Sunday, December 25, 2016

Poland: Students flock to Hanukkah event after classmate’s anti-Semitic posts

Via Times of Israel:
If a Polish ultranationalist student intended to delegitimize his university’s main Hanukkah event, his plan seems to have backfired.

On Monday, on the Facebook invitation for a Hanukkah event at the University of Warsaw, Konrad Smuniewski inveighed against “Jew communists” and called Judaism a “criminal ideology” of “racism, xenophobia and hatred.”

His posts, however, generated a backlash that propelled the normally modest Hanukkah party at the university’s Judaic Department into the spotlight — garnering coverage in the Polish media that was highly critical of Smuniewski’s remarks and leading to a doubling in attendance at the event the following day.

“I cannot accept this sort of behavior, which I do not understand,” said Asia Bakon, 19, who is studying the history of arts and Hebrew, though she is not Jewish.

Bakon said she and approximately 40 other non-Jewish students came to the Hanukkah party for the first time this year “mainly out of solidarity over these hateful comments” by Smuniewski.

In a country where many left-wing liberals are accusing the rightist government of mainstreaming xenophobia since its rise to power last year, the anti-Semitic views expressed by Smuniewski — a devout Catholic and Donald Trump fan who studies history at the university — were particularly shocking to some of his critics because he couched them in pseudo-academic language.

“The phrase ‘Jew communists‘ is a scientific term. What’s offensive about it?” Smuniewski told the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper, which many consider Poland’s daily of record, in a 600-word article on the incident published Wednesday.

Radio Zet, Warsaw’s first private radio station — its share of the national listenership is approximately 16 percent — also reported on the controversy.

In a statement on its website, the university said that a disciplinary committee is reviewing Smuniewski’s remarks following complaints.

To Bakon, Smuniewski’s decision to publish hate speech under his own name, and to then defend it in the national media, is typical of what she described as how rising nationalism in Poland is emboldening racists.

“I’m afraid this is connected to how nationalism has grown in Poland over the past four, five years,” she told JTA. “I see it as connected to events in Poland and around the world.”
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