Anti-Semitic banner flies briefly at S.F. State plaza

A banner calling for the death of Peru's president and his "Zionist commandos" hung for several hours last week at San Francisco State University before it was removed.

The handmade sign, which also bore an Israeli flag with a swastika and an American flag with a dollar sign, was draped over the same wall in the student center plaza where a Malcolm X mural with anti-Semitic symbols stood briefly in 1994.

The Pan Afrikan Student Union, the group that sponsored the mural, also hung last week's banner.

Ryan Dulkin, president of a pro-Israel student group at SFSU called Shalom Yisrael, called it a "ridiculous sign that didn't seem to have any logical coherence."

The banner was part of a recent escalation in anti-Semitic rhetoric on campus. The surge, which ended a six-month lull, started around the time of the student government elections in March when a presidential candidate from a party representing mostly anti-Zionist groups lost.

Calls to the PASU office on campus were not returned.

Guy Dalpe, managing director of the Cesar Chavez Student Center, said students raised the banner around noon Tuesday of last week during a daylong celebration for Earth Day.

It was the same day that Peruvian troops stormed the Japanese ambassador's mansion in Lima, rescuing 71 hostages held for more than four months by leftist rebels. All 14 of the Tupac Amaru rebels were killed in the raid, as well as one hostage and two soldiers.

SFSU student activities staff told the PASU group members they were violating the center's policy because they weren't part of the Earth Day celebration and asked them to remove the sign immediately, Dalpe said. The PASU members refused, stating they had free speech rights and an important message to spread.

The sign was taken down a couple of hours later after heated exchanges. Dalpe couldn't recall the exact time.

Stacey Roberts-Ohr, site director at SFSU for San Francisco Citywide Hillel, said she was pleased with the administration's reaction.

"The university responded in an appropriate manner and put a lot of pressure on the student group to take it down," she said.

The next day, Dulkin said, PASU members gave out fliers on campus equating Zionism with racism and alleging a Zionist conspiracy on campus.

Dulkin expected such anti-Semitic rhetoric would continue yesterday at a scheduled pro-Israel exhibition on the student center plaza.

In the past at S.F. State, much of the friction has come from the Palestinian student group. But Dulkin, who is a graduate student, said that since fall some Jewish and Palestinian students "have come to a better understanding."