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Private Massachusetts College Under Fire for Denouncing Islamophobia in Failure to Address Antisemitism

Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts responded to recent antisemitic incidents on campus by condemning “Islamophobia” and pledging to review an anti-Zionist group’s demand that the school adopt the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

Late last month, someone graffitied a swastika on campus and stole several mezuzahs, small parchment scrolls containing Hebrew verses from the Torah that members of the Jewish community fix to their doorposts. The Daily Wire first reported the story on X/Twitter.

The school’s president, Sarah Willie-LeBreton, addressed the incidents in a letter to the campus community last week. She proclaimed that there is “no place for antisemitism, Islamophobia, or any form of hate at Smith College,” demonstrating what higher education experts have described as a reluctance on the part of university presidents to address antisemitism as a standalone problem.

Willie-LeBreton continued, listing actions the college is taking in response to the incidents, including “considering  a divestment request” which was proposed by the anti-Zionist campus club Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). According to SJP, the school has already acceded to their demand that products sold by Sabra Dipping Company, LLC, owned by PepsiCo and the Israeli food manufacturer Strauss Group Ltd., be banned from campus. The group has repeatedly vowed to target Smith’s endowment, hoping to force the school to divest from companies that conduct business in or with Israel.

On Tuesday, nonprofit leaders and academics castigated Willie-LeBreton’s statement, arguing that it betrayed her indifference to anti-Jewish hatred.

“I think it’s time to say that when you respond to a specifically antisemitic incident by condemning antisemitismandislamophobia [sic], you have exacerbated the original antisemitism by not taking seriously what happened, and instead placating antisemites who think that addressing antisemitism as such is problematic,” George Mason University law professor David Bernstein said on X. “But this one is even worse than usual, by noting that Smith is considering a request to divest from Israel, as if that’s somehow a proper response to an antisemitic incident as opposed to encouraging antisemitism.”

Hussain Abdul-Hussain of, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a think tank based in Washington DC, challenged the college to cite one example of anti-Muslim conduct, and the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) on Campus denounced Willie-LeBreton’s response as “irresponsible and dangerous.” Other users weighed in, calling Smith College “beyond parody” and an “utter failure.”

Smith College did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

The school, a small liberal college for women, is not the only higher education institution that has subtly accused Jewish students of engaging in acts of discrimination of which anti-Zionists are guilty.

Since Oct. 7, anti-Zionists have been accused of beating upspitting on, and using antisemitic slurs against Jewish, Israeli, and pro-Israel students. Such behavior has been the subject of numerous civil rights complaints and lawsuits. Anti-Zionist student groups have in turn accused pro-Israel students of Islamophobia, citing instances in which anti-Israel activists have been punished for breaking rules, promoting hate speech, or times when they were denounced for supporting terrorism.

https://www.algemeiner.com/2024/03/06/smith-college-condemns-islamophobia-response-antisemitic-graffiti-says-school-considering-bds-measure/