scrutiny for its harboring of student organizations and academic departments which promote anti-Semitism. That will likely change this November when Minnesota will host the infamous National Students for Justice in Palestine Conference, an annual event which typically features blatant displays of anti-Semitism and support for anti-Israel terrorists. But signs of radicalization and increasing anti-Semitism at the university have been visible for some time.
Minnesota is home to a highly radicalized faculty and student activist community which promotes Jew hatred and the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. In March of 2018, the UMN Divest coalition succeeded in passing a full student body referendum urging the University to divest from companies that are involved with Israel, thus singling out and demonizing the Jewish state.
Minnesota’s chapter of the Hamas-supported organization Students for Justice in Palestine is highly active and holds an annual “Israeli Apartheid Week” to promote Hamas propaganda and denounce Israel, and also brings in anti-Semitic speakers such as Russ Waletski who used his campus address to accuse Israel of “ethnic cleansing” and compared the Jewish state to the Nazi regime. The Department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies at the University also openly promotes anti-Semitism. It has held events featuring anti-Semitic Rutgers professor Jasbir Puar and also promoting the Hamas-funded BDS movement against Israel. The department’s uncritical support for anti-Semitic speakers and the genocidal BDS movement is a flagrant violation of the proper role of an academic institution. The University of Minnesota should henceforth be recognized as a locus of organized anti-Semitism.
Instances of Jew Hatred:
The University of Minnesota was recently announced as the location for the infamous National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) conference which will take place November 1-3, 2019 on campus. NSJP is a Hamas-funded organization. Speakers at SJP events are known for promoting Jew hatred, invoking anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, and condoning terrorism against Israel. Guests attending last year’s conference at UCLA carried tote bags reading, “Make Israel Palestine Again,” a call for the destruction of the Jewish state, and were heard shouting slogans promoting the terrorist Intifada against Israel.
In May 2019, the Department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Minnesota responded to faux newspapers produced by the David Horowitz Freedom Center and distributed on campus which identified that Department as anti-Semitic for holding a forum delegitimizing Israel and supporting the BDS movement. In a false and defamatory statement that was co-signed by the campus chapters of SJP, MSA and also the Al-Madinah Cultural Center, the Department claimed that "On May 7th, 2019, the second day of Ramadan, a group of Muslim students were breaking their fast when a white supremacist group, David Horowitz Freedom Center, strewed false and hate-filled flyers on campus... These flyers are meant to derail honest criticism of the Israeli occupation because of how they misrepresent the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement and discredit Muslim and Palestinian voices by associating them with ‘Jew Hatred’ in a racist and Islamophobic way.” The idea that the David Horowitz Freedom Center is a “white supremacist group” is laughable; its founder and namesake is a Jew and a lifelong supporter of civil rights and racial equality. Equally absurd is the claim that the BDS movement—which singles out and demonizes the only liberal democracy in the Middle East as an alleged “apartheid state”—is not anti-Semitic.
In April 2019, SJP at the University of Minnesota held Israeli Apartheid Week on campus. The week is part of a national movement to denigrate Israel, the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, as an “apartheid” state similar to South Africa—a blatant lie. SJP hosted several events as part of the apartheid week including a discussion titled “BDS and U.S. Politics” which endorsed the anti-Semitic and Hamas-funded Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. The Facebook event page exhorted students to “Join SJP and Students for Ilhan for a comprehensive presentation and discussion on BDS, the current climate in US politics surrounding the movement, and the recent backlash US Representative Ilhan Omar faced due to her support for it.”
Minnesota’s apartheid week also included a screening of the film Pinkwashing Exposed: Seattle Fights Back. “Pinkwashing” is a demonizing term used to accuse Israel of using its laudable record on homosexual rights to cover for other alleged abuses. It is ironic that anti-Israel activists choose to attack Israel’s record on gay rights while many of the nations bordering the Jewish state still endorse the death penalty for homosexuals.
In March 2019, UMN SJP posted an article from the anti-Israel website Electronic Intifada on its Facebook page which defended Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s anti-Semitic comments about the Israel lobby and claimed “Ilhan Omar has come under renewed attack for speaking about the outsize influence of the Israel lobby, and simply for being a Black Muslim woman.”
On March 13, 2019, the Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies hosted Rutgers professor Dr. Jasbir Puar for a talk on “Existence is Resistance.” The term “resistance” is a commonly-used euphemism for anti-Israel terrorism. Puar is infamous for her anti-Semitic scholarship, including her recent book “The Right to Maim” in which she claims that Israeli policies deliberately “enable the mass debilitation of Palestinian bodies,” leading another academic to say of her work, “she updated age-old antisemitic libels for the 21st century.” The online event page for her talk stated that Dr. Puar would “examine the production of mobility obstacles and restrictions in Palestine through the linked frames of disaster and carceral capitalism, highlighting the logistics of border crossings and movement in the West Bank, in relation to disability rights frameworks.”
In November 2018, SJP at UMN spearheaded a statement and petition urging a boycott of a trip to Israel organized by Minnesota Hillel. The petition characterized the trip as a “bribe” and a manipulative attempt to promote pro-Israel sentiment: “This supposedly objective trip is, in reality, a thinly-veiled attempt to push a narrative about Israel/Palestine that erases Israel’s systematic violations of Palestinian human rights...To be clear, this is a bribe, and a manipulative one at that. Minnesota Hillel is investing at least $3,000 each into student leaders expecting them to come back to campus as ambassadors for their cause in opposing the Palestinian-led call for divestment from Israeli apartheid...In response to this and all future trips, we urge our fellow student leaders to not be active participants in the legitimization of the illegal occupation of Palestine.”
In October 2018, a student group at UMN which calls itself the Anti-War Committee held a defamatory and profane protest outside a Students Supporting Israel event which featured soldiers from the Israeli Defense Forces discussing the ethical dilemmas of their role as soldiers. A video of the event reveals protestors holding signs stating "End U.S. Support for Israeli Apartheid” and “Israel is terrorizing Palestine"—criticisms that defame Israel and do not acknowledge Palestine’s role as the aggressor in the conflict. Video of the event screened by the watchdog group the Amcha Initiative revealed protestors yelling "F**cking Zionists" and "you're a f**cking war criminal" at the speakers as they entered the event, while one protestor also made an obscene gesture at the invited guests.
In June 2018, SJP at UMN released a statement attempting to shame student government members for attending a Hillel-sponsored trip to Israel. The statement characterized the blatantly anti-Semitic BDS movement as “a nonviolent political movement meant to put economic pressure on Israel to change its discriminatory treatment of Palestinians” while invoking age-old anti-Semitic tropes of divided loyalties by claiming that “To willingly participate in a trip [to Israel] funded by Maccabee Task Force... while claiming to represent University of Minnesota students is dishonest at best. These MSA representatives are paid for the time they spend at the university representing its diverse student body and we vehemently condemn their participation in such a blatantly one-sided and propaganda-filled program."
In April 2018, SJP at UMN held an event titled “Palestine 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Palestine” featuring the anti-Semitic speaker Russ Waletski. During his address, Waletski made numerous demonizing and anti-Semitic comments including the claim that “Jews introduced terrorism into Palestine. Atheist Jews, religious Jews introduced terrorism. Not Christians and Muslims.” He also justified terrorist actions against Israel, stating “When you rise up against it as a Christian or a Muslim in this land you’re called a terrorist. This is not terrorism. This is a war of liberation against an occupying, dispossessing, European force.” Waletski accused Israel of attempting “complete ethnic cleansing that is continuing to this day in Palestine,” and made several references to the Jewish people acting like the Nazis. Waletski also invoked anti-Semitic tropes of alleged Jewish greed, claiming that during the “Nakba,” a term anti-Israel activists use to describe the founding of Israel as a “catastrophe,” the Jews “used survivors from the concentration camps to [rob] Christian and Muslim women, [to] steal the gold.”
A letter to the editor of the Minnesota Daily from two students present at the event noted that “The speaker, Russ Waletski, spent the first half of his lecture misrepresenting and attempting to debunk the Torah, the holiest book to the Jewish people, by cherry-picking quotes to disparage the values of Judaism. It was clear that his aim was to convince the audience that Jews have no connection to the land of Israel and that Zionism is antithetical to Judaism. Not only is this proclamation blatantly offensive and deeply hurtful to me and other Jewish students, but it is simply incorrect and ignores over 3,000 years of Jewish history.”
In March 2018, a resolution urging the University to divest from companies that are involved with Israel was passed by a full study body referendum by a margin of 217 votes which is 3.4%. The initiative asked, "Should the students of the University of Minnesota demand the Board of Regents divest from companies that are 1) complicit in Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights, 2) maintaining and establishing private prisons and immigrant detention centers, or 3) violating Indigenous sovereignty?" Jewish students and others on campus objected that the resolution was proposed only a very short time before the vote occurred, not allowing sufficient time for discussion, and that it unfairly singled out Israel. "The process of introducing this referendum has bred discrimination and silencing of the Jewish community, and we sincerely hope the greater campus community will support us in our efforts to create a more inclusive dialogue around this issue," commented Leeore Levinstein, president of Minnesota Hillel, on the resolution.
On March 2, 2018, the Department of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies at the University of Minnesota held an event dedicated to Hamas propaganda titled “BDS, Racial Justice, & Pinkwashing in the Trump Era.” The forum capped off “Divest Week” at the University, a week organized by Students for Justice in Palestine and supported by other campus organizations to promote the anti-Semitic, Hamas-funded Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel and to garner votes in a campus-wide referendum on the topic (which passed by a narrow margin). The event description which was posted on the department’s Facebook page demonized Israel by accusing it of “daily human rights abuses” and made clear that attendees are expected to learn how to “work in solidarity with the global BDS movement.” The topic of the event, ‘pinkwashing,’ is a term used by Israel’s enemies to accuse Israel of using its support for gay rights as a shield to cover for other alleged abuses.
In February 2017, a Jewish student at the University of Minnesota reported that someone had entered his dorm room and drawn an image of a concentration camp along with a swastika and the phrase “Nazis Rule” on the whiteboard in his room.