Rosenfeld Anti-Semitism Lecture Unproductive, Misinformative

Josh Koller, Contributing Writer

I’ve been taught to honor, admire and respect educators across the board, but due to Dr. Alvin H. Rosenfeld’s propensity for denying facts and vilifying groups of people, I feel that I cannot extend him the usual respect. Dr. Rosenfeld, professor of Jewish Studies and English at Indiana University, Bloomington, came to campus Monday to lecture on contemporary manifestations of anti-Semitism, which had the potential to be productive, informative and important. Regretfully, the lecture did not address the nuances of anti-Semitism but instead perpetuated hateful, vilifying, racist sentiments and accusations.

Dr. Rosenfeld made many assertions that were not only highly offensive but blatantly false. The first of Dr. Rosenfeld’s falsehoods was, “There is no such thing as Palestinian oppression.” Whether it is because of a personal bias or an intentional rejection of facts, Dr. Rosenfeld decided to ignore a well-documented history of individuals being evicted, detained, killed and treated in manners that clearly violate basic human rights. According to the Human Rights Watch World Report 2016, 10,854 Palestinians were wounded in the West Bank alone in 2015. The 50 Israeli military excursions into Gaza resulted in 21 Palestinians being killed. Dr. Rosenfeld also denied that there is any crisis of food or clean drinking water in Gaza, imploring Oberlin students to believe that Palestinians “are all eating, and they are fine.” Once again, Dr. Rosenfeld chose to ignore well-documented issues with water quality, problems with water being properly distributed, water pollution and infrastructural damage as reported in a 2009 Amnesty Report “Troubled Waters.”

Dr. Rosenfeld also claimed that Israel is the only state in the world that is denied recognition of its statehood. This claim completely discounts Palestine itself, recognized as a “non-member observer state” of the United Nations, as well as states like Somaliland, Tibet and others actively struggling against larger nations to gain recognition.

Dr. Rosenfeld’s statements reflect a tendency to disregard factual information that does not support his agenda, a deplorable trait in a professor at an institute of higher education. Dr. Rosenfeld’s message was one of denial, falsehoods and hate directed toward Muslim peoples. In his speech, Dr. Rosenfeld shared several highly anti-Semitic quotes from Muslim extremists in an attempt to show that most Muslims hate Jews. I could just have easily shared quotes from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, Senator Ted Cruz and Westboro Baptist Church Minister Fred Phelps to assert the claim that most Americans are raging bigots. However, I know better than to make assumptions about an entire group of people based off of the words of a few. It appears Dr. Rosenfeld does not.

I personally extend my support and allyship to anyone belonging to communities that Dr. Rosenfeld vilified and demonized. I know the vast majority of Oberlin students, who are intelligent, empathetic, critical thinkers, do not condone his hateful sentiments. I am left questioning Dr. Rosenfeld’s professionalism and professorial ability, and I am shocked by his apparent lack of empathy. I hope in the future, Oberlin College and its students can successfully create a space where anti-Semitism can be explored in a space that is free of the hate and disrespect that Dr. Rosenfeld expressed on our campus.