November 28, 2023
Below, you can watch and read AJC CEO Ted Deutch's speech from the University of Michigan. Ted joined Facts on the Ground (FOG), a student-run anti-disinformation organization, at the University of Michigan — his alma mater — to speak out against the rampant disinformation following October 7, push back against anti-Israel and anti-Jewish referendums, and to show his support for Jewish and pro-Israel students on campus. The University of Michigan ultimately called off the anti-Israel campus vote.
Thank you very much for having me here tonight. You heard a lot about me in the introduction, but honestly, I am here in one capacity: as a proud Wolverine. As an alum of both the University of Michigan and the law school – and as someone who has tried to live up to the title of the Leaders and Best.
Here in Ann Arbor I met some of my best friends…I met my wife…and I have to say that not once in my seven years here did I feel under threat or unwelcome because I am Jewish.
So much has changed since October 7th – the deadliest day for the Jewish community since the Holocaust, when Hamas terrorists invaded Israel and murdered over 1,200 people – raping women, butchering babies, and kidnapping innocent men and women.
That traumatic day has stayed with me – as I am sure it has stayed with many of you.
Adding insult to that injury is that for many Jewish students…for the first time…the University of Michigan didn’t feel like home.
Don’t get me wrong: President Ono and many of the administrators have been very supportive and helpful. They have shown they stand with all students – including Jewish students – and have taken real, substantive action against students who harass, intimidate, and even threaten the Jewish community.
Yet, it is not enough.
How can Jewish students feel safe today at the University of Michigan when Jews face verbal attacks when they walk around campus? When posters comparing Israeli politicians to Hitler – a textbook case of antisemitism – are being put up across campus?
How can Jewish students feel comfortable sharing their opinions in classes when university faculty have signed an open letter putting the blame on Israel for Hamas’ appalling atrocities on October 7th? When their professors excuse the slaughter of entire families and the rape of women simply because they are Israeli – and teach that the Jewish homeland has no right to exist?
And now, we have this referendum on the ballot today which takes many of those lies and packages it up into a legitimate political statement – that was prompted because students opposed President Ono’s statement that denounced and condemned a tragic terror attack that killed 1,200 people.
Did you notice how the referendum is described on the ballot? It seems reasonable. But it bears as much resemblance to the actual text of the resolution as Ohio State resembles a championship football team!
The movement that has led to this vote has been built upon lies whose purpose is to get rid of the one Jewish state in the world. That have fueled so much hatred on this campus. That have been used by professors to justify the actions of Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization. And by students attacking students for supporting Israel and for being Jewish.
The lie that Israel is “an apartheid regime” engaged in “settler colonialism” which dismisses the fact that the Jewish people have called Israel home for over 3,000 years, that there has been a continuous Jewish presence in Israel for millennia through the Romans, Greeks, Babylonians, Crusades, Ottoman, Turks and British until the United Nations created Israel. It ignores the fact that more than 50% of Israelis are people of color, that there are nearly 2 million Arab citizens of Israel who enjoy full legal rights, and that there are Arab members of Israel’s Parliament and Supreme Court. And it calls Israel a colonialist enterprise – a colonialist enterprise on whose behalf, I ask? Invoking the antisemitic idea of an international Zionist conspiracy that controls the media and the banks is exactly what they’re doing.
The resolution says that there are “millions of people undergoing genocide in Gaza as we speak.” On the surface of this lie, we have the modern-day blood libel that Israel is trying to wipe out the Palestinian people, obscuring the fact that Israel is engaged in a war of self-defense against an explicitly and truly genocidal terrorist organization, that Israel is doing what every single other country in the world would do if 1,200 civilians were murdered on one day. And, by twisting the definition of genocide, this lie demeans and distorts the very experience of the attempted genocide of the Jewish people in the Holocaust.
This vote is more than a referendum on whether the University of Michigan will validate these lies about Israel and deny that the Jewish people have the right to self-determination in their historic homeland, although that is critically important.
And this vote is more than a referendum on whether the University of Michigan will continue to be a safe and inclusive environment for Jewish and pro-Israel students, although that too is critically important.
The vote today and tomorrow is a referendum on what kind of institution the University of Michigan will be.
Whether this university will continue to be a leading institution in higher education or if it will be an institution where people are allowed to be silenced and bullied into submission.
And whether Wolverines will live up to the legacy of this University or if we will lose sight of the ideals that form the bedrock of this institution.
A vote no on AR 13-025 does not mean you are against Palestinians or a Palestinian state. You can and should be both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian – for a two-state solution that advances sovereignty, prosperity, and security for both peoples.
A vote no is a rejection of a hateful resolution filled with lies that seek to delegitimize and destroy the State of Israel and deny the Jewish people the right to that same sovereignty, prosperity, and security.
A vote no tells your Jewish and pro-Israel friends that they are welcome at this university, that all political viewpoints are respected here, and that the university will continue to be a forum for robust debate.
A vote no is an affirmation that truth matters.
A vote no means that the University of Michigan will continue to be a place – an idea – that we can all continue to love. That we continue to strive to live up to the idea of being the Leaders and Best and the values that form the basis of this institution. That we can continue to be proud Wolverines.
Thank you and Go Blue.