Letter to the Editor: Anti-Zionist Graffiti is inherently Antisemitic

As someone who chose to attend Bates primarily because of its tradition of egalitarianism, I am deeply troubled by the antisemitic graffiti on campus recently. In my years at Bates and in all the years since, including nearly a decade coming back to campus as I served on the Alumni Council and as the vice president and president of the college’s alumni association, I never experienced antisemitism or heard that anyone else had. Never. Not even a whiff.

That changed when I saw media reports of graffiti that stated “F*** Zionist Israel.” Aside from the lazy use of profanity, criticizing a “Zionist Israel” is, at its core, antisemitic language. Anti-Zionism seeks to deny an ethnic group/religion the right to a homeland, particularly after that group has faced millenia of systemic racism, oppression and attempts at eradication. Targeting Zionism targets Jews. It targets Jews in Israel, including those who work for peace. It targets Jews around the world. It targets Jews in the United States. And, it targets Jewish students on an egalitarian Bates campus.

Political speech aimed at Israel and its policies is absolutely fair game. I am no fan of Benjamin Netanyahu or Likud. No fan at all. His policies stand in the way of a peaceful two-state solution. But by trying to deny the Jewish diaspora a homeland when needed, those who graffitied the campus are no better than those who would deny Palestinians the right to a homeland. Of course, the tricky thing is that the land at issue here — the ancestral land of Jews and Palestinians — is largely the same land. That is precisely why a negotiated two-state solution is needed. What is not needed is antisemitic language from Bates students. Perhaps the students who graffitied the campus forgot what an egalitarian Bates stands for. Perhaps they never knew.

In the meantime, I hope the administration takes action and sends a strong message that political speech is always welcome on campus, but hate speech never is.   

Michael Lieber is a member of the Class of ’92.