Last Friday, Oberlin held a vigil for the eleven Jews that were murdered in Pittsburgh at the Tree of Life Synagogue, as well as for two African Americans who were murdered in Kentucky while shopping for groceries. Among the sponsors of the vigil were Oberlin Jewish Voice for Peace and Oberlin Students for Free Palestine, two groups that have previously contributed to the demonization of Jews and of Israel, respectively, on the campus.
On November 6, only four days after this vigil, Oberlin SFP and Oberlin JVP will be cosponsoring an event featuring Nyle Fort, who will speak about “Black-Palestinian Solidarity in an Age of Repression.”
According to the event description, “In 2016, Nyle recently [went] to Palestine on a delegation with the Dream Defenders to build solidarity between black and Palestinian freedom struggles.” Dream Defenders was the group partially responsible for inserting the falsehood that Israel is committing genocide into the 2016 Black Lives Matter Platform. This occurred the same year that Fort reportedly traveled to Israel with the group. BLM’s false charge was criticized even by left-wing Jewish groups such as T’ruah and IfNotNow. Yet, Fort supported the move. “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis,” is part of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism, also adopted by the US State Department and used by the Department of Education.
On what appears to be Fort’s Facebook page, he himself has also said that “there’s no ‘Israeli-Palestinian conflict.’ nah, what we are witnessing is Palestinian genocide.” The charge is demonstrably false. Life expectancy in the West Bank and Gaza has increased and the Palestinian population has grown since Israel took control from Jordan and Egypt in 1967.
Fort has also reportedly claimed that “Zionism has become a euphemism for conquest and colonization and removal, that is, of Muslim land and its people. And thus, Zionism and Islamophobia share a symbiotic relationship. Islamophobia feeds Zionism and Zionism reinforcing Islamophobia.” The definition of anti-Semitism mentioned above also includes, “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination.” Referring to the Jewish people’s return to its indigenous land as “colonization” is a denial of the Jewish right to self-determination.
Even the title of the event raises questions, referring to “an Age of Repression.” Israel is the freest society in the Middle East, for both its Jewish and its Arab citizens. As to the West Bank and Gaza, while the Palestinian Authority and Hamas repress the people, it seems a good guess, based on the above, that PA and Hamas repression will not be the focus of the talk.
Last Friday, the same day as the vigil for Pittsburgh, a current Oberlin student wrote in the Oberlin Review that upon his arrival at the school, he “encountered open hostility toward Jews.” His “battle in college was against the anti-Semitism of [his] peers and the intolerance of [his] institution.” For nearly three years, Oberlin Alums for Campus Fairness has tried to get the administration to take anti-Semitism on campus seriously. While Oberlin pays lip service to the fight against anti-Semitism nationally, it refuses to address anti-Semitism on its own campus.
Contributed by Karen Bekker, Assistant Director of CAMERA’s Media Response Team, and a graduate of Oberlin College.