Lack of response to anti-Semitism at U of Massachusetts worries Jewish advocacy group

Louis D. Brandeis Center calls for investigation after violent incident at pro-Palestinian rally.

Dan Verbin ,

Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
צילום: iStock

A Jewish advocacy organization is asking for an explanation after the University of Massachusetts (UMass) failed to act when a campus pro-Palestinian rally turned violent.

The Louis D. Brandeis Center on Tuesday sent a letter to UMass urging it open an investigation into the campus chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the host of the June 24 rally, as well as other students involved in the violent incident.

The letter, addressed to UMass’s chancellor, provost and general counsel, was written in response to an assault against CAMERA reporter Dexter Van Zile who was called a “rabid Zionist” by a rally participant and then "intimidated, harassed, and assaulted.”

Video footage of the protest includes participants screaming “Zionist, go home!” at Van Zile who was also surrounded by a crowd of protestors.

The letter states that the “individual encouraged the audience to chant, ‘Zionist, go home!’ In addition to chanting, rally participants surrounded Mr. Van Zile, shoved him, spat at him (during a pandemic!), threw water on him, and called him a ‘Nazi’ and a ‘pig,’ based solely on his perceived identity as a ‘Zionist.’ This went on for a full seven minutes until the crowd moved on, apparently heeding the advice of an individual who told them their behavior could ‘cause trouble for us,’ and ‘one Zionist is not worth it.’ A veteran reporter, Mr. Van Zile stood his ground, though he was terrified. He continues to experience trauma as a result of the incident.”

The letter goes on to state: “As the university’s Student Code of Conduct makes clear, the university must investigate and sanction students and student organization who violate the code, which squarely addresses and prohibits the type of misconduct at issue here.”

The Louis D. Brandeis Center described the assault on Van Zile as “unlawful and deeply disturbing.” They added that the incident should be “a wake-up call to the University, which is now on notice that UMass Boston SJP is creating a dangerous environment for students and the general public.”

“The violence was a direct consequence of the reckless and irresponsible conduct of the event participants, who targeted, vilified, intimidated and harassed an innocent bystander purely based on his perceived identity as a Zionist,” the letter said. “If the university does not take action and send a clear message to the community that such conduct is unacceptable, such violence is likely to recur.”

Louis D. Brandeis Center called for UMass administrators, “in light of the anti-Semitism on full display at the UMass Boston SJP rally,” to make a public statement letting the community know it will “safeguard the rights of Jewish students for whom Zionism is an integral part of their identity.”