A student worker at Columbia University was shelving books in the campus library when he came across a copy of Tess of the d’Urbervilles. It turned out that this was far from a normal edition of the Thomas Hardy novel. It was hollowed out, and instead of the text of the novel there was a manilla folder containing what appeared to be recruitment materials for the “Dark Enlightenment” movement.
The “Dark Enlightenment” appears to be one of the foundations for the alt-right movement. The materials contained within the fake book asked recruits for meeting times that work for them, as well as to name topics that interest them. Topics included “post-democracy,” “nationalism,” “alternative right,” “cultural Marxism,” and more.
It goes without saying that it is concerning that neo-Nazi groups are attempting to recruit members from America’s colleges and universities, but Columbia is not alone in receiving attention from neo-Nazi groups.
At the University of Chicago, the Atomwaffen Division put up flyers with pictures of Hitler, along with the caption “No Degeneracy, No Tolerance, Hail Victory.” Pathetic Twitter trolls (whose accounts have since been suspended) claimed credit for “stickercaust[ing]” the campus.
These two campuses are far from alone:
Thematically similar posters signed by the Atomwaffen Division have appeared at Old Dominion University, Suffolk University, and the University of Central Florida. At Boston University, posters were put up with the slogans “The Nazis are Coming” and “Black Lives Don’t Matter.”
In the aftermath of the incident at Columbia, Columbia Against Trump released a statement condemning the neo-Nazi recruitment materials. In an attempt to be inclusive, they reached out to every far left organization on campus. This outreach paid off, and groups from Barnard/Columbia International Socialist Organization to Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine (for more on how the UChicago chapter of SJP fundraised for a convicted terrorist, read here) signed on in support.
The casual observer will notice that any mainstream Jewish organization is not included (Jewish Voices for Peace is listed, but this is widely-recognized as a fringe group). Surely Jewish organizations such as Hillel would have something to say about neo-Nazi recruitment materials being found on campus. It is certainly possible that Hillel was asked to sign onto this statement, and that they wished to not be listed.
However, it turns out that Hillel was not even asked to sign on to a letter whose stated purpose is to combat anti-Semitism.
A statement condemning neo-Nazi recruitment that ignores the input of the largest Jewish student organizations sounds a lot like “cultural erasure” to me.
There has been no word from organizers of the statement on why Hillel was not asked to sign on, but it might have to do with the “anti-normalization” policies that signatories such as SJP have, with “the SJP National website…proffer[ing] what it calls “Anti-Normalization” information with links to articles that oppose working with Israel-associated organizations.”