University of Illinois chancellor says presentation to residence-hall advisors was anti-Semitic

(JTA) — The chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is under fire for saying that a presentation to residence-hall advisors on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians was anti-Semitic.

The presentation, called “Palestine & Great Return March: Palestinian Resistance to 70 Years of Israeli Terror,” prepared by a Palestinian-American student involved in the Students for Justice in Palestine organization, was critical of Israel but not anti-Semitic, critics responded, according to the local newspaper the News-Gazette. They urged the university to formulate a definition of anti-Semitism.

Chancellor Robert Jones had made the assertion in a campus-wide email last week, which also referenced the recent discovery of a swastika in in the Foreign Languages Building. The presentation to about a dozen resident advisers and multicultural advocates was made late last month.  Complaints were filed about both the presentation and the swastika, the Daily Illini student newspaper reported Monday.

“This exercise was part of a university program created to help students learn to share diverse ideas and perspectives that lead to new understanding. Instead of fostering dialogue, it incited division, distrust and anger,” Jones wrote. “The program allowed our students to enter an extremely challenging and potentially volatile situation without the preparation, training, education and professional oversight they needed to succeed. This is inexcusable and unacceptable. This is a failure to our students, and that is my responsibility.”

All housing staff, RAs and advocates will be required to undergo anti-Semitism training, Jones said.

The Illini Public Affairs Committee, which works to support U.S.-Israel relations at the University, called the presentation “a narrative of demonization of Israel and its citizens and Jewish students.”