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Penn denounced projections of pro-Palestinian messages that were also critical of the University onto campus buildings Wednesday night, calling the displays antisemitic and “vile.”
Around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, pro-Palestinian groups Penn Against the Occupation and the Philly Palestine Coalition posted on their Instagram stories photos of several messages projected onto Huntsman Hall, Irvine Auditorium, and Penn Commons. The images displayed phrases such as "Let Gaza live," "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free," "Zionism is racism," "Penn funds Palestinian genocide," "From West Philly to Palestine, occupation is a crime," "Free Palestine," "Liz Magill is complicit in genocide," and "10,000 murdered by Israeli occupation since October 7."
Penn President Liz Magill confirmed that messages were projected onto campus buildings in a statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian.
"For generations, too many have masked antisemitism in hostile rhetoric," she wrote. "These reprehensible messages are an assault on our values and cause pain and fear for our Jewish community."
Penn Police were notified of the projections and is now conducting a full investigation. Magill said that action would be taken in accordance with University policy.
“Penn has a long and rich history of robust debate about complicated issues of the day. Projecting hateful messages on our campus is not debate, it is cowardice, and it has no place at Penn,” Magill wrote.
Some critics argue that the phrase, "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free," insinuates a desire to eliminate the state of Israel and its people, while proponents say that the line asserts the boundaries for the creation of an independent Palestinian state.
The DP has not independently confirmed who organized the projections, although PAO wrote, "in case you missed our light show..." on its Instagram story accompanying photos of the displays onto buildings. PAO and the Philly Palestine Coalition did not respond to requests for comment by publication.
"Reminder to Liz Magill, Scott Bok, John Huntsman, John Jackson, every Zionist on @uofpenn campus that as hard as they try to erase the existence of Palestinian and anti-Zionist students and community on this campus that were still here and are not going to stop resisting the University's efforts to suppress pro-Palestinian organizing," student group Police Free Penn wrote in an Instagram post sharing photos of the projections on Thursday.
Earlier in November, the president of George Washington University condemned the display of similar messages onto GW's Gelman Library, describing the projections as antisemitic. There, officials removed the "unauthorized" projections, according to the GW Hatchet.
At least 100 community members attended a walkout in support of Palestinians organized by PAO and Police Free Penn on College Green Thursday afternoon, as the war between Israel and Hamas enters its second month.
Supporters of Israel and Palestinians have gathered several times on campus for rallies, vigils, and demonstrations since the war began, as the University faces accusations of tolerating antisemitism and Islamophobia.
At a Board of Trustees meeting on Nov. 3, Magill addressed frustration among Penn’s Jewish community and hateful rhetoric on campus in their most extensive remarks to date about the turmoil among alumni and donors.
“I have heard from some that I have not been as effective as I could have been or should have been," Magill told the trustees as part of an eight-minute speech. "This left room for doubt. Doubt about my convictions, what our university believes, and how Penn moves forward. I regret that, and I am listening."
Last week, Magill announced a University-wide action plan to combat antisemitism, focusing on safety and security, engagement, and education. While many commended the plan, some students told the DP that they wanted to see follow-through from the University or a stronger commitment to combatting Islamophobia on campus.
Last month, on Oct. 15, Magill issued a statement clarifying the University's position on antisemitism.
"I stand, and Penn stands, emphatically against antisemitism," Magill wrote. "We have a moral responsibility — as an academic institution and a campus community — to combat antisemitism and to educate our community to recognize and reject hate."
Magill has also condemned hateful rhetoric multiple times, writing that "hateful speech has no place at Penn" in an Oct. 18 statement.