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Yet Another Swastika at George Washington University

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This one (as in many such incidents) was posted by a Jewish student.

A SWASTIKA was posted on the bulletin board of a Jewish fraternity in a George Washington University dorm on Monday, leading upset students to immediately report it to police. (ILLUSTRATION: George Washington University)

The symbol — recognized as an emblem of hate from Nazi Germany — apparently came from an internal source: A member of the fraternity, who is Jewish, admitted that he posted it there. The student said that he brought it back from a spring break trip to India, according to university officials.

Though known in Western cultures as a sign of hatred and anti-semitism since the Nazis co-opted it during the early part of the 20th century, the swastika is an ancient symbol still commonly used — and considered sacred — in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, denoting auspiciousness.

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Hindu religious men from the Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan Maninagar, give final touches to a huge piece of folk art, a Rangoli, ahead of Diwali in Ahmedabad on October 24, 2011. This traditional Rangoli is shaped like a swastika which Hinuds believe is a symbol of progress.

GW’s president, Steven Knapp, wrote in a message to the campus community that “while the student claims his act was not an expression of hatred, the university is referring the matter to the MPD for review by its Hate Crimes Unit.”

On Tuesday, the student was expelled from the fraternity by national leaders of Zeta Beta Tau.

“This type of behavior is unacceptable and is not tolerated by the brothers of this fraternity,” Nick Carr, president of the local chapter, said in a statement. “We are appalled by the actions taken by this undergraduate.”

Hillel Executive Director Yoni Kaiser-Blueth added, “The swastika is a symbol of hate and horror. It has no place here at The George Washington University.”

Last month, many GW students were alarmed when swastikas were written in a dorm on campus which houses a predominantly Jewish sorority.

[Read more about that incident here.]

Some complained that the university’s response was inadequate, and some national groups called on the university’s president to take stronger steps to eliminate hate speech. A letter to Steven Knapp read, in part:

“In the last year, more than 10 college and university campuses around the country have been defaced with swastikas, in each case causing particular distress to Jewish students.

“Therefore, we believe it is imperative for you to take the following steps to deter future acts of anti-Jewish bigotry and help protect Jewish students and all students on your campus:

“Publicly acknowledge that a swastika is an antisemitic symbol associated with genocide perpetrated against the Jewish people, and that the swastikas found inside the International House were particularly upsetting to Jewish students on your campus, who felt targeted for hatred and discrimination.”

The letter asked for a public affirmation that the university would investigate this and all similar incidents as hate crimes, and affirm a commitment to educating university staff including police officers to identify antisemitism.

It was signed by AMCHA Initiative; American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists; Americans for Peace and Tolerance; Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law; Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA); David Horowitz Freedom Center; Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET); Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel; Iranian American Jewish Federation; Israeli-American Council (IAC); National Conference on Jewish Affairs; Middle East Political and Information Network (MEPIN); Proclaiming Justice to the Nations; Scholars for Peace in the Middle East; StandWithUs; Students and Parents Against Campus Anti-Semitism; The Lawfare Project; Training and Education About the Middle East (T.E.A.M.); and the Zionist Organization of America.

Knapp told the campus community Monday that the incident from February would also be referred to D.C. police’s hate crimes unit. His statement went on to say:

“Since its adoption nearly a century ago as the symbol of the Nazi Party, the swastika has acquired an intrinsically anti-Semitic meaning, and therefore the act of posting it in a university residence hall is utterly unacceptable.

“Our entire community should be aware of the swastika’s association with genocide perpetrated against the Jewish people and should be concerned about the extremely harmful effects that displaying this symbol has on individuals and on the climate of our entire university community.

“The university will embark on a program of education to ensure that all members of our community understand the damage that symbols of hatred do to us all.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Washington Post has it wrong. This symbol of the spinning cosmos — from the atom to our DNA spirals to the galaxies themselves — is a spiritual symbol not only the East, but to Europeans as well.

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Source: The Washington Post

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2 Comments

  1. Heinemann
    March 25, 2015 at 10:42 am — Reply

    A swastika (Hakenkreuz) placed on a bulletin board of a fraternity by a judish undergraduate should not cause alarm.

    Young men? calling the police ? And are not reprehended
    for wasting time and disparaging MPD?

    What can the police do? Risk being condemned for insensitivity by the above organizations , who may refer the matter to ADL,ACLU, SPLC or Christians for Israel or DHS ad infinitum.

    Its free advertisement for the holocaust racket
    ,
    whose smoldering eternal fires must be kept burning.

    Soon the price of this exaggerated and histrionic nonsense will demand more than hot air.

    Will everyone be so pious and aggrieved if they knew what this fetishism has cost others and will be placed to their account in the end?!

  2. March 25, 2015 at 11:17 pm — Reply

    GWU Makes Racist Mistake, But Blames and Bans Student

    Student Barred from Passover Observances on Campus, Could Sue University

    George Washington University officials made a racist or religious mistake but, instead of promptly correcting it, they have blamed a Jewish student for “bigotry,” banishing him from the campus, threatening him with arrest, keeping him from Passover services, and also threatening to expel him at a hearing next Monday, says John Banzhaf, a senior law professor at the University.

    Campus officials, mistaking an ancient Indian symbol representing peace, prosperity, and other virtuous qualities for a Nazi swastika symbolizing racism and hate, blamed the Jewish student who posted it on the bulletin board of his own largely-Jewish fraternity, claiming incorrectly that it was in fact a swastika which expressed “bigotry and hatred,” and strongly suggesting that his act might constitute a “hate crime.”

    But even ten minutes of investigation on the Internet would have revealed that the Indian religious symbol posted by the student was as different in appearance, as it is in its symbolism, from the Nazi swastika. The Indian symbol, if imagined as a pinwheel, would rotate clockwise, whereas the swastika, if similarly imagined as a pinwheel, would rotate counterclockwise.

    Moreover, the swastika symbol used by the Nazis, and especially by Hitler and his storm troopers, had the major arms of the symbol at 45 degrees to the horizontal, whereas the arms of the Indian symbol are shown parallel (or perpendicular) to the ground.

    The Nazi symbol is virtually always shown as solid black on a white background, whereas the Indian symbol is often depicted in bright and cheerful colors, and sometimes even as an arrangement of flowers symbolizing peace and tranquility.

    “The one Jewish student who saw the symbol could, of course, be excused for temporarily mistaking it for a Nazi symbol signifying racial hatred for Jews – although, once the facts were pointed out to him, he and the Jewish brothers in his fraternity no longer feel that the student who posted the symbol had any malicious, much less racist, intent.

    But there is no excuse for a major university, with vast resources including professors who teach Eastern religions, not only to make the same initial mistake, but then to not only refuse to correct it as the truth undoubtedly became known to them, but also to keep punishing the student, says Banzhaf. To this day they are still referred to the symbol as a swastika, which it clearly it is not.

    It’s as if a Black student was going to be expelled for using the word “niggardly” which another Black student mistook for a racial slur, or a Jewish student was facing expulsion because he posted the traditional Jewish 6-pointed star, but another student misinterpreted it as a pentagram symbolizing the devil as well as animosity, mocking, and hatred for his Christian religion. It’s just crazy, suggests Banzhaf.

    Moreover, the University issued a written statement strongly suggesting that the student may have committed a “hate crime.” But for reasons spelled out in greater detail by GWU Law Professor Jonathan Turley, there could be no “hate crime” because there was no underlying crime which was committed, with or without hate. A “hate crime” is simply an ordinary crime like assault or arson which is committed because of hatred based on race or similar factors, notes Banzhaf.

    Moreover, a fraternity brother who posts a symbol on his fraternity’s bulletin board, whether it was a swastika or an Indian religious symbol, commits no crime, so it cannot possibly be a crime of hate, explains Banzhaf. Generally, posting symbols which are hateful in nature is not a crime, he says, noting numerous court decisions involving burning crosses, vile signs directed at the families of U.S. solders killed in battle, or even swastikas worn by men marching in Nazi uniforms.

    Suggesting that someone committed a crime can make a university, and even its officials, liable for defamation, false light, intentional interference with existing contractual advantage, and other serious civil torts, says Banzhaf, who teaches Torts among his other courses at the law school.

    If the university knew or should have known that what it was saying was false – i.e., that the student had posted a “swastika,” that he may have committed a “hate crime,” etc. – then it can be found liable and the student awarded major damages, even if he cannot prove direct injury.

    Indeed, says Banzhaf, accusing a Jewish student of committing a crime motivated by hatred against Jews – including his family, the members of his overwhelmingly Jewish fraternity, the large Jewish community on campus etc. – would obviously cause him very serious harm. This is on top of banning him from campus, threatening him with arrest, forcing him to fall behind in his course work by prohibiting him from attending his scheduled classes, and even barring him from the many Passover observances on campus.

    The reasons for this unusual behavior by GWU – not only making a mistake about the symbol but then refusing to correct it, suggesting that a Jewish student at a largely-Jewish fraternity acted out of a hatred of Jews and expressed bigotry and hatred, arguing that he should be expelled at a hearing next Monday for “violation of law,” interference with university functions,” and even “discrimination,” etc. – may have been uncovered by the university newspaper, The Hatchet.

    In its most recent edition, it noted that President Steven Knapp’s response to the earlier posting of real swastikas on campus had been strongly condemned by a Jewish group for being insufficient – indeed some 20 organizations demanded an apology – and that he was now taking a stronger approach which it called “crisis communications.” It also pointed out that “crisis communication experts criticized Knapp’s response to a sexual assault reported in a Greek townhouse.”

    In what obviously wasn’t simply a coincidence, the article reported that the new head of “GW’s communications team, Vice President for External Relations Lorraine Voles, came to the University with two decades of crisis communications experience . . . Voles has transformed the messaging strategy during her seven years at GW . . . The office has led the response to eight student deaths since January 2014 and helped the University weather two different admissions scandals.”

    Perhaps in seeking to appear tougher on hate symbols, and to appease Jewish critics of its earlier handling of swastikas on campus, the University has made a mistake and overreacted to this most recent incident, suggests Banzhaf. Ironically, it involves a Jewish student who was taking a course in Eastern religions who had just returned from India and brought an ancient symbol of peace with him.

    Even if both the student and the University made mistakes, it seems that now – rather than waiting for a formal hearing which could even increase the University’s potential legal liability – would be a good time for corrections to be made and apologies offered where appropriate. What better way to honor the spirit of celebration and joy represented by Passover as it is celebrated on our campus, suggests Banzhaf.

    NOTE – This document contains and reflects only the view of John Banzhaf, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the George Washington University, or any other institution, organization, or individual. It was prepared solely by John Banzhaf.

    JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
    Professor of Law
    George Washington University Law School,
    Fellow, World Technology Network,
    Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
    2000 H Street, NW
    Washington, DC 20052, USA
    http://banzhaf.net/ @profbanzhaf

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