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Friday, May 24, 2024
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Letter to the Editor: Dissent from Jewish UW faculty member

Editor’s note: Letters to the Editor and open letters reflect the opinions, concerns and views of University of Wisconsin-Madison students and community. As such, the information presented may or may not be accurate. Letters to the Editor and open letters do not reflect the editorial views or opinions of The Daily Cardinal.

In a letter published by The Daily Cardinal on May 2, some Jewish faculty, staff, and students endorsed the anti-Israel protests on campus and a “Statement in Solidarity with Student Protest from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Community.” The signatories have a right to express their opinions, but they do not speak for all Jewish faculty, staff, and students, and certainly not for me.

Both the letter and the statement it endorses fail to condemn the atrocities, mass murder, and rape committed by Hamas on October 7, 2023; they fail to criticize the repeated rejection of ceasefire proposals by Hamas; and they fail to call for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages abducted by Hamas from Israel. This indifference to the hostages and their fate is appalling and deeply undermines the letter’s moral credibility.

Both the letter and the statement it endorses make false accusations that Israel is committing genocide. Civilian casualties in war, however horrific, are not genocide.

No reasonable person claims it is antisemitic to engage in peaceful protest or to oppose specific actions of the Israeli government. But news reports of assaults and calls for violence, harassment, and intimidation directed at Jewish students on other campuses, as well as harassment and intimidation of Jewish students here at UW-Madison, do raise legitimate concerns about antisemitism. Jewish students and faculty at UW-Madison have filed numerous bias incident reports since October 7, 2023, and in January 2024 the US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights opened an ongoing investigation into antisemitism at UW–Madison under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Characterizing legitimate concerns about antisemitism as “weaponized” is an attempt to discredit and silence them. No one would seek to discredit and silence concerns about anti-Black racism or Islamophobia this way. Concerns about antisemitism should not be treated differently.

The “Statement in Solidarity with Student Protest” endorsed by the letter demands “no punishment of any UW-Madison community members.” I would support a statement that defends protesters’ free speech rights and calls for protection of their right to due process. But I cannot support this demand because it would grant protesters complete impunity for any actions they take. No other community members have such impunity. Why should the protesters?

The demands of the anti-Israel protests on campus include “cutting all ties with Israeli institutions, including the... Mosse Graduate Exchange Fellowship.” As a member of the Faculty Committee for the George L. Mosse Program in History, which administers the exchange fellowship, I strongly oppose this demand as a threat to academic freedom. The free exchange of ideas, scholars, and students is essential for the advancement of knowledge and the fearless sifting and winnowing long championed by the University of Wisconsin.

For all these reasons, I dissent from the letter and statement in question.


Chad Alan Goldberg
Martindale-Bascom Professor of Sociology
University of Wisconsin-Madison

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