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Op-Ed: JSA Board Statement on Flyering and Upcoming Eli Valley Events

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The Jewish Student Association Board expresses deep concern about the upcoming set of events hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) featuring Eli Valley, a Jewish political cartoonist who is known for controversial and inflammatory depictions of prominent Jewish figures. Last week, SJP posted flyers in a number of residential areas featuring Valley’s cartoons to advertise their event. Many students were alarmed to find these images, which portray Jews offensively and grossly mischaracterize Jewish values, in their residential environments. Some students were horrified to find flyers that placed Valley’s work side-by-side with a piece of 1930s-era Nazi propaganda — a despicable image to disseminate on campus, regardless of intent.

No student should be subject to encountering derogatory portrayals of any religious, racial, or ethnic group, especially not in their residential communities. Such images foster misunderstanding, prejudice and violence. They pose a threat to student safety and well-being.

After Jewish students of diverse ideological perspectives convened to express their concerns, SJP and JVP agreed to take down the flyers promoting the Eli Valley event. In an apology to the Jewish community, SJP acknowledged the harm of disseminating the flyers without context, the inappropriateness of prompting a conversation about Jewish community issues among the general public and the distress that the caricatures have caused. While we appreciate SJP and JVP’s recognition of error and readiness to take down their flyers, no amount of context can assuage our consternation about the content of Valley’s work.

Although Valley’s intent may be to produce scathing political commentary, his work extends beyond politics and into outright hostility toward the Jewish community. Valley readily employs age-old anti-Semitic tropes to criticize Jewish public figures—including Ben Shapiro, Senator Chuck Schumer and Abraham Foxman, the former director of the Anti-Defamation League. He regularly compares Jewish people across the political spectrum to Nazis. In one image, he grotesquely contorts Holocaust survivor, peace advocate and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel into a weapon of war. While we respect Valley’s freedom of expression, however repugnant his images may be, we believe much of his work is antithetical to thoughtful reflection on Jewish identity and normalizes damaging stereotypes about the Jewish people, the Jewish culture and the Jewish religion. His work crosses the line from pointed political criticism to offensive denigration of Jews; sometimes, he even evokes the blood libel and other anti-Semitic depictions that have been used for centuries to justify hatred of and violence toward millions of Jews.

The Jewish Student Association Board believes it is imperative for all who attend Valley’s exhibition to be aware of our disgust with his work, and to bear in mind the distressing impact that his cartoons have caused for many members of the Jewish community. We urge the Stanford student body to contextualize offensive portrayals of Jews within a long and devastating history of anti-Semitic stereotypes.

To this end, we are hosting a conversation on the history and evolution of anti-Semitism in artwork and media representation with Jewish Studies faculty. The event will take place on the evening of Tuesday, May 14th. If you are interested in attending, please fill out this form online. Note that the event will be open to Stanford affiliates only.

— Members of the Jewish Student Association Board

Contact JSA Board at stanfordjsa ‘at’ gmail.com.