A demonstration for Israeli hostages staged by Hillel at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, shortly before a student was arrested for punching a Jewish student and spitting on an Israeli flag at the event in Amherst, Massachusetts, Nov. 3, 2023. (JTA)

UMass Amherst student arrested after allegedly punching Jewish student

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UMass Amherst student arrested after allegedly punching Jewish student

A demonstration for Israeli hostages staged by Hillel at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, shortly before a student was arrested for punching a Jewish student and spitting on an Israeli flag at the event in Amherst, Massachusetts, Nov. 3, 2023. (JTA)

A UMass Amherst student was arrested Friday night after assaulting a student who was holding an Israeli flag on campus, UMass Police said. According to police, the assailant also stole the Israeli flag and spit on it.

Efe Ercelik was charged with two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and sole counts of larceny, vandalizing property, assault and battery to intimidate, and disorderly conduct. Ercelik pleaded not guilty, and was released on bail and prohibited from returning to campus.

According to UMass Hillel, the arrest came after Ercelik punched another student who was holding an Israeli flag. It occurred during a Hillel-sponsored event, “Bring Them Home: Solidarity Walk and Installation,” which featured a Shabbat table set with empty seats representing each of the 240 hostages taken during Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack in Israel.

“What this student is accused of is reprehensible, illegal, and unacceptable. Let us be clear, these were the actions of an individual who did not speak for nor act on behalf of a group or anyone other than themselves. Peaceful advocacy and protest must and will be protected on our campus,” said Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Shelly Perdomo-Ahmed, and UMass Amherst Chief of Police Tyrone Parham in a letter to students.

“We know this incident is disturbing to many of us, particularly during a time when tensions, emotion and concern are heightened on our campus. But we must not let the most extreme voices and actions create undue fear or dominate the campus climate. It is vital that our campus community model civility, as the Jewish community did on Friday in publicly and peacefully showing solidarity with the 240 hostages,” UMass Hilllel said in a statement. Θ

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