"Not surprisingly, the only acceptable thing to say on campus became the lie that Israel is a racist, apartheid state"
"Two student groups, Students for Justice in Palestine and JStreetU, were formed last fall. Both liberal, SJP rallies against a two state solution while JStreetU claims to endorse one. At a glance they might seem different, but they share a lot in common when it comes to condemning attempts to by me and my group to counter anti-Israel propaganda on campus," wrote Hassan.
After spotlighting the "Open Hillel" vote by the Vassar Jewish Union and various other anti-Israel initiatives from professors and faculty, Hassan came to the conclusion that "the only acceptable thing to say on campus became the lie that Israel is a racist, apartheid state." Professors on campus also refused to debate Cornell professor William Jacobson when he came to campus. One professor even suggested that the faculty "boycott his appearance at the College."
Hassan continued, "In order to show the humanity of the perceived Israeli monster, I began innocuously posting images from the Facebook page 'Humans of Tel Aviv' in a Vassar student group Facebook page, to show that Israeli cities are cosmopolitan, socially liberal places that resemble Vassar in some ways. This provoked a leader of SJP to tell me 'the devil has enough advocates.' Weeds often grow in abandoned fields. Looking back, the first sign of weeds was an 'Apartheid Wall' that sprang up in the College Center. This is a common BDS tactic which all follow a similar formula in demonizing the Israeli state.'"
He also said that he "walked up to SJP and told them that I was raised in a Muslim family. They loosened up immediately and seemed eager to welcome me into their hate."
Pro-Israel students on campus also had the pro-Israel "Wall of Truth" defaced, as Hassan described:
We decided to erect the Wall of Truth, which harmlessly countered the 10 Apartheid Wall myths in an eye-catching, bloody font, which is the most tasteful way to depict the consequences of terrorism to Americans short of showing graphic images, which SJP has no reservations doing.
Unused to any resistance, SJP and its allies attacked our Wall of Truth and defaced it. The words used to deface the Wall of Truth included “racist,” “bullshit,” and “lies.”
The Vassar administration did nothing other than take down the Wall of Truth.
Hassan highlighted J Street U's attempts to bully and label him due to his pro-Israel views, which included an interview with the school paper in which they "down the impact of the SJP Nazi poster and condemned the Wall of Truth."
"The image posted by SJP was highly critical of American international intervention but also featured several anti-semitic and racist references and images.Hassan commented, "It shocks me that as a Turkish, first-generation college student who grew up celebrating Ramadan, my efforts would be deemed 'unacceptable' and 'racist.' It is ominous that Vassar College does not allow a healthy intellectual debate to flourish on campus, which requires even more persistent care-taking than the weeds on the campus lawn. Students should be given space to grow on campus, but they must not be allowed to grow so out of control that they conceal those who bring vandalism and handsaws into Main Building, and with them, the seeds of academic destruction."
As a member of the Jewish-affiliated but all-inclusive student group, Jstreet U, Michael Iselin ’16 explained, “I don’t think there is any denying that the post was anti-semitic. SJP’s focus is on Israel-Palestine which does not directly relate to Judaism. They are two very different things. I think that this post was an attack toward Jews on campus and in general and I think it was disconnected in a lot of ways from the debate that was going on.” …
On May 15, the issue was made further complicated by a poster that was installed in the Retreat. The poster was titled the “Wall of Truths” and featured several ideas presented as “myths” relating to the Israel-Palestine debate.
Many found the poster to be extremely offensive. As Iselin said, “Jstreet U was upset because the content was unacceptable but furthermore this is why people assume anyone who is ‘pro-existence of a Jewish state’ is radically conservative because of people who post things like this. I’m sure there are some people who assume this was posted by Jstreet U or a group of Jewish students even though it wasn’t. It just isn’t true. A lot of this stuff isn’t right.”