Comedienne Roseanne Barr jumped headlong this week into the tensions at UC Davis, tweeting that she hopes the Davis campus “gets nuked” after student senators overwhelmingly voted to seek UC divestment from Israeli-tied businesses and two Jewish student organizations suffered hate crimes last month.
Barr, best known for her 1980s and 1990s sitcom “Roseanne,” defended Israel on Twitter and took aim at student efforts at Davis and Stanford to seek university divestment from companies tied to the Middle East country.
Barr posted Tuesday night on Twitter, “I hope all the jews leave UC Davis & it then it gets nuked,” according to screenshots and retweets from other Twitter users, as well as The Electronic Intifada, a website that posts news on Palestine. Barr has since removed that tweet but retained a separate one with the hashtag “#nukeUCDavisJewHaters.”
Barr’s Twitter page has since become a battleground with the 62-year-old comic lobbing rejoinders to obscene and anti-Semitic slurs directed at her. On Wednesday, Barr tweeted, “Proud to have spam blocked 25k Jew haters today! #UCDavisDivest toads.”
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Barr’s Twitter account has more than 271,500 followers.
UC Davis spokesman Andy Fell declined to respond beyond saying, “I think the tweets speak for themselves.”
Feelings have grown intense among the Muslim and Jewish communities on campus since the passage of an Associated Students UCD Senate resolution calling on University of California regents to divest from corporations “that aid in the Israeli occupation of Palestine.” Two days later, swastikas appeared on the Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi, though student and fraternity leaders have downplayed any connection between the divestment vote and hate crime.
Last week, Davis police launched a separate investigation into hate graffiti found inside a bathroom at the Hillel House, a prominent Jewish student organization. Authorities said a janitor found the words “grout out the Jews” etched into a wall, and police believe the incident occurred sometime Jan. 22-23.
While Barr’s comments fueled another day of Internet chatter Wednesday, students and administrators at UC Davis tried to make sense of events at home and beyond.
More than 250 people gathered Wednesday night in front of the UCD student union for a candlelight vigil in memory of three Muslim students who were killed Tuesday in North Carolina. Authorities said the suspect was a neighbor angry about parking and noise issues, but they were investigating whether religious hate played a role, according to The Associated Press.
Security was high at the Davis event with the university dispatching several police officers and student security guards.
The event, sponsored by the UCD Muslim Student Association and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, began with a reading from the Quran. The Muslim students interviewed at the vigil expressed fear and despair, following the recent tensions on campus and especially in light of the North Carolina shooting deaths.
“Why is there so much intolerance?” asked Madina Omar, 25, a student at the UC Davis School of Law.
She called the UC Davis-related banter on social media “absolutely ridiculous.”
“It’s just ignorance,” she said.
Rangeena Salim, president of the Muslim Student Association, said recent events on campus and nationwide have been tough for Muslim students.
The shooting “hit close to home,” Salim said. “The fact that they were Muslim students – it could have been any one of us. It strikes fear in you.”
On Friday, UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, along with Jewish, Muslim and interfaith group leaders, signed a joint letter calling on the campus “to stand strong and united against intolerance and hatred of all forms.”
Naftali Moed, 20, is Jewish and a third-year student at UC Davis majoring in environmental policy analysis. He spoke by phone Wednesday about the tensions on campus and how they have become more challenging in recent days.
“It’s a really difficult time for Jewish and Muslim students – everyone in the general community has been impacted to some extent. There was a lot of political tension that then reverberated into religious tension.”
Moed said one of the casualties of the recent tensions on campus has been the ability to focus on classwork whether Muslim or Jewish. Hateful posts on social media have also amplified students’ fears on campus, Moed said.
He believes, though, that much of it is coming from outside UC Davis.
“The large extent of what we’ve been hearing has not come from the university but from outside,” he said. “It’s completely shifted the conversation and it’s made people feel unsafe – legitimately. It’s interesting from a student perspective.”
He said without the outside influences, discussions of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and divestment could all have been constructively discussed on campus, in classrooms and as he said “focused on students.”
“What I hope first of all is for tensions to calm down,” he said. “The people who started the divestment (movement) didn’t have any foresight or intent of what’s going on. It’s hard for people to talk when emotions are so high.”
UC Davis administrators have been busy addressing the concerns from various campus entities. They have also faced a barrage of criticism online from external groups, including physical threats.
“External threats are really key,” said Adela de la Torre, vice chancellor of student affairs at UC Davis. “We monitor them.”
Asked about Barr’s comments on Twitter, de la Torre said she was shocked to see such incendiary language.
“It was thoughtless and dehumanizing,” she said. “I cannot fathom. This is really tragic.”
Call The Bee’s Richard Chang at (916) 321-1018. Follow him on Twitter @RichardYChang.