“EVICTION NOTICE: DORM SCHEDULED FOR DEMOLITION IN THREE (3) DAYS. If you do not vacate the premises by 3/10/2016 8 PM, we reserve the right to demolish your premises without delay.”
So read flyers posted in dorms across campus on Mar. 7 by Claremont Students for Justice in Palestine (CSJP). According to the group, “the purpose behind this action was to…bring awareness to this year’s brutal wave of evictions and demolitions that have taken place in Palestine, specifically in the Negev and Jerusalem.” The Permanent Observer Mission of The State of Palestine to the United Nations states that “48,488 structures have been demolished by Israel since 1967,” a statistic listed in the flyers posted by CSJP.
To some Jewish students at the 5Cs, however, the flyers are indicative of anti-semitism on campus.
“The eviction notices amount to bullying and harassment,” Kate Dolgenos PO ‘17, a member of the Claremont Progressive Israel Alliance, wrote in a statement to TSL. “It is completely inappropriate for any organization to harass individual students in their homes, and it is even more inappropriate to post fake notices with a subject that can really affect Jewish students; it does not matter if the notices were supposedly not targeted.”
Claremont Police Department Lieutenant Mike Ciszek said that the police responded to the incident at 11:15 p.m. on Mar. 7. After speaking to a student who alleged that he had been targeted based on his religion, Ciszek said that the police determined that the incident was not a hate crime but was instead “more of an awareness event.”
Stan Skipworth, the director of Campus Safety, sent an email on Mar. 8 stating that Campus Safety responded to a Claremont McKenna College student’s report that he found one of the fliers on his dorm room door on the night the flyers were posted.
“Because students have reported that they felt they were being targeted specifically because they are Jewish, Campus Safety is working with the Claremont Police Department to investigate this matter as a possible bias incident,” Skipworth’s email read.
Some students have expressed disapproval of Campus Safety’s response to the incident. On Mar. 10, CSJP and the Jewish Voice for Peace drafted an online petition to CMC President Hiram Chodosh calling for Campus Safety to rescind the email because it “targets political speech.” As of Mar. 10, the petition had garnered 221 signatures.
“The Council of Presidents and Campus Safety chose to respond to our political speech about Palestinian human rights by threatening to send the police after us,” the petition reads. “They ignored the clear facts that our flyers were about state policy.” According to the petition, CJSP distributed the flyers “evenly on every other door in every dorm” and “did not target any specific person or group.”
However, some Jewish students, including Mica Laber CM ‘18, President of the Claremont Progressive Israel Alliance, have expressed discomfort with the CJSP’s tactics.
“Even if Jewish students were not intentionally targeted, the fact is that a Jewish student who wakes up to see this outside their door immediately feels uncomfortable and unsafe,” Laber said.
On the other hand, Aaron Sege PO ‘18, a Jewish student and a board member of J Street U Claremont, wrote in an email to TSL that he considers the flyers political speech, not a hate crime.
“I think the deeper problem here is confusing a criticism of the Israeli governmnet with anti-Semitism,” Sege wrote. “The leaders of the American Jewish community often do this as well, which only serves to further polarize the politics of this issue.”
While Ciszek noted that a Pitzer College dean approved the distribution of the flyers, Skipworth’s email to the student body stated that the flyers violated posting regulations at CMC, Pitzer College, and Scripps College.
According to a Mar. 11 email to Pitzer students from Pitzer President Thomas Poon, “internal inquiries were conducted at Claremont McKenna and Scripps and both determined that there was no targeting of Jewish students by SJP. There were no formal complaints about the fliers on Pitzer’s campus.”
Pomona President David Oxtoby wrote in a Mar. 11 email to Pomona students that the mock eviction notices did not violate Pomona's policies on speech and that no Pomona students had filed formal complaints about the notices.