SAFE Wall Angers Students During Rosh Hashanah

The students asked President Schlissel to issue a statement in support of Jewish and pro-Israel students, similar to the statement he released last week in support of African American students who were offended by the fliers found on campus.

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ANN ARBOR, MI – Yesterday afternoon on the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, anti-Israeli protesters dressed up as Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) checkpoint guards were seen yelling at passers-by near a cardboard wall on the Diag.

The University of Michigan campus organization Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) erected the wall in recognition of Palestine Awareness Month. The wall metaphorically represents the security fence at the border between Israel and the West Bank.

Israel constructed the fence as a result of the Palestinian suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks against Israel that resulted in the deaths of nearly 1,000 people. Slogans written on the wall expressed Palestinian disapproval of the security fence and called for its removal.

Jewish and other pro-Israel students were deeply offended by the protesters and the fact that a student group was permitted to install this so-called “apartheid wall” on one of the holiest days of the year for those who practice Judaism and at one of the most visible spots on campus.

Because Rosh Hashanah calls for attending service at the synagogue, many Jewish students were not on campus to express their feelings of anguish while the event occurred. Those students who remained on campus were left to cope with the demonstration without the support of many of their peers.

Not only was the wall upsetting in itself, but Michigan students felt that those dressed as IDF checkpoint guards were mocking Israeli culture and arguably engaging in cultural appropriation.

A group of particularly anguished students from the University authored a petition addressed to the University’s President Schlissel. They wrote, “Just last week, you sent a message to the student body emphatically stating that ‘behavior that seeks to intentionally cause pain to members of our community is reprehensible.’” They were referring to a message that the president released last week concerning racially offensive fliers that were found around campus.

The students continued, “We speak on behalf of many students in the Jewish and pro-Israel campus communities when we write that yesterday we felt ostracized and excluded as many of us sat in synagogue, unable to share our stories.”

The students asked President Schlissel to issue a statement in support of Jewish and pro-Israel students, similar to the statement he released last week in support of African American students who were offended by the fliers found on campus.

Schlissel will speak tomorrow at the Power Center on campus to formally introduce the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Strategic Plan. The University’s diversity website describes this plan as an attempt at “creating a vibrant, diverse and inclusive campus in which every individual has the opportunity to be heard, to contribute and to excel.” If Schlissel’s attention has been brought to yesterday’s events, Schlissel may discuss the protests at his address tomorrow.

Jesse Arm was particularly taken aback by the University’s treatment of the “apartheid wall.” He stated, “The hypocrisy of a university that will bend over backwards to accommodate the emotional distress experienced by certain religious, ethnic, political, sexual, and racial groups but not others is wildly offensive. So long as I go to a university where ‘safe spaces,’ ‘trigger warnings,’ and ‘expecting respect,’ are the norm, I demand that all communities be held to the same standard.”

In order to construct the wall on the Diag, SAFE would have had to receive permission from the University, suggesting that the University initially saw no problem with this wall intending to honor Palestine Awareness Month.

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About Sara Otto

Sara is a senior pursuing a dual degree in Communications and Information. She is an aspiring broadcast journalist, primarily interested in politics, who hopes to contribute to a digital publication after graduating next year. She has never been afraid to challenge the status quo and constantly questions societal norms. When she isn't writing, you can find her climbing trees, baking vegan chocolate cakes, getting lost on purpose, or laughing at either herself or at nothing at all. As a wise man once said, "I do take my work seriously, and the way to do that is not to take yourself too seriously." -Alan Rickman