This week, a mural painted on Pomona College’s Walker Wall—which is deemed a free speech wall—to raise awareness of antisemitism after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, was partially painted over by a Palestinian flag, with the accompanying message “Palestine exists. Acknowledge it.”
The original mural on Walker Wall in response to the October Pittsburgh synagogue shooting consisted of multiple Stars of David along with the message “Antisemitism exists. Acknowledge it.”
While the original post has already been painted over, with students restoring the original message, painting over messages is in line with Pomona’s policy on Walker Wall.
However, this week, sections of the message were covered with painting of the Palestinian flag and the accompanying message “Palestine exists. Acknowledge it.”
This incident follows on the heels of a faculty vote at Pitzer College—another college in the Claremont Colleges consortium—in favor of suspending Pitzer’s only study abroad program in Israel with the University of Haifa.
The covering of the original mural has received widespread condemnation.
Jacob Lubert, a senior at Pomona, told the Independent that “if you want a visual definition for the new form of antisemitism, à la Corbyn, look no further than Walker Wall: dismissing the increasing number of antisemitic incidents and attacks in the US and the Western world by suggesting that any attempt to call attention to antisemitism is an attack on Palestinians.”
“Of course, there is criticism of Israel that is not antisemitic. However, if a person believes that antisemitism is justified or should be dismissed because of the Israel-Palestine conflict, that is clearly antisemitic. Importantly, the original message was not a statement about Israel or Palestine; it was an attempt to spread awareness of an increase in attacks against Jews and antisemitic dialogue in today’s world. Its message has proved true,” Lubert added.
“The ‘Free-Speech’ wall would ideally be a place where students or groups could bring awareness to antisemitism and also to the Palestinian cause. However if a person or group thinks that these are mutually exclusive, that should be grounds for serious outrage within the community.”
One Pomona student who identifies as Jewish told the Independent on the condition of anonymity that “it conflates the issue of being against anti-Semitism with being against Palestine. Many Jews believe in working towards a Palestinian state. I would hope that others who share that goal can support rather than suppress Jews who struggle against the threats of anti-Semitism.”
The covering of the original mural even drew criticism from the Claremont College’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), with the group posting a strong rebuke of the covering on its Facebook page:
“It has come to our attention that, in the past few days, a pro-Palestine statement was written over the “anti-semitism exists” piece on Walker Wall. The Claremont College’s Students for Justice in Palestine does not condone derailing conversations about anti-semitism. We find this especially unacceptable given that the statement about anti-semitism has already been defaced once before, and was written in response to the Tree of Life mass shooting that occurred this past October. Furthermore, this act has perpetuated a false narrative that positions Palestinian people against, and outside of, the Jewish community. Jewish Palestinians exist.”
“SJP condemns all anti-semitism, and we stand proudly with our Jewish siblings,” SJP added.
This article appeared in the Claremont University Newspaper