Michigan university lecture compares Netanyahu to Hitler

Slide says both leaders guilty of genocide; school says lecture by artist, a former Black Panther, is intentionally provocative and it does not censor content

A slide that was part of a presentation at the University of Michigan comparing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Hitler (Facebook)
A slide that was part of a presentation at the University of Michigan comparing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Hitler (Facebook)

A required lecture for University of Michigan art students featured a speaker who compared Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Adolf Hitler.

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 the definition of genocide.

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.

“During his tenure, Douglas created powerful images to depict the reality of racial injustice in America and to promote the party’s ideologies. His distinctive style established the “militant-chic” style decades before the aesthetic became popularized and sought to flip the cultural paradigm from one of African American victimhood to one of powerful outrage.”

Emory Douglas speaking in San Fransico in 2014 (Amber Gregory/Wikimedia Creative Commons)

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 anti-Semitic lecture,” she wrote, adding: “In what world is it ok for a mandatory course to host a speaker who compares Adolf Hitler to the Prime Minister of Israel?”

“I sat through this lecture horrified at the hatred and intolerance being spewed on our campus,” she continued. “As a Jew who is proud of my people and my homeland, I sat through this lecture feeling targeted and smeared to be as evil as the man who perpetrated the Holocaust and systematically murdered six million Jews,” she wrote.

Yesterday I was forced to sit through an overtly antisemitic lecture as part of the Penny Stamps Speaker Series, which…

Posted by Alexa Smith on Friday, October 5, 2018

She noted that two years ago, another mandatory Stamps lecture speaker, Joe Sacco, called Israel a terrorist state and explicitly claimed that Israeli soldiers were unworthy of being represented as actual human beings in his artwork.

“This time I will no longer sit quietly and allow others to dehumanize my people and my community. The administration is repeatedly failing to forcefully respond to antisemitism, and so it comes back worse and worse each time. A line needs to be drawn and it needs to be drawn now,” she concluded.

The University’s Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs, Rick Fitzgerald, said 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.

A portion of Douglas’ presentation on the process of creating art included examples of juxtaposing images of world leaders.

“The Stamps program is intentionally provocative and we are clear with our students about this. The school does not control or censor what speakers present,” he also said.

Undergraduates receive academic credit for attending 11 of 14 scheduled Stamps events during the school year and they are able to select which events to attend.

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.

University of Michigan Professor John Cheney-Lippold addresses the Chicago Humanities Festival in November 2015 (YouTube Screen Capture)

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.

Abby Ingber asked John Cheney-Lippold, a professor of American culture, for a letter of recommendation to help her study abroad in Israel. (Facebook)

“The perennial claim of anti-Semitism I fully deny,” he told The Michigan Daily. “I have no bad will against the student, and I would have very gladly written a letter for any other graduate program or study abroad.”

However, Masha Merkulova, the executive director of pro-Israel Club Z which publicized the incident, charged that Cheney-Lippold’s decision is anti-Semitic, as it came “solely because her chosen destination is Israel.” She accused the professor of holding Ingber to a double standard.

ToI Staff contributed to this report

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