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Op-Ed: A disgrace in the Valley — Co-sponsoring anti-Semitism at Stanford

I had been under the mercifully mistaken impression that Der Stürmer, the Nazi newspaper edited by Joseph Goebbels, had long ago ceased publication. You can view menacing images from its pages at nearly any Holocaust museum, usually in the rooms that cover the early stages of Jewish persecution. The Auschwitz exhibit is generally a few rooms over.

Imagine my surprise when a flood of images seemingly drawn from Der Stürmer’s archives appeared on campus at Stanford University, where I am a law student, as an advertisement for a talk by cartoonist Eli Valley, a cartoonist and the keynote speaker for Palestine Awareness Week  (May 6 – 10) on campus, organized by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). When it comes to anti-Semitism and cartoons, what is old is new again.

For those unfamiliar with Mr. Valley’s work, it ranges from the morally repugnant to ethically disgusting. Under the fig leaf of criticizing Israel, it depicts Jews and Jewish rituals in the most grotesque of terms; yellow starsconcentration camp uniformsblood libels and the reliable hooked noses. Like most hate, it’s remarkably lacking in insight. It is crude and disgusting, and its ceaseless recourse to Nazi imagery is matched only by its slavish devotion to the age-old tropes of Jewish caricature. In an email message sent on May 5 to a list-serve used by Stanford’s Jewish community, SJP has apologized for disseminating the cartoons “out of context.” 

Let me be as clear as I can: the images are indefensible in any context. They are not justifiable, and they are not explainable. The sin is not against sensitivity. It is one of smearing a Jewish minority under attack here and abroad in the name of a skewed vision of a foreign conflict.  SJP’s promise that “Eli’s knowledge and guidance” will ameliorate these facts is akin to entrusting fire safety to an arsonist. To apologize for the flyers but insist on continuing with the event is equal parts absurd and appalling.

The notion that an organization like Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine see a fellow traveler in this hate merchant raises troubling questions. Elevating Mr. Valley’s work has nothing to do with peace in the Middle East, and everything to do with the free-form hatred that gloms onto Jews and the Jewish State alike. It is so far over the line, so feral and despicable, that words fail. I urge my non-Jewish fellow students to look at the images for yourself, and then look your Jewish friends in the eye and tell them you support this event. I dare you.

The equivalent to inviting Mr. Valley would be donning black face and hoping to have a nuanced conversation about race or advertising an event on contemporary trends in Islam with an image of the Prophet Muhammad. Would anyone be gas lighting those communities for feeling justifiably disgusted? To ask the question is to answer it.

The gutter of Twitter and online cesspools where the extreme left and right frolic in filthy agreement provide a more than ample space for Mr. Valley to practice his craft. There, those who hate the Jews and look to do them harm will find ample inspiration. Some will concede much of the above, but will respond that Mr. Valley is Jewish, and that this event is co-sponsored by JVP. It must be kosher, right?

In response, I note that we long ago decided to judge men and women by the content of their character rather than the flag they fly. There is a word that perfectly describes the cognitive dissonance of JVP hosting an event entitled “Why anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism” just two days before Mr. Valley, who manages to cover both bases in spades, speaks: obscene. Do they think we were born yesterday?

For those students who fail to see that this event is an abomination they would never countenance against another group, I despair. The cost of solidarity must never be so steep as to be bought with a hateful coin. For those students of all backgrounds who feel moral clarity, who know that this is wrong, that it makes those who promote and defend it uglier and smaller, I feel pride. Not everything is complicated. Sometimes, your heart and head and gut agree. This is a time of such consensus.

Days ago, many of us mourned the murder of six million Jews. Just last week, at a Chabad in Poway, a life and a hand were blown away solely because Jewish blood flowed through them. Over 700 hundred missiles were launched by Palestinian terrorists at Israeli civilian centers last weekend, killing four Israelis. The Jewish vacation from history is over before it began. It is open season on the Jews, in word and deed. Everything is possible and permissible. Again.

Ari Hoffman, SLS ’19

Ari Hoffman is a student at Stanford Law School

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