The Jerusalem Post

UPenn should care about Jewish students - opinion

 ROGER WATERS: After UPenn decided to ban him from entering campus, he participated in the Palestine Writes literature festival over Zoom, says the writer. (photo credit: Amr Alfiky/Reuters)
ROGER WATERS: After UPenn decided to ban him from entering campus, he participated in the Palestine Writes literature festival over Zoom, says the writer.
(photo credit: Amr Alfiky/Reuters)

The entire Palestine Writes festival is just a front to spread antisemitic hate.

The entire trajectory of my life changed because of antisemitism on campus. I went from being an average student at a Canadian university, who felt very little connection to the Middle East, to understanding that, as a Jewish person, I would never be safe anywhere besides Israel. The disgusting antisemitic hate festival happening now at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) only reaffirms this notion. Although life as an immigrant in Israel is not easy, what is happening at UPenn proves there is no safe future in North America for Jews.

Over this past Shabbat and the Yom Kippur holiday (the holiest day of the Jewish calendar), UPenn was hosting what is called the Palestine Writes literature festival. The event’s website states that the festival is dedicated to “celebrating and promoting cultural productions of Palestinian writers and artists.”

It sounds reasonable on paper, but the entire festival is a front to spread antisemitic hate. It is intentionally scheduled during the holiest days of the Jewish calendar to stop any reaction from the UPenn Jewish communities.

There is no way to deny that these speakers were carefully selected for their history of harm to Jewish people. Over two-thirds of the speakers have dark track records, including support for terror groups and previous public scandals for their antisemitism. 


UPenn bans Waters from entering the campus

The Palestine Writes speakers included: First, Roger Waters, the infamous former frontman for Pink Floyd, who has a long history of antisemitism. Because of his views, UPenn decided to ban Waters from entering campus; so he participated over Zoom. Water’s former bandmates labeled him an antisemite, and the musician recently sported a Nazi-style uniform during his concerts in Germany.

Roger Waters, draped with a Palestinian keffiyeh (credit: REUTERS)
Roger Waters, draped with a Palestinian keffiyeh (credit: REUTERS)

Salman Abu Sitta, a Palestinian researcher and author, claimed Israel has an appetite for violence. His so-called “research” completely misrepresents Zionism by arguing it is intrinsically racist. Abu Sitta is also a member of the UK Hamas-affiliated Palestine Return Center (PRC) organization.

There is also Marc Lamont Hill, the former CNN commentator fired for calling for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea,” implying the destruction of the Jewish state. Lamont Hill also supported Palestinian terrorists when he praised Fatima Bernawi by calling her a “legend among Afro-Palestinians and a beloved daughter of Jerusalem.” Fatima Bernawi attempted to bomb the Zion Cinema Jerusalem in 1967.

Susan Abulhawa, who labels herself as an “exiled Palestinian,” has smeared Israel all over social media, calling it “demonic” and “sadistic.” She also has a history of supporting the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror group members. Abulhawa said, “The severity of Israel’s actions cannot be overstated; they surpass even that of the Nazis.”

Bill Mullen, a professor at Purdue University, is a faculty adviser to Students for Justice in Palestine and a national leader in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. Among many other disturbing things, Mullen has published that the solution to university ties with Israel is to de-Zionize our campuses.”


This is just a shortlist.

The fact that these speakers have a history of rabid antisemitism is not coincidental and reflects how Jew hatred on campus is only getting worse. My experience at York University in Toronto, Ontario, was similar, where being Jewish or pro-Israel meant facing endless hate. Universities have become a place where legitimate discussion and debate are almost impossible, and every conversation about Israel has become a zero-sum game. There is plenty of fair discussion regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Still, the fact is that the entire anti-Israel movement is primarily driven by antisemitism.

The people who sprayed red paint on the Israeli flag (to symbolize blood) during York University’s multi-cultural week were not interested in peace or the well-being of Palestinians. Those same vandalizers probably ignore what is happening in Iran, Russia, China, or any country run by dictators (Israel is not even remotely comparable to any of these countries). The thought that a Russian student would be harassed because of what is happening between Putin and Ukraine is unimaginable, as is an American Persian student attacked because of the Islamic Republic and their disgusting actions.

Why is it, then, that Jewish and Israeli students have to deal with these sorts of things? Why aren’t university administrators coming out in strong condemnation against what is happening? UPenn faculty published a statement condemning antisemitism, claiming that it is “antithetical” to the university values, yet allowing some of the world’s leading antisemites to speak on their campus.

In the end, platforming these speakers on campus normalized the hate crimes against UPenn’s Jewish community. A member of the Hillel community was followed into Penn Hillel by some who harassed the individual while knocking over pieces of furniture and shouting antisemitic obscenities.

The university is obligated to protect its Jewish students – primarily from speakers affiliated with Hamas and PFLP groups. The reality is that UPenn Jewish students are forced to endure speakers who support terrorists and the murder of Israelis speaking at their campus and will likely be unable to address it. American universities have shown the students at UPenn that the bottom line is that they do not matter.

The writer is a social media activist with over 10 years of experience working for Israeli and Jewish causes and cause-based NGOs. She is co-founder and COO of Social Lite Creative, a digital marketing firm specializing in geopolitics.