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Northwestern refrains from condemning antisemitic message on campus

‘Until American universities take a full-throated stand against the world’s oldest hatred, it will continue to fester on their campuses’ 

Northwestern University stayed silent after a pro-Palestinian student group reportedly painted an antisemitic slogan on a prominent campus rock.

Students associated with the Northwestern University chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, a movement dedicated to “Palestinian liberation,” painted the phrase “From the River to the Sea” in a public space, according to Northwestern student Zach Kessel.

The private research university in Illinois failed to issue a statement about the antisemitic slogan sighted on the morning of April 26 on “the Rock,” a popular boulder that student groups paint with various images and messages.

“I don’t know exactly why the administration refrained from making a statement. I do know it was aware of the slogan having been painted on the Rock; admitted students had begun to visit Northwestern that week, and the university had the Rock painted with welcome messages,” Kessel told The College Fix in an email May 18.

With ties to Palestinian terrorist organizations, the phrase “From the River to the Sea” implies the elimination of Israel and its people to create a Palestinian state that extends from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, according to the American Jewish Committee.

“The slogan, used by terrorist groups such as Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, advocates the establishment of a Palestinian state extending from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, erasing Israel from the map. To accomplish this goal would necessarily entail the ethnic cleansing of almost 7 million Jews within the Jewish state’s borders,” Kessel wrote in National Review.

The words reportedly appeared on the Rock several days after the NU Students for Justice in Palestine held a vigil for Palestinian victims of a recent conflict with Israeli forces. About 70 students gathered on the evening of April 22 around the Rock, which they painted at the conclusion of the vigil, the Daily Northwestern reported.

Commenting on the gathering, the co-president of NU Students for Justice in Palestine was quoted by the student newspaper as saying, “Being anti-Israel has nothing to do with antisemitism at all.”

The words “From the River to the Sea” were seen on the rock the Tuesday morning after the Saturday gathering, Kessel stated in National Review. He noted that “Until American universities take a full-throated stand against the world’s oldest hatred, it will continue to fester on their campuses.”

Kessel, in his email to The College Fix, said that while hecan’t speak to whether other students voiced their concern in any public or private forum, there were several Jewish students who came to me with their displeasure at seeing such a message painted on Northwestern’s Rock.”

Northwestern did not respond to a request for comment from The College Fix asking why they failed to release a statement in response to the antisemitic language painted on the Rock.

The university also stayed silent after Northwestern’s Associated Student Government passed a resolution last spring addressing the “Israeli Occupation of Palestine.” Students painted “From the River to the Sea” on the Rock in May 2021 in support of the ideas espoused by the resolution.

“I can’t speak on Northwestern’s behalf, but if I were to venture a guess as to why the administration declined to make any sort of statement — which was the case when Students for Justice in Palestine painted the same slogan last year — I’d think it’s because the university wants to avoid a fight,” Kessel told The College Fix.

“There have been plenty of confrontations between student activists and the Northwestern administration over the past few years, and one frequent subject of consternation among those activists is the school’s refusal to comment about a variety of issues these students believe to be important,” he said.

The situation at Northwestern mirrors the rising trend of antisemitic behavior at higher institutions across the country.

A poll released by Hillel International and the ADL found that one-third of Jewish students experienced antisemitism on college campuses during the 2020-21 school year.

MORE: Grad student union says ‘BLT Sandwich’ painted on campus rock is a threat to Native Americans

IMAGE: Paul Brady Photography / Shutterstock

MORE: UChicago newspaper removes op-ed denouncing antisemitism from website

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Margaret Peppiatt is a student at Franciscan University of Steubenville majoring in Political Science with minors in Human Life Studies and Legal Studies. She is a staff writer for The Troubadour.