A series of fliers, comparing Zionism to Nazism, blaming Jews for oppression in America, and attacking American Jews for exercising their rights as citizens, were found on the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago this week. The source of the messages, which included the phrase "Ending white privilege starts with ending Jewish privilege," remains unknown.
The new messaging merges traditional, right-wing anti-Semitic tropes -- that Jews control the world -- with the progressive concern about oppression.
"These materials are sophisticated and show a dramatic increase in hate. They are meant to incite, create fear, and could encourage violence," said John Lowenstein, JUF's VP, Campus Affairs, and Executive Director, The Hillels of Illinois.
He said university administrators in Illinois and across the country have been to slow to respond.
"Their inability to recognize that anti-Zionism results in a dramatic increase in anti-Semitism is in part responsible for the increasingly hostile environment on campus for Jewish students," he said.
Lowenstein explained that while universities have invested heavily in "diversity and inclusion" programs and departments with the best of intentions, too many efforts have mistakenly excluded an understanding of anti-Semitism.
"We need to recognize that the effort to deal with issues of race, gender, and ethnicity has paradoxically encouraged hatred of others, especially Jews. Too few universities have any training or programs to deal with anti-Semitism, and when it occurs, the perpetrators go unpunished."
JUF's Department of Campus Affairs regularly raises this issue with campus officials around Illinois. Lowenstein emphasized that while the messages are not a violation of free speech, they do violate university codes of conduct, and that while "just as universities have zero tolerance for racism, there should be zero tolerance for anti-Semitism."
JUF and Metro Chicago Hillel praised UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis for immediately and unequivocally calling the fliers anti-Semitic in a statement following the first appearance of the fliers this week.
"We have been warning campus officials that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, as it becomes more aggressive, will also become more overtly anti-Semitic. We all need to recognize that BDS has the multi-faceted goals of demonizing Israel as well as all Jews," Lowenstein said.
Lowenstein said he is not surprised at the tone and message of the posters at UIC, and expects more posters of this nature, on more campuses. "The messages represent a logical continuation of the hate we have seen both from the 'alt left' and 'alt right'."
JUF's Department of Campus Affairs, Hillels of Illinois and Israel Education Center assist Jewish students deal with the impact of BDS on campus.