The United States and the Mason community are experiencing a rise in antisemitic incidents that are creating unsafe environments for the Jewish community.
BY VIVIANA SMITH, STAFF WRITER
Antisemitism is not a new concept that the Jewish community has been facing. The recent reawakening and spread of antisemitic behavior has led to an increase in violence and harassment in the modern day. Not only has the online sphere become a place for misinformation and harmful narratives, but real-life consequences are also affecting those in places they once felt at home.
The growth of antisemitism in the U.S. has increased social tensions. According to the Associated Press, in the past year, the number of reported antisemitic incidents reached a high of 2,717 incidents since 1979. The rise of hateful speech has circulated in forms of mass media and social media with the sources being from those of high influence.
Recently, there has been an increase in high-profile influencers expressing antisemitic ideologies on large-scale platforms. Rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, faced major backlash after tweeting harmful antisemitic messages to his 31.4 million followers. According to the Associated Press, Ye was banned from Twitter for a second time for the violation of Twitter’s rules against incitement of violence. Following leadership changes and motivated speech by influential figures, the platform saw a rise in hate speech, including racism and antisemitism, according to The New York Times.
The political world is seeing an increase in the glorification of antisemitism. Political figures, such as former President Donald J. Trump, have been reported in the company of popular influencers that have been known to promote antisemitic and racist ideologies. According to the Associated Press, Trump attended dinner with activist Nick Fuentes and Rapper Ye, who are both known for promoting antisemitic and other forms of hateful speech.
According to the Gainesville Sun, the increase in antisemitic incidents has reached campuses all over the U.S., often repeating the ideologies of major influencers. Antisemitism and other hate crimes on campus are becoming a major issue in the U.S.
According to Mason’s University policy, “freedom of expression is not incompatible with our commitment to diversity and to nurturing a positive and collaborative environment where everyone can thrive”. The Jewish community at Mason have expressed feeling troubled about the rise of antisemitism on campus through being a part of a community grown from the promise of diversity and inclusion.
Mason Graduate, Daniel Frank, had been following the trend of antisemitism in the U.S. and at Mason. In a 2021 report, Frank reported data collected by the Anti-Defamation League, Jewish on Campus, former GMU Israeli Student Association president and former GMU Hillel Israel Connection Chair shows that “between 2016 and 2021, at least 85 separate antisemitic incidents have occurred on the Fairfax campus of George Mason University.”
“It’s truly disheartening,” Frank said. “To see peers and influencers alike not only elevating that dangerous speech, but doubling down on it and amplifying the hate”.
According to an Instagram post by Jewish On Campus, Mason was ranked the sixth most reported school regarding antisemitic reports in 2020. Within these reports, Frank found that students have experienced harassment, bullying, physical assault, vandalism, and Nazism by fellow students, professors/faculty members, and other Mason affiliates.
Mason’s Jewish community has suffered many antisemitic incidents that have compromised the integrity of their comfort and safety on campus. While being the sixth most reported school in antisemitism, students had still expressed their apprehensiveness to report such incidents.
“It never should have been allowed to get to the place that it is now,” Frank said.
“Where over 60 incidents over five years have gone unreported out of fear of retaliation and out of feeling that the incident will not be taken seriously.”
Mason’s Student Government has made moves in a positive direction by passing a bill denouncing antisemitism in the U.S. On November 10th, 2022, the 43rd Student Senate passed a resolution to condemn the antisemitic attacks in the U.S. and “commits to supporting students of the Jewish faith’” on campus.
Secretary of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, Zoe Winter, advocated for the passing of this resolution, expressing that the resolution is important for the Jewish community on George Mason’s campus.
Winter said that passing the bill would reassure Mason’s Jewish community that “at least someone was paying attention.”
According to NPR, harmful narratives about minority groups have increased over the past few years and are ultimately linked to an antisemitic trope. When civil unrest begins, people are often seen pointing the finger back at the Jewish community, further spreading antisemitism.
Adjunct professor at Mason, Rabbi Aft, explains that the media helps make others aware of the unjust antisemitic acts, however, also allows “airtime to people who make comments that are antisemitic.”
Aft, along with other Mason affiliates, suggests that some of the best ways to combat antisemitism in the U.S. are by educating others about what antisemitism is.
“Education is key,” said Rabbi Aft. “There has to be systematic educational programs about all minorities.”
Members of the Jewish community at Mason have expressed concerns for the well-being of the community. The increase of antisemitism on campus and in the U.S. in the past few years has prompted individuals to speak out against injustice and propose resolutions and bills to protect the Jewish community from hateful behavior.
“What Jewish students truly need is real action that leads to visible and measurable change on campus,” says Frank.
“The time is NOW for George Mason University to once again be a trendsetter this time in standing up for its Jewish population and Jewish community.”