Education Minister Naftali Bennett sent a letter to the University of Michigan’s President Mark Schlissel, urging him to oppose anti-Israel hatred on campus after a lecturer compared Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Adolf Hitler, claiming both are guilty of genocide.
Bennett also raised a previous case of a University of Michigan professor who would not write a letter of recommendation for a student who wanted to study abroad in Israel, a spokesperson for the minister said in a statement Tuesday.
“The time has come for you as head of the university to make a strong stand against what has clearly become a trend of vitriolic hatred against the Jewish state on your campus,” Bennett wrote to the university president.
During a compulsory lecturer, speaker Emory Douglas, part of the “Penny Stamps Speakers Series Presentation” of the Stamps School of Art & Design, displayed a slide that showed a picture of Netanyahu and Hitler with the words “Guilty Of Genocide” written across their faces.
Below the photo was a definition of genocide as “The deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular nation or ethnic group.”
Bennett, who is also minister of Diaspora Affairs, strongly condemned the incident and noted the comparison violated the widely accepted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism.
“Allowing such hatred to be expressed on campus — even in a mandatory class — was greatly detrimental to the well being of the students under the care of the university,” the statement cited the letter as saying.
The content of the lecture first came to public attention via a Facebook post on Friday by a Jewish University of Michigan student, Alexa Smith. The post included a photograph of the slide of Douglas’ artwork.
Yesterday I was forced to sit through an overtly antisemitic lecture as part of the Penny Stamps Speaker Series, which…
Douglas “worked as the resident Revolutionary Artist and Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party in the San Francisco Bay Area from 1967 through the 1980s,” according to the school’s website.
The university’s assistant vice president for public affairs, Rick Fitzgerald, in a statement issued on Friday, noted that “Douglas covered a wide array of subject matter within the overarching context of his work, which looks at the oppression of people across the globe by governmental powers,” and added that his presentation included a video and nearly 200 slides with images of his work.
Last month, University of Michigan professor of American culture, John Cheney-Lippold, declined to recommend junior Abigail Ingber for a semester abroad in Israel because he supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, movement against the country.
Cheney-Lippold, an associate professor in the university’s Department of American Culture, had initially said he would write a reference letter for Ingber for a semester abroad program, but rescinded the offer after finding out she wanted to study in Israel.
Cheney-Lippold rejected the idea that his refusal was anti-Semitic, and said his decision was meant to urge Israel to comply with international law in its treatment of Palestinians.
In a statement last month, the university said it was “disappointed” by the decision.
“It is disappointing that a faculty member would allow their personal political beliefs to limit the support they are willing to otherwise provide for our students,” the school said.