Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Mischaracterizing a vote on antisemitism at UNC (letter)

To the Editor:

Deborah Gerhardt’s February 8 column (“My Colleagues Stayed Silent When Oct. 7 Was Known as a ‘Stunning Day’”) comprises some alarming misapprehensions and mischaracterizations of the Jan. 19, 2024 College of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School Council assembly, by which a vote on the proposed ‘Decision to sentence antisemitism’ was indefinitely postponed.

It’s patently unfaithful that our “Israeli colleague was ignored and never permitted to talk,” as Gerhardt claims, and her commentary that “I’ve a reasonably good guess” about the place “the opposite 38 stand,” a reference to nearly all of school who voted both to desk the decision or to abstain, constitutes a tacit accusation of antisemitism in opposition to dozens of colleagues whose sole offense (at the least in my case) is a distinction of opinion about how greatest to fight antisemitism on our campus.

As a Jewish school member at UNC who was additionally the primary to talk out in opposition to the proposed decision, I reject the place that I or my colleagues have capitulated to “silence” about antisemitism, both on our campus or all over the world. Related resolutions, issued with rising regularity lately by the governing our bodies of universities or educational establishments, are sometimes profoundly ineffectual in bettering campus climates or in reshaping political discourse exterior of the academy for the higher.

It’s totally affordable for school leaders to grapple with the query of when such resolutions could do extra hurt than good, both as a result of they heighten divisiveness over unstable points or as a result of they don’t seem to be sufficiently exact in what they condemn. A decision that condemns antisemitism with out ever defining it’s, within the present educational and political local weather, imprudent and threatening.

There should be some severe, protracted conversations in larger training about what does or doesn’t represent antisemitism—does utilizing the time period “Zionist” as a slur qualify? What about using the Nazi swastika as an emblem of Palestinian resistance? What about labeling Israeli residents “settlers” no matter their ancestry or household historical past? Or calling all Jews “white” no matter their pores and skin coloration or their self-determined ethnic id? The way in which ahead, if we’re to have such pressing conversations, can not start with a decision that condemns difficult, and even offensive, viewpoints.

—Jessica Wolfe
Marcel Bataillon Professor of English & Comparative Literature
UNC Chapel Hill

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