Crime

'This type of deplorable behavior has a long and dark history.' Now it's seen at WWU

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Officials are investigating two incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism that occurred this week, Western Washington University confirmed Friday.

Several books were damaged in the Jewish Studies section of the Wilson Library on Monday, said WWU spokesman Paul Cocke. The books were also defaced with anti-Semitic language, he said.

In addition, a swastika was drawn in ink or marker on a poster outside a faculty member's office in the Communications Building, Cocke said.

“The intentional destruction or theft of library materials aimed at silencing voices cannot stand," said Mark Greenberg, dean of libraries at WWU. "This type of deplorable behavior has a long and dark history and requires our active resistance."

A swastika is the symbol of Nazi Germany, and widely accepted as hate speech.

Cocke said he couldn't say why students and staff weren't notified about the incident earlier.

"The delay in more broadly reporting on the anti-Semitism in the library was prompted by the University Police investigation, which I cannot discuss in more detail," he said.

But some students said that they'd prefer an alert about such incidents, such as the text messages and emails sent to students and staff when a crime occurs on or near campus.

"I would have like to have known about that," said Fairhaven College junior Naomi Edelstein. "I don't understand what the school's interest is in keeping this low-key."

Edelstein was a target of anti-Semitic vandalism about two years ago, when someone drew a swastika on a whiteboard attached to her dorm door.

That vandalism and other incidents last year prompted WWU officials to form a task force to investigate and address anti-Semitism on campus. A report was issued in March 2017.

“Anti-Semitism and other acts of racism, bias and hate have no place at Western,” said Western President Sabah Randhawa.

This week's incidents came on the heels of a widely publicized Pro Publica investigative report into a neo-Nazi terror group called Atomwaffen, which is German for "nuclear war." A member of the group lives near Blaine, according to the report.

Even so, WWU professor Sarah Zarrow, who teaches modern European Jewish history, cautioned against overreacting to this week's events.

"While the connections between this act of vandalism and the book-burnings of the Nazi regime are certainly upsetting, I see no reason to equate the vandalism of five books with the actions of the Nazis, or to assume that we are on some sort of path parallel to the 1930s," she said.

Cocke said that anyone with information about bias-motivated vandalism or actions should call University Police at 360-650-3555 or the WWU Equal Opportunity Office at 360-650-3307.

Anonymous reports can be made by calling 360-650-SAFE or through an online link.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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