Editorial | Antisemitism has no home at UI

On Feb. 20, Champaign-Urbana discovered numerous antisemitic flyers scattered across the community. The flyers — ziplock baggies with deranged conspiracy theories weighed down by pebbles — were part of a recent nationwide antisemitic effort.

The University rightfully denounced the act as “cowardly and craven,” and saw the flyers as hate attempting to divide our community. Sadly, the University is no stranger to antisemitic acts. In 2019, a swastika was carved into a bathroom stall in the Foreign Languages Building. Also in 2019, a University housing student worker held a presentation which, as reported by The Daily Illini, “included content that raised concerns as being antisemitic.”

These dreadful acts expand beyond C-U as well. Recently at Indiana University, extreme antisemitic comments were posted on “Greek Rank,” an anonymous and unofficial Greek life gossip site. Despicable references to the Holocaust were scattered online and are being investigated as a crime by Indiana University Police.

No student should feel unsafe at their school. Moreover, no one should worry about their life due to their faith. Hate speech, such as those witnessed here and beyond, has no place in society. In its vile wake, we must unite as a community and take a stand against its venom. Hate speech will not divide us — that’s as clear as the sandwich bags the cowards used to spread their abhorrence.

As reported by NPR, these antisemitic bags have been found across dozens of cities. In sleepy Texan suburbs, residents awoke to the flyers on their driveways. The bags were also discovered in states like Wisconsin and Colorado. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the flyers originate from a loose antisemitic network. Furthermore, the ADL reports the antisemitic flyers are still spreading — the latest discovered Feb. 24 in Alabama.

In addition to the rise in these flyers, antisemitism, in general, is increasing in the United States. In a report from the American Jewish Committee, one in four American Jewish people stated they were the target of antisemitism in the last 12 months.

Correspondingly, antisemitism’s growth kills and harms Jewish people more than ever. A hostage situation unfolded at a Texas synagogue in January, 11 were killed at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018 and today in New York, antisemitic crimes have increased with 15 reported attacks in January of this year versus four in January 2021.

In the wake of antisemitism’s horrid rise, everyone must prioritize creating a safe and welcoming environment. As Vlad Khaykin describes for CNN, this begins with educating yourself and becoming an advocate.

“Advocate for others’ education and protection. Approach schools and centers of learning about adding programs and curriculums on the Holocaust and anti-Semitism,” Khaykin said.

Besides education, Khaykin asserts reporting hate speech online helps stop the spread of harmful conspiracy theories. Because hate can be so prevalent online, conspiracy theories — like those spread with the flyers — demean atrocities to Jewish people with “absurd comparisons” such as those between mask mandates and the Holocaust.

Likewise, community outreach is critical to curbing antisemitism. For those at the University, organizations like Illini Hillel, Illini Chabad, Sinai Temple and more help connect and foster community between all walks of life. Similarly, building stronger bonds with the campus’s Jewish community ensures hate speech will have no home at the University.

We’re one community at the University. Although our backgrounds may differ, there’s more that unites than divides us. Cowardly, sandwich bag-packaged conspiracy theories are not welcome in C-U, and it’s our responsibility — with one, loving voice — to blockade hate speech.

We’re better than this. Let’s start acting like it.

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