Hate Crimes Threaten 5Cs

While tensions continue to flare across the Palestinian territories, scattered incidents of what appear to be hate crimes against visibly pro-Israel and pro-Palestine advocates at the 5Cs have raised concern among students and faculty members. Two incidents occurred within the span of a month, one each at Pitzer College and Claremont McKenna College. 

In an incident this month, a sophomore at Pitzer involved in Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) found damage to her car, including slashed tires, said Dan Solomon PZ ’18, president of the group at the Claremont Colleges. The discovery occurred a day after students submitted paperwork for the official reformation of the club, leading many to suspect that the event was brought about by the victim’s views on Middle Eastern politics. The student declined to comment for this article.

Solomon said that he believes the event was motivated by prejudice. He noted that this was not the first time that tire-slashing had been directed at an SJP member.

Solomon said that a Palestinian student who founded the original SJP group also had his tires slashed following the March 2013 incident in which CMC economics professor Yaron Raviv allegedly used the epithet “cockroach” against an SJP member participating in a mock checkpoint.

In a separate incident Sept. 18, an Israeli flag outside the room of Bryan Turkel CM ’15 was ripped off and stolen. Additionally, Turkel discovered hours later that his mezuzah—a scroll containing a prayer, traditionally hung on the doorposts of Jewish homes—had also been stolen. 

“I think they broke into my room because they saw Jewish paraphernalia in my room and that upset them,” Turkel said. “What happened to me was a recent example that anti-Semitism is really picking up on American campuses.”

Turkel’s conclusion brings to light a point that college campuses are struggling with across the country: the potential for larger conflicts to splinter into personal attacks. Such incidents are not isolated to the Claremont Colleges. On Oct. 5 and 14, swastikas were found plastered across residence halls and fraternities at Yale University and Emory University, respectively, and last spring an Oberlin College professor was accused of anti-Muslim rhetoric. Indeed, campuses nationwide have been trying to combat situations where students may feel unsafe or targeted.

“CMC does not tolerate bias incidents or hate crimes,” CMC Dean of Students Mary Spellman wrote in an email to TSL. “All such incidents which we are aware of are investigated by the college and if appropriate by the police.”

Turkel raised questions over Campus Safety’s response to the incident in his room.

“I immediately called campus security but they were very unhelpful,” he said. 

Turkel added that unresponsiveness to incidents like this is dangerous “because it means [students] won’t have … hate crimes and bias-related issues addressed with the appropriate amount of severity.”

Turkel did, however, praise the efforts of the college administration, which he said was very responsive to his problem. 

Solomon said that education and disengagement are a good strategy to confront hate crimes. Solomon stressed that SJP—a club often viewed as employing incendiary tactics—is making sure to keep members aware that these are political issues, not personal. He understands that his group may receive negative comments, and even attacks, but he recognizes that efforts to delegitimize his club, so long as they are peaceful, are a necessary part of discourse.

“Our thing has always been, ‘Let’s not engage,’” he said. “We’re not interested in getting into a personal thing or anything like that; talking about the issue and raising awareness is our goal.” 

Turkel said that this is something that anyone involved with a contentious issue should agree on. 

“You don’t have time to educate everybody on every different nuance for every conflict that is happening,” he said. “But a good general message was sent: that regardless of someone’s political views, their religion, sexual orientation—whatever discriminating factors—it’s not all right to attack or to intimidate somebody off of those beliefs and based off of those characteristics.”

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