U. of Wisconsin apologizes as antisemitic graffiti mars first day of classes

University of Wisconsin-Madison apologizes to Jewish students for graffiti calling Zionism “genocide” and “racism,” and accusing Zionist groups of having “blood on their hands.”

By World Israel News Staff

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has condemned anti-Zionist graffiti on campus, calling the vandalism “antisemitic”, and offered an apology to the university’s Jewish students.

Last week, on the opening day of the 2022-2023 school year, anti-Zionist slogans were found scrawled in chalk on the sidewalk at multiple locations on campus.

The graffiti included “Zionism is Racism”, while at another location the phrase “Zionism is Genocide” was written.

The vandals also referenced unnamed “Zionist” organizations on campus, and accused them of having “blood on their hands.”

Lori Reesor, the school’s Vice Chancellor, and LaVar J. Charleston, chief diversity officer, condemned the graffiti in a joint statement issued Wednesday.

“We were disappointed that [the opening of school] was marred by multiple sidewalk chalkings appearing around campus, targeting several Jewish student groups labeling them as ‘racist,’ ‘genocidal,’ and ‘having blood on their hands.’”

“These labels are antisemitic: they attribute broad actions or beliefs to Jewish student groups. To those Jewish students and others affected, we are sorry for the impact this had on your first day of class at UW. We truly strive to create a campus where every student feels they belong, and this kind of messaging harms that goal and aspiration.”

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“Our job as leaders is not to respond every time a controversial or offensive incident happens on our campus. However, these chalkings provide us a timely opportunity to express our expectations for civil engagement for the campus this fall and as we move forward together.”

Reesor and Charleston said the vandals have yet to be identified.

“While we do not know who created these chalkings, and acknowledge the impact they had, nonetheless we also acknowledge they represent free speech which is a core value at UW. Just because something isn’t prohibited doesn’t make it a good idea. Our expectation is that we engage across differences and discuss varying views and ideas with civility and respect and that did not happen here.”

The local Hillel organization estimates that there are some 4,000 Jewish students at the university.

This is not the first time vandals have chalked anti-Israel or antisemitic slogans at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Last December, the messages, “Happy Hanukkah & happy day of int’l solidarity with the Palestinian people,” an image of the Palestinian flag, and the hashtag “Palestine Day,” were drawn outside of the campus Hillel house, after UW Jewish students celebrated the first night of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.

The incident came months after Madison’s Jewish community experienced a rise in reported hate crimes.