Rutgers-New Brunswick Chancellor Apologizes for Condemning Anti-Semitism (Update: University President Responds)
“In hindsight, it is clear to us that the message failed to communicate support for our Palestinian community members. We sincerely apologize for the hurt that this message has caused,” Chancellor Christopher J. Molloy wrote a day after condemning the rise of anti-Semitism in America.
(See this post for an important update)
Once upon a time, one could issue a blanket condemnation of anti-Semitism without the slightest concern that a strong message unequivocally condemning acts of harassment and violence against Jewish people would offend anyone.
Sadly, we are no longer living in such times, as both the chancellor and provost of Rutgers-New Brunswick found out this week.
Christopher J. Molloy, who is the Rutgers-NB chancellor, penned a letter Wednesday in which he and the university’s provost Francine Conway spoke out against the rise of anti-Semitism in America.
“Recent incidents of hate directed toward Jewish members of our community again remind us of what history has to teach us,” they wrote. “Tragically, in the last century alone, acts of prejudice and hatred left unaddressed have served as the foundation for many atrocities against targeted groups around the world.”
The letter referenced the Israeli-Hamas conflict but in neutral terms before noting that their hope was that Rutgers-New Brunswick could “serve as a model for institutions that respect and value the dignity of every human being”:
Although it has been nearly two decades since the U.S. Congress approved the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act, the upward trend of anti-Semitism continues. We have also been witnesses to the increasing violence between Israeli forces and Hamas in the Middle East leading to the deaths of children and adults and mass displacement of citizens in the Gaza region and the loss of lives in Israel.
At a time when the ravages of the pandemic and the proliferation of global conflict are leading to death, destruction, and ethnic strife, the university stands as a beacon of hope for our community. We have the opportunity amidst the turmoil to serve as a model for institutions that respect and value the dignity of every human being.
They also condemned violence against all people, regardless of race, religion, or background:
-We call out all forms of bigotry, prejudice, discrimination, xenophobia, and oppression, in whatever ways they may be expressed.
-We condemn any vile acts of hate against members of our community designed to generate fear, devalue, demonize, or dehumanize.
-We embrace and affirm the value and dignity of each member of our Rutgers community regardless of religion, race, ethnic background, sexual orientation, gender, and ability.
Unfortunately for Molloy and Conway, their denouncement of anti-Semitism along with their blanket condemnations of violence were not appreciated by the Rutgers-New Brunswick chapter of the Students for Justice in Palestine group, who announced their disapproval via an Instagram post in which they complained about how the letter of condemnation focused primarily on anti-Semitism instead of focusing on the alleged experiences of the Palestinian people.
The group then demanded an apology:
UPDATE: It appears the apology from the @RutgersU chancellor for condemning anti-Semitism came in response to a long statement on Insta from the school’s SJP chapter. (The statement made very brief mention of Israel/Gaza conflict and focused solely on anti-Semitic incidents) https://t.co/Yj4ukmCQxj pic.twitter.com/LpyjeeH0FX
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) May 28, 2021
Not long after the group’s rant went up, Molloy and Conway were back with a letter simply titled “An Apology” in which they apologized for “the hurt” their message condemning anti-Semitism caused:
We understand that intent and impact are two different things, and while the intent of our message was to affirm that Rutgers–New Brunswick is a place where all identities can feel validated and supported, the impact of the message fell short of that intention. In hindsight, it is clear to us that the message failed to communicate support for our Palestinian community members. We sincerely apologize for the hurt that this message has caused.
Rutgers University–New Brunswick is a community that is enriched by our vibrant diversity. However, our diversity must be supported by equity, inclusion, antiracism, and the condemnation of all forms of bigotry and hatred, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. As we grow in our personal and institutional understanding, we will take the lesson learned here to heart, and pledge our commitment to doing better. We will work to regain your trust, and make sure that our communications going forward are much more sensitive and balanced.
It sounded like a hostage video – just without the video.
It will surprise no one reading this that their apology letter was not enough for the SJP group, which I should note are also proponents of the anti-Semitic BDS movement:
View this post on Instagram
The university’s apology letter was also not well-received by people like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, and others, but for much different reasons:
Under pressure, the Rutgers chancellor *apologized* for condemning the surge of anti-Semitic violence.
How can someone this weak lead a university? https://t.co/8pd1nRFOkD
— Tom Cotton (@TomCottonAR) May 28, 2021
In which the chancellor of Rutgers says the quiet part out loud: that anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel are intertwined, and that you can't condemn anti-Semitism without offending the Israel-haters https://t.co/yT6G5aHWZI
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) May 28, 2021
So condemning #Antisemitism in America directed against Americans after an 80% increase in hate crimes here in the US is politically incorrect. That’s #antisemitic @RutgersU @cjmolloy1 https://t.co/yRv75Dxh7X
— Rabbi Andrew Jacobs (@RabbiJacobs) May 29, 2021
We live in a world where it’s unpopular and even wrong to call out Jew hatred. @RutgersU has one of the largest Jewish populations and a past with antisemitism on its campus and they’ve made it clear that Jewish students aren’t safe there… https://t.co/Hane1y3F7X
— Jennie Taer ✡️🇮🇱 (@JennieSTaer) May 28, 2021
There are times in a person’s life when a moral stand needs to be made, regardless of whatever pushback they anticipate they will receive. The fact that Molloy and Conway felt the need to so quickly backtrack on their statement condemning anti-Semitism after facing heat from an anti-Semitic group tells us all we need to know about the Rutgers-NB university leadership – with none of it being good.
Sunday Morning Update: Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway provided an updated statement sometime Saturday, claiming that “Rutgers deplores hatred and bigotry in all forms. We have not, nor would we ever, apologize for standing against anti-Semitism.” The original two letters posted to the website by Rutgers-NB’s Chancellor Christopher J. Molloy and Provost Francine Conway now redirect to Holloway’s.
Note: The headline of this post has been updated to reflect the precise campus. Also, Holloway is the president of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter. —DONATE
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