A statement last week by faculty members of a Pennsylvania college that condemned Israel as “ideologically founded upon Jewish supremacy” and accused the Jewish State of “apartheid” was given a harsh rebuke by alumni, other faulty and Jewish groups.
The June 22 statement was signed by 24 faculty members of Franklin & Marshall College (F&M), and published by the university newspaper, the College Reporter.
It stated, “We condemn the displacement of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem — part of a decades long campaign of warfare, expulsion, unequal residency rights, and discriminatory planning policies that advances the ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem.”
Refusing to use the terms “two sides” and “evenhandedness,” they said that the “narrative ignores and conceals the meaningful differences between Israel… and a Palestinian population resisting occupation and oppression,” referring to Israel as “one of the most heavily militarized states in the world that receives $3.8 billion in military aid annually from the United States.”
They continued, “We salute the bravery and will-to-survival of Palestinians — in the Occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza, and within Israel — as they resist the violence of the Israeli military, settler militias, and lynch mobs, and as they find the strength to resist daily humiliations even when not faced with outright violence. We recognize, as they do, that peace with justice in Palestine/Israel is not possible under conditions of military occupation and unending settler-colonial expansionism.”
The faculty said that they “stand in solidarity the Palestinian people in their indigenous liberation struggle against forced dispossession by the Israeli settler colonial state.”
They accused Israel of exploiting the “ostensible peace process” for “land grabs and the violent displacement of Palestinians under the fictions of military necessity.”
Responding on Twitter, Franklin & Marshall College distanced itself from the letter.
“The statement released in the June 23 edition of The College Reporter — which is an independent publication — represents the views of the individual faculty members who signed the piece, not the institution or F&M faculty as a whole,” they tweeted.
And on Friday, the letter was met with outrage by other faculty members, prompting 11 faculty to craft a response published in the College Reporter. These faulty, including Amy Zylberman, the acting director of the Klehr Center for Jewish Life, described the letter as “hyper-simplistic and misguided.”
“We strongly reject the use of the libelous term ‘Jewish supremacy,'” they wrote.
They called for “greater efforts to build bridges between Arabs, Jews, and other affected parties that are based on respect and dignity and not on highly politicized and/or inaccurate historical narratives.”
In a second rebuttal article titled “Alumni Response,” 98 former students of the college criticized the letter for its claims that Israel is an “apartheid state” that functions on "Jewish supremacy.”
“It mimics anti-Semitic tropes that Jews are conniving, manipulative, and power hungry, while simultaneously implying that any attempt of self-determination is an assertion of supremacy,” the alumni wrote. “We have seen time and time again the results of denying Jews the right to self-determination, and we should be cautious when advocating a return to that era.”
The Philadelphia chapter of the ADL commended the alumni for their “clear and effective rebuttal to a recent anti-Israel letter published by several F&M faculty members.”
“As the alumni point out, the faculty letter was filled with deeply concerning anti-Israel rhetoric, some rooted in anti-Semitism,” they tweeted.
They further tweeted, "The faculty letter shows blatant disregard for Israeli lives, ignores Jewish indigeneity in Israel, characterizes Jewish self-determination as 'Jewish supremacy' - a charge deeply rooted in anti-Semitic tropes - and endorses a letter that excuses anti-Israel violence."
Franklin & Marshall College has a duty to “ensure that this letter does not negatively impact Jewish life on campus," they said. "Leadership must protect Jewish and pro-Israel students from being academically penalized by these faculty & must ensure that climate on campus remains welcoming + inclusive of all.”
Franklin & Marshall College is a private liberal arts college in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It has 175 full-time faculty members and approximately 2,400 full-time students.