By Lea Speyer
Kent State University said it won’t cave to pressure from anti-Israel student activists to dismantle a display featuring a photo of and quotation by the late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir — which they claim serves as a daily reminder of racism on campus — after reportage by The Algemeiner earlier this month generated significant backlash.
The decision comes after university president Beverly Warren initially said that outrage expressed by the head of Kent State’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), as well as by the Spanish and Latino Student Association (SALSA), Ohio Student Association and Muslim Students Association — would be taken into consideration while weighing whether to remove the exhibit.
On Thursday, however, according to a school spokesperson, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Todd Diacon sent a letter to SJP president Yousof Mousa — which was obtained by The Algemeiner — informing him of the school’s decision to leave the display intact.
Mousa had initiated the controversy earlier this month by publishing an op-ed in the independent student website Kent Wired, accusing the late leader of the Jewish state of the “ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.”
He claimed that her quote — “Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement” — was causing Palestinian and black students discomfort and was “contribut[ing] to a climate that makes us feel like we do not belong here.”
“While I honor your concerns,” Diacon wrote to Mousa, “removing the quote from Golda Meir, which is nonsectarian and which reasonably could be read by many as inspirational, would be counter to our core institutional value of supporting a diversity of cultures, beliefs, identities and thought.”
Kent State’s Hillel chapter welcomed the decision, stating, “We are satisfied that the university has acted in a responsible way and we remain committed to supporting the university’s core values of respect for diversity and the promotion of an inclusive community.”
Golda — as she was familiarly known, both in Israel and abroad — was Israel’s fourth (and only female) prime minister. She held the position from March 1969 to June 1974, and is remembered for playing a key role in bolstering Israel’s relations with African nations and for seeking peace with the Jewish state’s Arab neighbors.
Another of her famous sayings was: “We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”
According to the Kent State spokesperson, the Golda display, along with the entire accompanying exhibit, will be removed next summer in any case, due to construction on the site.
(c) 2016 The Algemeiner Journal