At University of Pittsburgh, anti-Semitism has “perks”

The University of Pittsburgh chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) is planning to host an event on Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, which falls this year on April 16. The purpose of this event is not to commemorate the Holocaust but rather to vandalize the day by painting Israelis as modern-day Nazis. According to the US State Department, this perverse ahistorical comparison fits squarely under the Department’s definition of anti-Semitism. According to the University of Pittsburgh however, this is academically enriching, and students are being given incentives to attend.

As stated on webpages advertising this event, “SJP Holocaust Rememberence [sic] Day” will count for credit in Pitt’s Outside the Classroom Curriculum (OCC). According to the Pitt website, OCC is “designed to help students receive a well-rounded education… and ultimately gain a competitive edge.” By recording one’s attendance at a series of events in ten different “goal areas,” students earn the right to “Graduate with Distinction” and qualify for the $1,500 Pitt Advantage Grant, among other “perks.” Any student can use their attendance at SJP’s event to eventually be honored and rewarded by the university.

This adds insult to injury. SJP is a hate-group that works towards Israel’s destruction through isolation and economic warfare. SJP would deny self-determination to the Jewish people alone, and proudly rejects having any dialogue with pro-Israel students. They routinely violate pro-Israel students’ right to assembly by disrupting pro-Israel events. The latest episode happened at Pitt last November, when masked protestors interrupted an event featuring an IDF officer. SJP claims to do all of this in the name of humanitarianism and Palestinian rights, but it is silent about Palestinians being brutalized by the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Syria, and now ISIS. Students for Justice in Palestine are frauds. It is bad enough that Pitt lets racist frauds be part of its academic milieu; sadly, Pitt is not unique in this. But to reward students for attending an event whose hateful motive is so self-evident, this is indefensible.

At this event, the audience will hear from Edith Bell, a Holocaust survivor who makes a name for herself by delegitimizing Israel’s right to self-defense. She falsely characterized Israel’s defensive actions in Gaza last summer as “genocide”, because “they [the Israelis] are killing people at random – a whole population is being killed.” The unprecedented actions the IDF took to minimize collateral damage in Gaza are well documented– as are public statements by Hamas officials encouraging the use of human shields, which is a war crime. Bell won’t be acknowledging the 5,779 truckloads of food, medicine, and medical equipment that Israel sent into Gaza during the conflict, nor will she bother to tell her audience that Israel’s military blockade of Gaza only began after a Hamas coup evicted the Palestinian Authority in 2007.

If Edith Bell has anything to teach the world, it is that surviving an atrocity does not automatically confer on one a moral compass –or a basic understanding of arithmetic. Even if you ignore the fact that over half of the Palestinian fatalities in Operation Protective Edge were armed combatants, the context-free comparisons that Bell makes are mathematically absurd. The total death toll among Palestinians last summer amounts to .0011% of Gaza’s population. In 2014, Gaza’s population had a net gain of over 50,000. In comparison, world Jewry’s population still has not reached its pre-Holocaust level, 70 years later. Don’t expect Bell to actually acknowledge this stark contrast. She will emotionally blackmail the audience into believing a context-free, fact-free lie, where data is meaningless and subjectivity is everything.

The event is also made illegitimate because of its timing. Yom Hashoah is an intrinsically Jewish and Zionist day of remembrance. It was legislated into existence by the Israeli Knesset in 1953. The full name of Yom Hashoah is Yom Hazikaron lashoah ve-lag’vurah or “Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day”. It is tied to the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

This is the day on which SJP and Edith Bell will claim that the descendants of the Ghetto fighters are the new Nazis. The Israeli government is the only government in the world to commemorate Yom Hashoah. Its commemoration by world Jewry reflects the leading role that Israel plays in the collective conscience of all Jews who don’t share Mrs. Bell’s pathologic worldview. By using the Nazi analogy to malign Jews, SJP is trivializing the crimes committed against the Jewish people during the Holocaust.

The Pitt administration should find this conduct abhorrent. Instead, the university is legitimizing the SJP event and encouraging students to attend it by offering them academic and financial incentives through the earning of OCC credit.

Those who care about Pitt’s academic integrity should contact the university and let Pitt know that it should not be complicit in SJP’s hateful conduct.

About the Author
Brian Albert made aliyah in 2006. He served in the Golani Infantry Brigade and participated in Operation Cast Lead in 2009. After the army, he studied Middle Eastern History at Tel Aviv University. He now works as a Campus Coordinator for the Zionist Organization of America. He makes a mean cheesecake.
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