Reactions to “Overheard” post before SA election voting
The night before voting began, Olive Eisdorfer posted in the Facebook group, “Overheard at GW” regarding Brady Forrest, candidate for executive vice president of the GW Student Association (SA).
This sparked much activity on social media, as campaigns, students, and organizations rushed to respond. Many condemned the wording that Forrest used, deeming it be anti-Semitic, including many organizations that are in favor of divesting from Israel.
In response to the screenshots posted, Forrest took to Facebook to issue a statement. Forrest explained that he didn't support Israel's assault on Gaza in the Summer of 2014, and because of this didn't want to "act as if nothing was wrong" by supporting an event cosponsored by the Jewish Student Association, who he claimed "unequivocally supported Israel's actions."
"I believe firmly that Zionism, a political ideology, and Judaism, a religion, are not the same and it is always my intention to critique political ideologies, and not religions, when they bring about violence and suffering," Forrest said in the post. "My statements at the time may have lacked clarity or context when looked back on now and I take responsibility for not foreseeing that and the harm that lack has now caused.”
Forrest told The Hatchet, “I wasn’t calling for a boycott because the people involved were Jewish or that they were a particular anything… It was that they themselves had said they supported violence essentially, that they supported a state that was committing atrocities.”
Le wrote, "As a person of color, as a person of faith, and as someone who have spent most of my last year in Israel in an academic setting, I strongly condemn calling to boycott multicultural events solely because of the organizations involved."
“It was wrong. Plain and simple. Anti-Semitism on campus is wrong,” Ross told The Rival.
Ross, who was the Chair of the Student Life committee last year, declined to comment on Forrest’s involvement during the divestment debate last year as she stated she didn’t know he was involved and didn’t know him.
Ojani Walthrust, the candidate running against Forrest, told the Rival that he stood in solidarity with those affected by Forrest’s comments and condemned boycotting multicultural events.
“Boycotting multicultural events does not help our community; showing up, listening, and having a constructive dialogue does,” Walthrust said.
In light of the Facebook posts, The Hatchet decided to rescind its endorsement of Forrest. The Hatchet stated that they will not endorse Walthrust, however.
The GW Law Student Bar Association (SBA), who had announced their endorsement of Forrest last week, wrote in a statement published on Facebook that they were reviewing their endorsement. The Jewish Law Student Association called on the GW Law SBA Senate (the arm of the SBA which represents students), and all other organizations, to rescind their endorsement of Forrest in light of recent events calling Forrest’s comments.
“Student government should serve all students on campus, not those a particular candidate deems worthy,” the Jewish Law Student Association said. “Mr. Forrest’s statements do not contribute to a diverse and inclusive campus environment and views like his should not be the voice selected to serve student government.”
In a meeting held on the evening on March 27, the SBA Senate decided to rescind their endorsement of Forrest.
Junior and former SA Senator Joe Vogel, who was removed earlier this semester, spoke out against Forrest on Facebook and gave the following statement to the Rival:
“As a member of the Governance and Nominations committee, I was in the room during the vacancy filling process earlier this fall. I witnessed Senator Forrest and other members of the committee manipulate the agenda and influence decisions based on efforts to remove any Senator affiliated with pro-Israel organizations. I watched as he messaged members of the committee encouraging them to speak out against candidates who had an affiliation to pro-Israel groups. When I spoke up and asked whether there was a relationship between the candidates they were opposing and their affiliation with pro-Israel organizations, I was quickly shut down, screamed at for accusing them of what they called “antisemitism,” and the meeting was quickly ended. This committee, filled with the same Senators that led the effort to remove me, will now be responsible for filling the vacant seat.”
In regards to what happened last year, he said, “Brady Forrest has been an outspoken support of the BDS movement on this campus and across the country. He was instrumental in the efforts to pass the resolution last year, and has made efforts on this year’s Senate to facilitate the passage of a future divestment resolution.”
Vogel said he did not know Eisdorfer was going to make that post last night, but was glad she did. He believes Forrest should resign from the SA and withdraw from the race.
As the day progressed after the initial post, many students dug up old Facebook posts and shared them in “Overheard” to discredit Forrest’s candidacy and portray him as an anti-semite. Some are posted below. It is unclear if this was a coordinated effort or not.
Caitlin Hannah said that she was tagged in the comments of the initial post and had no idea it was going to happen. As a Jewish student she was very upset by the resurfacing of Forrest’s post.
Alisa Laufer, senior, gave a statement to The Rival about her time in the SA and the struggles she faced as a Jewish student:
“In September 2015, I was nominated by President Andie Dowd to serve as the VP of Student Activities in her cabinet. I was warned by a number of Senators that due to my involvement in Jewish life on campus, I would likely face resistance from Senator Forrest. I was involved with GW Hillel and the Jewish Student Association, the two organizations that Senator Forrest referenced when he called for a boycott of the Multicultural Winter Formal in 2014. Senator Forrest showed resistance to my nomination throughout the process, citing concerns about the lack of transparency involved in the nominations process. I reached out to Senator Forrest the week prior to my confirmation vote so that I could better understand his concerns, yet he declined to respond to my email. While all other Senators voted to approve my nomination on the basis of my platform and qualifications, Senator Forrest abstained from voting. Given Senator Forrest’s consistent efforts to exclude Jewish students from the Student Association and the recent Overheard post that reveals Senator Forrest’s attitude towards two major Jewish student organizations on our campus, I can’t help but wonder if Senator Forrest’s resistance to my nomination was due in-part to my involvement in Jewish life on campus.”
Laufer called on Forrest to apologize to the Jewish community at GW and withdraw his candidacy.
Students for Justice in Palestine posted a response in which they stated, “Senator Brady Forrest was banned from SJP three years ago, as stated in our constitution. Senator Forrest repeatedly acted in conflict with the values of our SJP chapter; he has not had any affiliation with SJP since.” They also noted that, “SJP at GWU emphasizes that anti-Zionism and criticisms of Israel are not synonymous with anti-Semitism and it is imperative that we, as a student body, work to delineate the two.
President of Chabad GW and Director of Community Outreach for the GW Interfaith Council Hannah Finkel spoke about the “Divest this time” movement on campus and Israel/Palestine divide. “ I would hope that they have learned from that experience last year and make sure that they back their statements up with facts because their emotional appeal arguments, baseless claims and generalizations are what lead to stereotyping, divisiveness and hate that is, in fact, anti-Semitic and there is no place for that here.”
Chair of the Joint Elections Committee (JEC) Bob Wu stated, “The JEC's role is to facilitate a fair and equitable election. If students have feelings about elections, we encourage them to make their feelings known via voting.” Voting opened this morning and will close tomorrow night at 9 p.m.
It should be noted that the alleged correlations between the SA election, social media posts, anti-Semitism and divestment controversy are not cut and dry. The Rival is not looking to make a connection that may or may not exist. Rather, we are reporting what our sources have told us. This is an extremely contested topic on campus and we acknowledge that individuals who share an opinion on one matter may differ on another.
The Rival will continue to report as new developments happen.
This article has been updated at 8:40 a.m. on March 28 to reflect GW Law SBA's decision to rescind their endorsement of Forrest.
The Rival does not take a stance on campus or political issues. Want to share your perspective with us? Email us as firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published by Courtney Buble on gw.therival.news on 3.27.18.