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On the Diaspora Trail: Swarthmore College

Exposing A Stealth BDS Strategy to Institute Systemic Antisemitism Nationwide

by Laura Kessler


Jan Morrow

By Jan Morrow, JD, PhD.




How have things gotten so bad on campuses? Since October 7, even the skeptical see that mobs of students support Hamas, a genocidal terror group. These nominally “Progressive“ students  cheer Hamas’s barbaric massacre, including mass murder,  beheading and burning alive babies, gang rapes, mutilation, kidnapping, necrophilia and more forms of torture.  Students on American campuses have carried knives to cut down posters of kidnapped children; students have behaved violently towards Jewish students and faculty. It has taken a long time to get this bad.

Multiple campuses across the USA are being victimized by a BDS strategy for taking over the narrative, and silencing opposing voices and Jews. BDS is a carefully planned and well financed hate movement.  It is therefore valuable to report on this BDS strategy wherever it is found.

The City University of New York (CUNY) has fallen prey to BDS anti-Jewish strategies according to a 12-page report released by Students and Faculty for Equality at CUNY.  See also Charles Jacobs and  Jeffrey Lax.

The BDS strategies described in these articles about CUNY are similar to those discussed in my (previously unpublished) Summer 2021 essay about  Swarthmore College. This is the first in a series of posts about the ongoing antisemitism problems at Swarthmore College. One hopes that awareness will empower schools to address the problem.


Bringing Light to Obfuscation at Swarthmore

Summer 2021


Things are not well for the Jews at Swarthmore College—nor for Jewish alumni either, apparently.

On this subject I recently commented on the Swarthmore Virtual Alumni Facebook group. That comment was removed by the page administrator, who claimed that “Many people are complaining that it is offensive.” My protest, that my comment was true and important, fell on deaf ears. I’ll let you be the judge. 

I wrote: “Having a BDS activist choose the college’s Jewish advisor/Rabbi is like [having] a KKK member choose the school’s Black student advisor.”

The background: Swarthmore decided to hire a full time “Jewish advisor/Rabbi” after swastikas were found on campus through the Fall of 2016. At the time Swarthmore’s administration said that they were doing this to support Jewish students in the wake of the swastikas. I thought that motivation was patronizing, that it amounted to treating Jewish students as if they needed counseling for an emotional problem instead of actually addressing the hostile environment toward Jews on campus. But this was only the beginning.

To the selection committee for this position the administration appointed a professor who is neither Jewish nor a scholar of religious studies, and who didn’t have tenure at the time. On these grounds alone his inclusion on the committee to select the new Jewish advisor was bizarre. But on top of that he is also an Israel-hating, activist professor who openly supports the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement and advocates that Israel has no right to exist. 

He teaches a pseudo-balanced but in fact profoundly biased course on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which promotes a radical anti-Israel narrative and allows students to bring in articles, without challenging or debunking them, from such dubious sources as the anti-Israel websites The Electronic Intifada and Mondoweiss

He also leads students on an all-expenses-paid propaganda trip to the West Bank, where they are (for example) cooked dinner by Manal Tamimi—and told she is a “peace activist,” but not told she is from a family of terrorists and makers of propaganda films. It is bad enough that Swarthmore allows and promotes this anti-intellectual indoctrination, in what is in fact the one and only class on the conflict. But what non-antisemitic reason could Swarthmore possibly offer for appointing this professor to the selection committee for a Jewish advisor?

Not surprisingly, the BDS-professor weighed heavily in the process, according to students who heard him speak about it. By spring of 2017 he got his choice. The person he chose, and Swarthmore then hired, is also not surprisingly a member of the anti-Israel group Jewish Voice for Peace, himself a BDS-supporter, and a signatory to a 2009 letter in support of Gaza—when Hamas, the internationallyrecognized terrorist group controlling Gaza, was waging war against Israel. 

The Hamas charter calls for the murder of all Jews everywhere in the world. The selection of this person is worse than mere patronization. In my opinion, it amounts to an institutional antisemitic assault on Jewish students by Swarthmore precisely when those students were particularly vulnerable, after the swastikas. 

Surveys indicate that most Jews are generally supportive of Israel, holding Israel as central to both their Jewish identity and their sense of safety. Swarthmore’s deliberate choice of an anti-Israel Jewish advisor seems aimed to discourage mainstream Jewish students from attending Swarthmore, and to intensify even further the generally hostile environment on campus toward those mainstream Jewish students already enrolled, of which Swarthmore was on notice. 

For anyone who cares about the majority of Jews, the choice of an anti-Israel BDS-activist on the selection committee and the subsequent choice of a Jewish anti-Israel BDS-activist can only be interpreted as antisemitic. BDS is an eliminationist, genocidal hate cult based on lies of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Mein Kampf variety. If something comparable were done to any other minority group, Swarthmore, which prides itself on social justice activism, would not tolerate it. Hence my original comment: “Having a BDS activist choose the college’s Jewish advisor/Rabbi is like [having] a KKK member choose the school’s Black student advisor.”

The strategy is truly stunning. It is to get antisemites into positions where they can influence Jewish life on campus. It is ingeniously wicked. In the name of academic freedom, Swarthmore brings an overwhelming number of antisemitic anti-Israel speakers to campus, many of whom call for violence against Jews, but only a vanishingly few pro-Israel speakers; hires many BDS supporters including extreme ones, allowing them to control the narrative on Israel and Jews without academic challenge; and now has even hired a “Jewish advisor” of that ilk. This arrangement assures the narrative to which Swarthmore students are exposed is under control by BDS. 

Similarly, as frequently happens when BDS, SJP and JVP get entrenched in a school, the Alumni Facebook page, which was previously uncensored, has now taken to capriciously censoring many posts and comments which are pro-Israel or anti-BDS. BDS talking points don’t hold up well to true scholarly scrutiny, or to facts, so Swarthmore’s recent version of academic freedom includes suppression, exclusion and censorship of opposing voices. Swarthmore has not answered our questions regarding the source of funding for the speakers and for the free trip. This strategy needs to be exposed to the light of day. It needs to be nipped in the bud before it spreads elsewhere. 

Not surprisingly, the new “Jewish advisor” leads a JVP chapter on campus. The BDS Professor who chose him leads an SJP chapter on campus.  Students have consistently and repeatedly reported in the years since they arrived that they have made the environment far more hostile than it already had been to mainstream Jewish students, and really to all students, even those who go along to avoid social exclusion, and those who are fooled by the BDS cult lies. 

A few of the many examples: The BDS professor and the new “Jewish Advisor/Rabbi” ran a panel to redefine antisemitism. KKK doesn’t get to redefine racism. And BDS activists shouldn’t get to redefine antisemitism. They promoted a divestment initiative which included, students report, JVP and SJP students blocking the dining hall staircase and accosting people trying to enter or leave saying, “Do you care about human rights? Then sign this.” Many people signed without knowing that what they signed was about BDS, and without knowing anything about the Middle East. People were harassed into signing by those SJP and JVP students getting in their face and blocking their path. 

The SJP and JVP students appeared at the SGO meeting considering their petition and called Jewish students Nazis and fascists and linked arms and chanted “Palestine will be free from the river to the sea”, a call for the violent removal of Jews from Israel. 100 of the JVP and SJP students marched through the main building chanting this same call to genocide and holding a map of the Middle East with Israel replaced by “Palestine,” which has never existed as a polity of any kind ever in history. 

The SJP and JVP students block other students’ paths and get in their faces during Apartheid week, and tell demonizing lies about Jews in the only Jewish State. Swarthmore students and recent alumni astoundingly fervently cite and believe articles from antisemitic propaganda sites such as https://ifamericansknew.org/Mondoweiss and The Electronic Intifada

It is not, however, surprising that many Swarthmore students act this way, given the pervasive anti-Israel narrative to which they have been subjected at Swarthmore. Swarthmore’s academic quality has been sacrificed.

Students have told us the year of Covid distancing has been a relief because they haven’t had to have SJP and JVP students in their face and harassing them. They say the SJP and JVP students are very loud and aggressive, but others who disagree feel they have to censor what they say, because of the social environment on campus and also out of fear of retribution from faculty and administration. 

The school never did do much about the swastikas. They announced that a townie had been caught in the library with a swastika drawn on a notebook and declared the townie must have done it. But as students told me at the time, one Swarthmore student had a profile photo of Hitler dancing on his Facebook page and had written a comment identifying with Hitler. 

This student also threatened to set fire to Jewish students’ meetings, and when he posted comments on social media ridiculing and threatening Jewish students, many other Swarthmore students liked those comments. Nevertheless, Swarthmore did not investigate whether a Swarthmore student could have drawn the swastikas. They even rehired this fellow as a Teaching Assistant for a second year after Jewish students had reported with documentation his mocking, harassment and violent threats to the administration. 

It is hard not to conclude that Swarthmore has an antisemitism problem, and that its Alumni Facebook group, in removing my comment, may perhaps sense the magnitude of this problem upon which my censored comment cast light. 


Jan Morrow

Swarthmore, Class of 1980

Jan Morrow

Jan Morrow, JD, PhD. is an activist in defense of Zionism and the State of Israel. She has a B.A. in Psycho-Linguistics and English Literature from Swarthmore College, a J.D. from Fordham Law School, and a PhD in Clinical Psychology from Yeshiva University.

Dr. Morrow became involved in Zionist activism in 2015 when she witnessed an SJP rally outside Hunter college, which she describes as resembling a brown shirt rally. Subsequently she worked with organizations to learn more about BDS, and its affiliated groups such as SJP, JVP and If Not Now, and their influence in schools. She founded the Swarthmore Alumni Against Antisemitism on Campus Group in 2015, and has been involved in Zionist activism ever since.

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