American University Police Department officers removed “No More Wars for Israel” flyers from campus early Tuesday morning. The flyers contained the hashtag, #AIPACgohome, and an Operation Homeland logo. The Eagle spotted the flyers on the School of International Service building at about 2 a.m.
AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is a large bipartisan, pro-Israel organization. It will host its annual policy conference in D.C. beginning Sunday. More than 18,000 pro-Israel supporters are expected to attend, according to the event’s website. Many of the conference's participants are Jewish. Twelve percent of the University's class of 2022 identifies as Jewish, according to a breakdown provided to The Eagle by the Kay Spiritual Life Center.
Operation Homeland is an alt-right group connected to Richard Spencer, a white supremacist, according to an article published in December 2017 by the Anti-Defamation League. Spencer and alt-right leader Elliot Kline, also known as Eli Mosley, identified themselves as the leaders of the group on Dec. 2, 2017, according to the ADL.
Both men were formerly part of Identity Evropa, a white supremacist group. The organization is not currently a recognized group at the University, Michael Elmore, senior director of University Center and Student Activities, told The Eagle via email Tuesday morning.
AUPD confronted the suspect in possession of the flyers outside of Katzen Arts Center at 1:47 a.m., University spokesperson Mark Story told The Eagle Tuesday morning. A student also reported postering to AUPD at 1:49 a.m. The suspect was barred from campus and AUPD located additional flyers “after carefully canvassing the campus,” Story said.
At 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Vice President of Campus Life Fanta Aw released an emailed memo to students about the flyers discovered that morning.
“We condemn these cowardly acts by outside groups who are targeting college campuses like ours,” Aw wrote. “While we don’t know that the groups who have postered on our campus in recent months are related, their messages are offensive, and they are the antithesis of what we represent. We do believe they are targeting AU because of our values.”
Aw also went into detail about the University’s actions in response to recent incidents at AU, including the hanging of anti-immigration posters and Confederate flag posters on campus. AU police have “implemented additional proactive measures for incidents on our campus” including surveillance and identifying people who should not be on campus, Aw wrote. Any individuals who are barred from campus, as the suspect in this incident was, are subject to arrest if they return to campus, Aw said.
Aw said part of AU’s strategy is to not give the groups responsible for the posters attention, “which is what they want.”
“As I have said before, as an institution we stand against racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and anti-immigration,” Aw wrote. “This sadly continues to make American University a target for acts of cowardice and bigotry that are disturbingly global. We will stand together strongly against these acts that are intended to frighten and divide our community. They will not divide us.”
Incidents of white supremacist postering are on the rise nationwide. During the fall semester (Sept. 1, 2017 to Dec. 31, 2017), the ADL recorded 147 incidents of white supremacist postering on college campuses across the country. This marked a 258 percent increase from the fall semester of the previous year.
Reported anti-Semitic incidents also increased nationwide in 2017, the ADL reported Tuesday. The organization recorded a 57 percent increase in these incidents in the United States in 2017. This marked the largest single-year increase on record.
Sophomore Ellie Gordon is Jewish and said she was not shocked when she heard about the flyers. She was upset with the University’s reaction at the time she spoke with The Eagle, as AU administrators had not yet released an official statement on the incident.
“I’m not at all surprised by the posters -- in the Jewish community you hear a lot about this stuff, and it’s going to happen when you go to college and you’re prepared for it,” Gordon said.
Gordon added that she wished the University had more resources for Jewish students, including an ordained Jewish clergy member at the Kay Spiritual Life Center.
“I think that the University does the best that they can,” Gordon said. “The one thing that I do say, though, is that there isn’t an ordained Jewish clergy member at Kay. Really all I wanted in this situation was some official support from the university rather than ‘this group isn’t recognized by the University.’”
AU Student Government responded to the incident shortly after Aw's memo was released with a statement posted on social media.
“While it is upsetting that individuals continue to believe they can come onto the AU campus and spread hate, AUSG is pleased that AUPD responded quickly and acted appropriately in barring this individual from campus,” AUSG wrote. “As we have said repeatedly, there is no place for hate at AU.”
The Jewish Student Association is available for any students who “need a safe space to talk about their feelings or concerns,” Isabel Gavurin, the club’s president, told The Eagle via email.
This story has been updated throughout.