Are Jewish Students Becoming Second Class Citizens at U of M?
It seems that U of M's Central Student Government President, Ben Gerstein made some comments about Palestinians that Palestinian students found offensive. Even though Gerstein made these comments in high school, the student government passed a resolution condemning his comments. And Gerstein apologized.
What Gerstein said in an interview as a high school senior was:
“I think the Palestinian people, with rejecting constant peace deals, with their financing of terror, with their raising kids to hate people purely because of their religion. I don’t think that people deserve a state at this point in time. Until we see a significant change in the Palestinian mentality and a significant change in the Palestinian leadership, I don’t think they deserve a state at this point.”
Gerstein, in giving this opinion, ran afoul of U of M's student thought police. There is nothing insulting or dishonest in what Gerstein said. Palestinians, and Arabs before them, have rejected every peace deal with Israel. Palestinians, with help from the EU and other enablers, do finance terror. They do, with help from UNRWA schools, teach their children to hate Jews.
Gerstein was condemned for telling a series of forbidden truths - while in high school. We can assume that campus thought police are currently engaged in examining his elementary and preschool records - just in case. Rather than examine what he said to judge its veracity, members of SAFE twisted what he said, and in typical reality-inverting fashion, made themselves into victims.
The Arab Student Association and Students For Allied Freedom and Equality (SAFE) circulated a statement on social media late Tuesday night demanding public apologies from both Gerstein and CSG, as well as anti-bias and anti-Islamophobia training for CSG members. The statement said the community needs public acknowledgment and administrative action in order to heal.
“Ben Gerstein sat across the executive board of the Arab Student Association and claimed that he seeks to build a sense of safety on this campus, but how does he expect us to feel safe when he does not even recognize our people as worthy of basic human rights and humanity?” the statement read. “How can we trust his student government, that was run on a campaign of inclusion, when he believes radicalism is ingrained in our societies?”
As stupid as these demands sound, SAFE and the Arab Student Association got their apology. But there was more to be whined about:
The statement said Gerstein’s comments are particularly hurtful considering past instances in which pro-Palestinian activists have been targeted for their activism. The Daily investigated Canary Mission, a pro-Israel blacklist that named multiple University students as anti-Israel for partaking in actions such as voting in support of BDS as a CSG member.
“If we cannot trust that our own student body government president believes in our humanity, how can we feel supported and safe on our campus,” the statement read. “Our community can no longer trust any intentions or policies from the Central Student government, and once again have watched our university isolate and turn their backs on us.”
“I don’t think a lot of people understand how disheartening it is as a Palestinian on this campus to see an elected representative to say that all I know how to do is to fund terrorism and reject peace deals,” Abufarha said. “Real damage has been done by this video and (the Assembly needs) to correct that.”
Keep in mind that while they're crying about a lack of support, being isolated, being disheartened, and feeling unsafe, it is Jewish students who are under attack on campus with almost no faculty or administration support. SAFE and other groups participate in Israel Apartheid Week, an entire week dedicated to defaming the world's one Jewish state, with no thought as to Jewish students' safety, human rights, or dignity, some of whom do get targeted due to their forbidden pro-Israel beliefs. Meanwhile SAFE members are "victims" of Canary Mission, "because of their BDS and pro-Palestinian activities." In reality they are profiled on Canary Mission due to their bigoted, anti-Semitic activities and social media posts. (Nobody is pro-Palestinian. They are only anti-Israel.)
It was SAFE that harassed Jewish students in 2013 by placing mock eviction notices under the doors of students, which SAFE claimed was
“a tool of political satire intended to emulate a situation that thousands of Palestinians confront on a regular basis.”
SAFE harassed students when they didn't get the results they wanted from a student government divestment vote.
The resolution’s supporters did not let up their disruptive behavior. The following night, SAFE and other anti-Israel activists staged a sit-in, occupying the CSG chambers and vowing to remain indefinitely unless CSG acceded to their demands. These included a revote on the issue, a mandatory “teach-in” to learn about divestment, an apology from CSG, an unlimited amount of student speaking time, and a requirement that CSG make all of its meetings open. Strangely, the latter two demands are already CSG policy.
In what shocked students, but failed to sufficiently alarm University administrators, the campus environment became as chaotic as the sit-in itself, and far more frightening. Students who opposed the boycott efforts were targeted—subject to derogatory tweets, targeted with slanderous names, and abused for how they express their personal and even religious beliefs.
It was not just individual students who were the victims of violent threats and intimidation by pro-Palestinian forces. Student Government representatives were similarly targeted and, most tellingly, called “kike” and a “dirty Jew.” Both CSG representatives and ordinary students were afraid to attend their classes because they felt unsafe.
But the cry-bullies of SAFE have done a very effective job of controlling the debate so that their hate-mongering can never be part of the conversation. It makes them feel "unsafe" and "disheartened" you know. Jewish students, brought up on notions of fair play and peaceful coexistence, are easily bullied into accepting these demands.
CSG Communications Director Alex Johnson released a statement Wednesday night, acknowledging the harm done to the Palestinian, Muslim and Arab students on campus by Gerstein’s comments. He also addressed the steps CSG would take to repair relationships with affected communities moving forward.
“As an organization we wholeheartedly realize the need to better support Palestinian, Muslim and Arab students on campus,” Johnson wrote. “In the next several days, President Gerstein hopes to listen to the concerns and needs of impacted students and work towards the various asks outlined in SAFE’s statement last night. Apologies are insincere without corresponding action and we collectively are committed to acting on these wrongs.”
So on one side, SAFE and their allies are free to harass, lie, disrupt, and personally attack Jewish and pro-Israel students. U of M professors who support BDS feel comfortable enough to deny students recommendation letters to study abroad in Israel.
On the other side, Jewish students who tell the wrong truth, even if they did it back in high school are subject to censure.
This is known as a double standard. Jews have been subject to double standards in Christian and (especially) Islamic societies for hundreds of years. Now those double standards are in play at U of M with Jews, as always, on the bottom.
I don't know what kind of pressure Ben Gerstein was put under to apologize, but I'm sure there was pressure. There is always pressure against Jews who speak up. I'm guessing he had very little support against the pressure. Jewish students haven't yet learned how to fight back, and most know very little of Jewish or Israeli history to counter the constant stream of lies. Campus Israel-haters, as Jew-haters throughout history have done, can manufacture lies faster than they can be fought, and they have old ones that are constantly recycled. The one thing we all (especially U of M students) have to see, since it's right in front of our eyes, is that SAFE and their crybully allies are always the aggressors. Exposing their aggression and hatred does not make them victims.
As bad as this incident is, things can, and probably will get worse. As they do, expect to see university administrators, unless an incident is so egregious it goes public, continue to do nothing to support Jewish students.