This fall, Solomon Olshin, a Senior at Pomona College in Claremont, California, hung three flags from his dorm window: an Israeli Flag, a Jewish Gay Pride Flag, and a Ukrainian Flag. One morning, he woke up to find the Israeli flag torn in half.
Olshin claims its vandalism is a symptom of a much larger problem: the suppression of dialogue about Israel on campus. He explained, “I and many of the Jewish community members that I have talked to on the Claremont campus have interpreted this as an act of antisemitism because it uniquely creates a double standard and a de-legitimization of the right of any student on campus to openly express affiliation with their national homeland and with the only Jewish state. That is one of the most basic parts of the definition of antisemitism that I have chosen to use, which is the [International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance] definition.”
Alongside the definition, the IHRA presents several contemporary examples of antisemitism. The group maintains that “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination” is antisemitic. Many opponents, though, hold that denying Israel’s right to exist is not necessarily antisemitic.
Olshin added that he believes that criticizing Israeli policies is often not antisemitic. “I am very critical of many of the Israeli government’s policies openly on this campus, and I’m also very critical of many of the American government’s policies — and every other nation. I think that’s something that’s wonderful and to be encouraged,” he explained.
Olshin also told the Claremont Independent about another similar incident. He once posted more than 100 posters advertising an Israeli internship program. “People tore down more than 75 of them over about a five-week period, all across the campuses. And they were tearing them down in a very targeted way. It wasn’t like they were in the wrong place. They were approved by the college. They had stamps on them saying they were approved. They were put in approved poster locations… And I felt really frustrated by that because I felt like it was an act of censorship,” he said.
StopAntisemitism, a grassroots watchdog organization that tracks instances of antisemitism, urged Pomona College’s President Starr to investigate the antisemitic incidents.