Non-Jews Fighting Anti-Semitism on Campus
Milan Chatterjee, former student president of UCLA, is the most recent non-Jew leaving his school due to anti-Semitism. There are others.
University of California Los Angeles received a shock at the start of the 2016-2017 academic year. Former student president Milan Chatterjee, a third year law student who is Hindu, announced he was leaving UCLA due to anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism on campus.
Milan Chatterjee explained that UCLA has “become so hostile and unsafe” he feels compelled to leave. While serving as student president, he’d made funding for a campus diversity event contingent on participants not calling for the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) of the Jewish state. In response, Chatterjee recounts he was harassed and discriminated against, and was the victim of a vicious smear campaign by anti-Zionist activists. When he appealed to the university’s administration for help and support, he found them "non-responsive and unhelpful.”
In response to Chatterjee’s announcement, UCLA released a statement saying that while it does not itself call for sanctioning Israel, “supporters and opponents of divestment remain free to advocate for their position as long as their conduct does not violate university policies.”
Milan Chatterjee announced that he plans to finish his law degree at New York University School of Law instead.
Milan Chatterjee isn’t the only non-Jewish student or educator to leave university positions due to anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in recent months.
In February 2016, Alex Chalmers, Co-Chairman of the Oxford University Labour Club, resigned, noting that members of the club, which is affiliated with the opposition British Labour Party, have “some kind of problem with Jews”.
Citing the club’s “poisonous” attitude towards Jews and Zionists, Chalmers described an atmosphere in which the term “Zio” was used as a grave insult, students professed solidarity with the terrorist group Hamas, and concerns about anti-Semitism were casually dismissed out of hand.
The following month, March 2016, another Oxford University Labour Club official, Brahma Mohanty, also resigned from the club’s executive committee and his post as Disabilities Officer. Despite being “passionate” about his political work, Mohanty wrote in his resignation letter that the club had become extreme, particularly in its recent passing of a motion in favor of Israeli Apartheid Week.
The club’s obsession with anti-Zionism had rendered it “a meagre shadow of its former glory" and led Mohanty to stop his impassioned political work.
In August 2016, a non-Jewish student at the University of Sydney withdrew from a course after being criticized for presenting a report on the Holocaust. The student, who has not been named, was taking a course on Holocaust studies, and wrote a report linking modern anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism. As he presented his project in class, the tutor interrupted him saying, “We don’t want people to get the wrong idea about you.” The student was later given a low grade that he felt was motivated by anti-Semitism.
A spokesman for the University of Sydney has said the university is “extremely concerned” about the incident, “and would like to investigate this matter further.”
Five months after taking a job teaching philosophy at France’s first state-supported Muslim school, Muslim teacher Sofiane Zitouni quit the prestigious Averroes Lycee, citing extreme anti-Semitism and radicalism.
In an open letter to a French newspaper in February 2015, Mr. Zitouni explained that students at Averroes routinely made statements like “The Jewish race is cursed by Allah”. Staff members seemed to agree, warning Mr. Zitouni that he would “make enemies” by opposing the school’s anti-Semitic ethos.
The school responded to Mr. Zitouni’s letter by saying they intended to sue. It has been rated as “excellent” by school inspectors since it opened in 2004.
Each of these principled individuals could have easily chosen not to speak out against anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Instead they courageously spoke out and even left comfortable positions to take a stand.