Anti-Semitic Slogans Projected on UPenn Buildings

University of Pennsylvania (Wikimedia Commons)
November 10, 2023

Anti-Semitic slogans were projected onto buildings at the University of Pennsylvania Wednesday night.

"From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free," read one message unknown perpetrators projected on the university's Jon M. Huntsman Hall. Terrorist groups such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Hamas use that slogan, which calls for the destruction of the state of Israel.

Phrases projected on another building included "Zionism is racism" and "Penn funds Palestinian genocide."

The display drew harsh criticism from President Liz Magill, who was named in one of the projected messages, which called on her to support a "ceasefire now."

"Last night, vile, antisemitic messages were projected onto several campus buildings, including on Penn Commons, Huntsman Hall, and Irvine Auditorium," she posted on Instagram Thursday, adding that police responded once they were notified of the display and that an investigation of the incident is underway.

"For generations, too many have masked antisemitism in hostile rhetoric," she continued. "These reprehensible messages are an assault on our values and cause pain and fear for our Jewish community. Penn has a long and rich history of robust debate about complicated issues of the day. Projecting hateful messages on our campus is not debate, it is cowardice, and it has no place at Penn."

Wednesday's incident and Magill's response to it come following criticism of the school's actions in the aftermath of Hamas's Oct. 7 attacks on Israel. Former U.S. ambassador to Russia and China Jon Huntsman cut off donations to the university, claiming the school displayed "silence in the face of reprehensible and historic Hamas evil against the people of Israel (when the only response should be outright condemnation)."

Magill in an Oct. 10 statement said she, along with university provost John L. Jackson Jr., was "devastated by the horrific assault on Israel by Hamas that targeted civilians and the taking of hostages over the weekend." She did not, however, describe the attacks as terrorism and lamented that "these abhorrent attacks have resulted in the tragic loss of life and escalating violence and unrest in the region."

Days later, Magill issued another statement referring to the attacks as a "terrorist assault."

Magill on Nov. 1 announced an "Action Plan to Combat Anti-Semitism." Two days later, she denounced forcefully anti-Semitic incidents at the University of Pennsylvania's campus.

"There have been swastikas and hateful graffiti on our campus—here in our home," she told the school's trustees. "There have been chants at rallies, captured on video and widely circulated, that glorify the terrorist atrocities of Hamas, that celebrate and praise the slaughter and kidnapping of innocent people, and that question Israel’s very right to exist."

Wednesday's incident is not the first time groups have projected such slogans on the campus of a major university in America. The Students for Justice in Palestine chapter at George Washington University on Oct. 24 projected on a campus library the messages "Free Palestine from the river to the sea" and "Glory to our martyrs," which drew condemnation from the school.