On Oct. 18, a truck with the message “DEAN JAMAL: WHY DO YOU CODDLE ANTISEMITISM” appeared on Nassau Street with photos of the recent terrorist attack in southern Israel. The truck circulated in town for three days during fall break, targeting Amaney Jamal, Dean of the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA). The group in question has since apologized to Jamal, noting a previous statement she issued condemning Hamas.
The truck was sent by Alums for Campus Fairness (ACF), a group which claims to “counter antisemitism and the demonization of Israel on college and university campuses across the nation.”
The ACF is a national organization with 66 chapters at colleges and universities across the country, including at Princeton.
This is the second truck sent to campus this semester. One which appeared in September had slides with messaging targeting President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 and the Alliance of Jewish Progressives, following controversy over the inclusion of the book, “The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability,” on the syllabus of a University course. The University defended the inclusion of the book on the grounds of academic freedom.
According to Avi Gordon, the ACF executive director, the truck was sent because the group wanted a condemnation of Hamas terrorism in Israel from Jamal. However, Jamal had issued a statement to that effect on Oct. 12, six days before the truck appeared in Princeton, saying in a panel discussion that “I am absolutely horrified by the brutal attacks on innocent Israeli citizens by Hamas. I condemn this atrocious violence.”
“As a mother, I have and always will condemn the killing of innocent civilians, and there is no exception here,” she said.
According to an Oct. 23 email exchange between Gordon and Jamal obtained by The Daily Princetonian, Gordon apologized, writing, “On behalf of Alums for Campus Fairness, we want to apologize to you directly for calling on you to condemn Hamas terrorism, not knowing that you had already done so.”
“We appreciate your voice against Hamas terrorism during this difficult time,” he added.
Gordon told Jamal that “everything has been wiped from our website regarding pressuring you to speak about this issue.”
Jamal wrote back thanking Gordon for his emails and added that “the tactics you use are irresponsible and they can cause real reputational harm, as they have done to me.”
Jamal also requested that Gordon issue a public apology.
“Would you kindly make an effort to clear my name with the same zeal you deployed in falsely accusing me? You might start by posting your apology and retraction on your website. Please also consider renting the same billboard truck and having it display your apology and retraction around the Princeton campus,” Jamal wrote.
Gordon did not respond to requests for comment from the ‘Prince.’
ACF previously weighed in on campus debate during the 2022 Caterpillar referendum, in which the Princeton Committee on Palestine, now known as Princeton Students for Justice in Palestine, called on the University to disassociate from Caterpillar machinery given the use of the company’s equipment to tear down Palestinian homes.
ACF, in April 2022, called on then-Undergraduate Student Government Chief Elections Manager Brian Li ’24 to resign due to controversy over a miscommunicated election guideline.
A statement of support for Jamal in the wake of the truck's appearance on campus was circulated on campus by SPIA students and alumni, saying that the truck constituted “harassment” against Jamal, “a Palestinian-American and Muslim.”
“As current and former students from SPIA, we will not entertain the baseless and Islamophobic accusations leveled against Dean Amaney Jamal which deliberately ignore her clear, expressed stance on this issue,” the statement reads.
As of Oct. 23, the statement has 364 signatories.
An Oct. 22 email from Dean of the College Jill Dolan, Dean of the Faculty Gene Jarrett, Vice President for Campus Life W. Rochelle Calhoun, and Vice President for Human Resources Romy Riddick was sent to the Princeton community and called on students “to continue to be civil with one another.”
The email also acknowledged that “Over the break, we’ve seen a few attempts by outside activists to inflame and divide the Princeton community, levying false accusations against some of our members.”
“We’re also aware of a few interpersonal provocations in various campus spaces,” the email read.
Several people also personally reached out to Jamal following the incident.
One of them was Rabbi Gil Steinlauf ’91, who serves as the Executive Director of the University’s Center for Jewish Life (CJL) and Jewish Chaplain at the University. He told the ‘Prince’ that “Dean Jamal has long been a leader in fostering relationships of understanding and connection between Muslims and Jews.”
“She brings exceptional understanding, nuance and compassion to both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and deserves nothing but praise and support for her efforts and her work,” he wrote.
Melissa Lane, a professor in the Politics department and director of the University Center for Human Values also reached out to Jamal, and told the ‘Prince’ that she has “been a steadfast partner in dialogue for members of the Jewish community at Princeton and more widely.”
“This includes her attendance at Shabbat dinners, her role in bringing a conference of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom — an organization of Muslim and Jewish women — to Princeton, and her teaching of the politics of the Middle East in a consistently exemplary way,” she wrote.
Daniel Kurtzer, a professor in SPIA and former ambassador to Egypt and then Israel, also reached out to Jamal. He wrote to the ‘Prince’ that “Amaney Jamal is one of the finest, fairest people I know.“
“Her only bias is in favor of dialogue, reconciliation, and peace,” he added.
“I thank our students, colleagues and the University’s leadership for their embrace and support,“ Jamal wrote in a statement to the ‘Prince.’ “I am deeply grateful for everyone at Princeton University. I thank our students, colleagues and the University’s leadership for their embrace and support.”
“I am also grateful to all my friends from different communities, including my dear Jewish friends, who immediately reached out, outraged on my behalf, and professing their support in the face of this inflammatory campaign. This attack deeply hurt so many members of our wonderful and beautiful community. In the end, it brought us even closer together.”
Sandeep Mangat is a head News editor at the ‘Prince.’
Please send any corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.