Skip to content

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Faculty extremism threatens civil dialogue

For Rutgers to achieve a state of peace and mutual respect, it is crucial to listen to each other rather than take extreme political positions. – Photo by Zeete / Wikimedia

I am responding to the recent manifesto by the newly formed Rutgers Faculty for Justice in Palestine (FJP). I am writing this for students who feel besieged by their own faculty.

It is important for students to be aware that many Rutgers faculty members find the views of this group deeply problematic. The extremism contributes to a hostile campus atmosphere that makes civil dialogue on a controversial political issue very difficult. Students reviled by Hamas's terrorism, who identify with Israel and hope for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, should know there are faculty who support them.

Particularly troubling is that FJP supports National Students for Justice in Palestine (National SJP), an organization that, right after Oct. 7, 2023, actively celebrated the terrorist group Hamas' horrific attack, which involved the launch of thousands of rockets into Israel and the indiscriminate torture, rape, murder and kidnapping of civilians.

National SJP effectively called for the elimination of Israel and, by implication, the destruction of its people. Resorting to an age-old antisemitic trope, it blamed Jews for causing their own persecution.

FJP says it supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, social justice and Palestinian rights, but the end game of BDS is the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state. BDS displays a singular focus on demonizing Israel and supports "anti-normalization" that rules out cooperation between Israelis and Arabs.

On university campuses, this means that allies of BDS engage in a form of bullying and marginalize Jewish students, branding them as racists and colonialists unless those students preemptively disavow Zionism.

FJP vilifies only one side of a tragic conflict in which both have missed too many opportunities to live together in peace and justice. They talk about the Nakba, but ignore that an estimated 900,000 Jews escaped from or were expelled from Arab and Muslim countries as a result of antisemitic persecution, which is approximately the same as the number of Palestinians who were displaced from Israel with the founding of the state.

The "Israel-loathing" feeds on and leads to antisemitism. I am not suggesting that any of the proponents of the boycott are being consciously antisemitic. But professors should be sophisticated enough to recognize that structures of bias can exist independent of individual mental states.

Much of the current hostility to Israel traces back to attitudes about Jews and Jewish identity that go back hundreds of years and longer. As novelist Howard Jacobson says, "Those who say we shouldn't conflate anti-Zionism and antisemitism should give up employing the language of medieval Jew-hatred to vilify Israel."

Israel has a right to its sovereignty like every other country in the world. Moreover, a study has shown that a focus on negating Israel and its supporters has helped to create an environment in which antisemitic actions and expressions become emboldened.

This is particularly true on U.S. colleges and university campuses. Regardless of the attitudes and disclaimers of supporters of BDS, it is simply irresponsible to misunderstand that the relationship between this movement to a broader project of delegitimization extends not only to the country of Israel but also to all Jewish people's right to embrace their national identity without fear.

At Rutgers, I have spoken with Jewish students who feel so intimidated that they are hiding their Jewish religious identity from their roommates or wearing their Star of David necklaces under their shirts.

Jewish faculty members concerned about antisemitism on campus have also condemned the harassment and intimidation of Arab and Muslim students on the Rutgers campus. FJP should likewise recognize expressions of antisemitism on campus. These include a range of incidents from posters calling attention to the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza being torn down to the arrest of an undergraduate who was charged after making a death threat against Israeli students at Alpha Epsilon Pi, a predominantly Jewish fraternity.

FJP fails to mention that the tragic death of Gazans is occurring as Israel attempts to destroy Hamas, not to target civilians or commit genocide. The war would end quickly if Hamas returned the Israeli hostages, stopped their thousands of missile attacks and ended the violence. There would then be some hope for a two-state solution and long-term peace. But the FJP's anti-Zionist stance and refusal to recognize Jewish statehood will only lead to more bloodshed and war.

Peace, mutual respect for human rights and an end to suffering will not come about by taking extreme political positions or engaging in anti-Zionist or antisemitic indoctrination.

On campuses like Dartmouth College, the faculty has tried to foster civil dialogue that exhibits caring, mutual respect and compassion. Faculty members at Rutgers owe their students the same efforts and should attempt to model respectful intellectual exchange that is nuanced, judicious and balanced.

Cynthia Saltzman, Ph.D., is a lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice at Rutgers University—Camden.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to change the source of Howard Jacobson's quote.

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

YOUR VOICE | The Daily Targum welcomes submissions from all readers. Guest columns and commentaries must be between 600 and 900 words. All authors must include their name, phone number, class year and college affiliation or department to be considered for publication. Please submit via email to by 4 p.m. to be considered for the following day's publication. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

Related Articles

Join our newsletterSubscribe