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The Daily Tar Heel

Op-ed: UNC has an antisemitism problem

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2024 is a scary time to be a Jewish college student.

Hillel International published that antisemitic incidents on university campuses have increased 700 percent following Oct. 7, while the Anti-Defamation League reported in November 2023 that 73 percent of the Jewish students surveyed had experienced or witnessed some form of antisemitism since the beginning of the academic year.

It’s no coincidence that the proliferation of anti-Zionist rhetoric and propaganda glorifying the Hamas-led sexual violence and murder of approximately 1,200 Israeli civilians has risen as well.

But antisemitism isn’t new to UNC. Following a 2019 conference about "Conflict Over Gaza: People, Politics, and Possibilities" when a musical guest commented “I cannot be antisemitic alone” when inviting the crowd to sing along, a Title VI complaint to the U.S. Department of Education led to a resolution agreement that required UNC to be proactive against antisemitism.

This achieved little. In 2022, The Daily Tar Heel published — and later removed — a column titled “When Studying Abroad Becomes Political” that many students considered to be problematic. In April 2023, at least one swastika was found printed on a sheet of paper in Davis Library.

In December, another Title VI investigation was initiated, citing alleged antisemitic events that occurred following Oct. 7.

Antisemitism is rising in 2024. Recently, someone in a car pulled up alongside my visibly Jewish friend while he was walking down the street, rolled down the window and screamed at him from behind a mask, “You’re Jewish? Y’all killed Jesus!”

When Jewish students report antisemitic incidents through the appropriate channels, including UNC's Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office, we don't observe action taken to prevent these incidents from reoccurring. When we try to explain to our peers why we believe they are engaging in antisemitism, we are rebuffed.

Whether due to ignorance or malice, I believe there is a lack of knowledge regarding what antisemitism is on campus.

This is where the widely adopted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism is useful.

IHRA explains that denying Jewish people the right to self-determination; comparing the conduct of Israel and its citizens to the Nazis; and holding Jews collectively responsible for the actions of Israel’s government or military are all antisemitic expressions.

The main complaint about IHRA is that it limits free speech by calling any criticism of Israel antisemitic. However, the IHRA's definition doesn’t limit speech — it clarifies that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”

In a November op-ed, UNC Students for Justice in Palestine claimed that supporting the Palestinian “right to resistance” isn’t an endorsement of violence in our community. This language has been used in the past to justify attacks against Israelis. This promotes the belief that the recent massacre of Israelis and those unfortunately mistaken for Jews was somehow morally justified.

Oct. 7 was an act of violence against our community. Keith Siegel, who is from Chapel Hill and has family here, is still in Hamas captivity.

I believe that some activists reject IHRA because they want to continue calling for further harm to come to Jews with impunity. If that does not constitute antisemitism, then nothing does.

UNC has an antisemitism problem, and it’s time we fix it.

 — Alana Goldman, UNC class of 2024, Writing Fellow at CAMERA on Campus

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