Statements sharply accusing Israel of indiscriminate killing of Palestinians and other offenses made by the executive board of the union representing part-time faculty at Rutgers University have drawn the ire of a member of Congress and an organization of Jewish faculty, administrators and staff on campus.
The Jewish community at Rutgers, still among the largest undergraduate Jewish populations in the nation, is still reeling from last month’s series of Chancellor Christopher Molloy’s statements and apologies, which first condemned antisemitism in the wake of rocket attacks from Hamas and the ensuing antisemitic assaults globally. On facing criticism from Students for Justice in Palestine, Molloy, with Provost Francine Conway, then apologized for its statement’s contents. Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway has since reached out to the campus’s three largest Jewish organizations to try to restore good relations.
A statement released June 12 by the board of the Rutgers Part-Time Lecturer Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP)-American Federation of Teachers (AFT) accused Israel of “legalized racial discrimination perpetrated against the Palestinian people,” and the Israel Defense Force of actions that have “targeted, killed and maimed civilian populations” of Gaza and the occupied West Bank.
It follows a May 28 statement from the executive board of the AAUP-AFT chapter of full-time professors that criticized Israel for the displacement of Palestinians, firing on civilians and expressed “our solidarity with the Palestinian people.”
Jenny Mandelbaum, who co-chairs J-FAS (Jewish Faculty, Administration and Staff) at Rutgers with Rebecca Cypess, accused the unions of “cherry-picking their facts and oversimplifying the situation,” and called the statements and others circulating on campus “regrettable.”
Mandelbaum, a communications professor and member of Highland Park’s Orthodox community, said in her own statement to The Jewish Link that the unions’ proclamations “fall outside of the purview of the faculty and PTL Unions. If the Unions wish to represent their full constituencies, they should be seeking to reconcile rather than divide, and to engage in dialogue.”
Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) was so outraged in particular by the statement from the part-time union, which is significantly more inflammatory than the one issued by the full-timers, he sent a letter to university President Dr. Jonathan Holloway urging him to speak out against its misinformation. Rutgers did not respond to requests for comment.
Gottheimer, who provided a copy of the letter to The Jewish Link, wrote that the professors and lecturers “are entitled to hold their own opinions, even those which may be disagreeable. However, it is important to recognize that invective which singles out, disparages, delegitimizes, or demonizes Israel can and in many cases does fall outside of bounds.”
He cited concern for the well-being of Jewish or pro-Israel Rutgers students in light of the recent sharp rise nationally in hate crimes, including a series of antisemitic incidents.
“Considering recent events, it is important to send a clear message that all Rutgers students and community members, including those who identify as being Jewish or pro-Israel, will not be singled out, penalized, or made to feel unwelcome at our state’s flagship university,” wrote Gottheimer. “I would ask you to please speak out clearly and quickly against this hate-filled misinformation campaign and rhetoric.”
The part-time union’s statement called on the AFT to divest itself of Israeli bonds and for the American government to immediately cease financial aid to Israel. It voiced support for the Union Action for Justice in Palestine and international human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Israel-based B’Tselem “who have designated these practices of Israel as ‘apartheid’ and a regime of legalized racial discrimination perpetrated against the Palestinian people. We note that the International Criminal Court has opened an investigation into these practices.”
B’Tselem, a controversial human rights group, has accused Israel of “Jewish supremacy,” and many in Israel view its listing Israeli human rights abuses but not those of Hamas and Palestinians as somewhat treasonous, and inherently antisemitic.