CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Members of the University of Illinois’ Jewish community are on edge after a student said someone egged the Israeli flag hanging outside on his balcony.
The incident happened early Monday morning just after 1:00.
Jeremy Zelner said he was working on a paper when he heard something hitting the window. He went outside to check what it was.
“But by that time, the egging stopped and I looked outside and nobody was there,” he said. “So, it was a pretty relatively quick thing, but there was probably like 10, 15, 20 eggs that were just all over the balcony.”
He said he was initially stunned to see what had happened. Then it sunk in.
“Our first thought was, put it everywhere,” Zelner said. “We are not the type of people to be scared. We’re not the type of people that would be silenced. We’re not the type of people to back down from what we believe in.”
Zelner contacted Champaign Police and university officials. Police said they are still gathering information to start the initial investigation.
“I think that to target and vandalize an apartment based on it having an Israeli flag is clearly targeting someone for their national origin or for their ancestral identity,” UIUC Executive Director Erez Cohen told WCIA. “It’s basically hateful and it’s targeted. It’s a form of discrimination that we should not have on our campus or in our town. There is no room for hateful vandalism anywhere, especially in a town that really tries to be as diverse and as welcoming as possible.”
Zelner said he wants as many people as possible to see his video from after the egging, and his flag will remain on display.
“We were literally just putting up a flag that, you know, that’s a country that a lot of Jewish people live in,” Zelner explained. “We’re very in tune with the conflict, we understand what’s going on. We are people that are very welcoming to the conversation about it. And so, you know, I am very proud of being a Jewish person. I’m very proud of my friends who are Jewish as well. And we have conversations, we talk about it. And, you know, it’s important to have those conversations.”
“The students are very much in the spirit of this is not going to deter us from being proud of who we are and celebrating our identity,” Cohen said. “We are going to continue to do the same here at Hillel and make sure that our Jewish community feels that they are safe and they are proud to be Jewish.”
Zelner stressed that the door is open for conversations, but there was a difference between engaging in debate and engaging in anti-Semitism.
“You can say I don’t agree with [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu, but you can’t say death to Israel,” Zelner said. “There’s a very obviously different wording in language and stuff like that… the door is open to conversation. But I think it’s very important to identify how not to be anti-Semitic and same for Jewish people, how to not be Islamophobic. Then there could be a safe space to talk about this.”
In October, Jewish students at UIUC filed a federal complaint about a rise in anti-Semitism at the university. They said the university did not take appropriate action to address vandalism of Jewish houses, an increase in swastikas and direct harassment of Jewish students.
In November, UIUC, along with the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, Illini Hillel, Hillel International, Illini Chabad, Arnold & Porter and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, released a statement in support of Jewish students on campus.
The university pledged to take the following steps:
Creating Advisory Council on Jewish and Campus Life, made of undergraduate/graduate students, staff, alumni and representatives of the Jewish Community.
Create focused and regularly recurring educational programs regarding anti-Semitism.
Review procedures and practices and, when necessary, revise so they are aligned with values of opposing discrimination and harassment on campus.