Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Violent incident at Hillel gathering results in one arrested

The arrested person ‘punched a Jewish student holding an Israeli flag, then took the flag and spit on it’

A University of Massachusetts student was arrested after assaulting a Jewish student carrying an Israeli flag following an on-campus gathering honoring Israeli hostages taken by Hamas during their Oct. 7 attack on Israel’s border along the Gaza Strip.

The incident was initially revealed in a security statement put out by Hillel on Nov. 5, two days after the Hillel-sponsored event occurred.

“Toward the end of the event,” the statement reads. “a student approached the gathering and walked through the crowd, aggressively giving people the middle finger. After the event had concluded and event security had left, the same student returned to the site of the event and punched a Jewish student holding an Israeli flag, then took the flag and spit on it.”

A statement from UMass, addressed by Shelly Perdomo-Ahmed, Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Life, and Tyrone Parham, Assistant Vice Chancellor and Chief of Police for UMPD, followed later that day.

According to UMass’ statement, the perpetrator “was released on bail, with conditions prohibiting them from returning to campus,” and the student will be subject to UMass’ Student Code of Conduct as well as the legal system. The statement characterized the incident as an assault.

The incident takes place during student protests supporting Palestine amid concentrated Israeli military action in the Gaza strip as retaliation for Hamas’ actions, both at UMass and around the nation. The Palestinian death toll has surpassed 9,000 and the Israeli death toll has exceeded 1,400 with most casualties occurring during the Hamas attacks. The death toll is widely regarded as without precedent in the long history of the conflict.

“These were the actions of an individual who did not speak for nor act on behalf of a group or anyone other than themselves,” the UMass statement said. “Peaceful advocacy and protest must and will be protected on our campus.”

“Antisemitism, Islamophobia, or any form of bigotry have no place in our community, and we are committed to ensuring that our community’s engagement with opposing viewpoints is maintained in a respectful manner.”

Hillel urged students “to follow common sense best practices such as walking in groups at night and not engaging in counterprotest activities.” In response to what the statement described as a time of heightened tensions on campus. Their statement, however, stressed that “there is no indication of any ongoing security threat,” which was confirmed by the UMass statement as well.

There have been several highly publicized incidents of violence against Jewish students on campuses nationally. Last Tuesday, a junior at Cornell University was arrested after posting death threats against Jewish students on campus. Protests on campuses have also led to violence, such as at Tulane University, where pro-Israeli Jewish students counterprotesting a pro-Palestinian march were attacked by non-student protestors. These incidents have led to rising tensions on campuses across the nation.

“We know this incident is disturbing to many of us, particularly during a time when tensions, emotion and concern are heightened on our campus,” the Hillel statement followed. “But we must not let the most extreme voices and actions create undue fear or dominate the campus climate.”

“Since October 7, faculty and students have held film screenings, lectures and demonstrations meant to bring perspective to one of the most complex and polarizing conflicts of our time,” the UMass statement said. “Let us take the opportunity to support one another and our community through this incredibly challenging time.”

“It is vital that our campus community model civility, as the Jewish community did on Friday in publicly and peacefully showing solidarity with the 240 hostages,” Hillel added.

“The vast majority of students, staff, and faculty at UMass who believe there is no place for antisemitism or any type of hate on campus and who seek a healthy, caring campus community must now double down on efforts to come together across differences to embody the best values and mission of our shared campus community,” the statement read.

This is a developing story.

Daniel Frank can be reached at [email protected].

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