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Delaware University’s Tribute to Israel Defaced Multiple Times

A display of Israeli flags on the University of Delaware campus was vandalized three times within a 24-hour period, leading police to open a hate crime investigation.

The display, which also included signs raising awareness of Israeli hostages kidnapped by Hamas during the Oct. 7 attack, was set up on the UD Green on Sunday night by two student organizations, which UD officials would not identify. The groups followed all necessary campus protocols and secured approval for the temporary display, UD said in a statement.

In the most recent incident of vandalism, someone removed the flags and discarded them in a trash can. The same display had been the target of two other incidents of vandalism and criminal mischief as well, UD said.

“These reports are particularly disheartening given what we stand for as an academic and intellectual community,” Vice President for Student Life José-Luis Riera and Vice President for Institutional Equity Fatimah Conley wrote in a message to students Tuesday.

UD Police will have an increased presence on The Green, they added.

“Those responsible will be held accountable for their actions with significant repercussions as guided by university policies and codes of conduct,” they wrote.

In a statement, UD Hillel, an organization for Jewish students, said it was saddened by the destruction of the flags and hostage signs but thanked UD Police for responding quickly.

This week’s vandalism comes less than a year after a Jewish professor at UD found a swastika and a threatening message scrawled on a poster that was hanging on the professor’s office door to advertise a drag show.

It also comes amid heightened tension on campuses nationwide due to the Israel-Hamas war. Last month at UD, Hillel sparked protests when it hosted a lecture by an Israel Defense Forces commander, the student newspaper, The Review, reported.

In February, UD President Dennis Assanis told the state legislature about the challenges posed by strong opinions on both sides of the war but added that, at that point, the debates had remained civil.

“It’s probably the toughest moment we’ve lived through during my presidency,” Assanis said. “But I have to tell you that our community has shown unusual civility and respect. We can have the difficult conversations and dialogue. People have demonstrated in very peaceful protests. Both sides, everybody, has been civil. No fist fighting. People have taken this as an opportunity to learn.”

Last week, Riera and Comley wrote in an earlier letter to students that they understand “the deep sense of burden that some are carrying in the face of profound loss, war, division and injustices throughout the world and our country” but warned students to remain peaceful.

“Any criminal behavior, acts of violence or discriminatory activities will not be tolerated,” they wrote. “To that end and specifically with the ongoing war in the Middle East in mind, we affirm our pursuit of being a campus that is free of antisemitism and islamophobia.”