In response to its student paper’s editorial board endorsing the controversial Boston “Mapping Project” of Jewish sites around Massachusetts, Wellesley College condemned the project for promoting antisemitism.
“While it is not my practice to comment on the newspaper’s editorials, I do feel the need to make it clear that Wellesley College rejects the Mapping Project for promoting antisemitism,” Wellesley College President Paula A. Johnson wrote in a letter to the community.
Johnson said she is concerned that the project “poses a significant threat to the physical security of the Jewish community of Greater Boston, including neighbors and partners of the college.”
The project, published this past summer by BDS supporters, shows the locations of a range of Massachusetts-based Jewish groups, synagogues, schools, police departments, media and other institutions that the anti-Israel activists claim should be “dismantled.” The project’s website hosts a map with the locations of their targets and information about them, including the names of some of their staff.
“We believe that the Mapping Project is providing a vital service,” the Wellesley News editorial board wrote. “Collecting data about these institutions, tracing their financial and political activity and publicizing this information is incredibly important.”
Members of the Wellesley News editorial board could not be reached for comment.
According to the Mapping Project’s website, the purported aim of the project is the development of “a deeper understanding of local institutional support for the colonization of Palestine and harms that we see as linked, such as policing, U.S. imperialism and displacement/ethnic cleansing.” Following its launch, the project was widely condemned by the Jewish community as steeped in antisemitic conspiracy theories and tropes.
“Claiming that Jewish people and organizations are responsible for a host of societal harms and calling for action against them is, by definition, antisemitism,” Johnson said. “Wellesley College believes that targeting people based on their race, religion, ethnicity or any other protected identity, such as gender identity or sexual orientation, is an affront to our shared democratic values and to the college’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. We will continue to strive to make our campus a safe and inclusive place for all members of our community.”
In the editorial, the students demanded that the college’s administration and board of trustees align with the BDS movement, taking particular issue with the college having a relationship with Birthright Israel.
“The Wellesley Investment Office should immediately withdraw any investments in entities based in Israel or those that support the apartheid regime,” the editorial board members wrote. “The College should cease promoting Birthright Israel, foster an environment where Palestinian students feel free to express themselves and cut ties with any suppliers or vendors that provide support to the Israeli government.”
“We proudly support the BDS movement and the liberation of Palestine, and we call on our fellow students, our professors, Wellesley’s administration and the Board of Trustees to do the same,” the editorial concludes.
In a statement, Robert Trestan, New England regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, praised Johnson. “We welcome Wellesley College President Johnson’s strong repudiation of the Wellesley News editorial endorsement of the Boston Mapping Project,” said Trestan. “The college’s statement recognizing the antisemitism and threat to Jewish communal security posed by the Project sends a reassuring message to students, faculty and our community. The Mapping Project’s continued dissemination of antisemitic conspiracy theories and targeting of the Jewish community is abhorrent and has no place on any campus.”
According to Trestan, the paper’s endorsement of BDS sends a strong message to Jewish students at the college. “It isolates them, and it sends a message that you’re not welcome,” he said.
At Tufts, in Medford, the college is investigating an alleged antisemitic incident of a club sports team visiting another campus during the Jewish High Holidays. The college did not release details of the alleged incident.
“The alleged conduct is appalling and goes against our values as an institution, and those values do not end at the borders of our campus. When any member of our community leaves our campus, they represent each of us. This alleged act diminishes every single member of our community. We are working with our counterparts at the other institution on a formal investigation. Due to the abhorrent nature of the allegations, we are suspending all team activities for this club sports team until the investigation is complete,” Tufts President Tony Monaco said in a statement on Oct. 7.
“I want to express my solidarity with our Jewish students, faculty, staff, and alumni for whom this will hit especially hard given that the alleged incident occurred during the Jewish High Holidays. And I want to state in no uncertain terms that antisemitism is not tolerated – and will not be tolerated – at Tufts University. This is particularly upsetting because the university community has worked hard over the past two years in a concerted effort to fight antisemitism on campus. This incident, if true, shows that as much as we have done, there is still much to do. We strive to create a community in which all members can express their beliefs and identities free from fear or intimidation. Each of us has a responsibility to take active measures to ensure that we build this community. It doesn’t just happen automatically. It takes hard work and deliberate actions. Today we must recommit ourselves to this effort.”
JNS.org contributed to this article.