Undergraduate Senate candidate apologizes for past anti-Israel tweets

May 18, 2020, 5:02 a.m.

Mià Bahr ’22, an incumbent Undergraduate Senate member running for reelection this week, apologized on Friday for past anti-Israel tweets that the Stanford College Republicans (SCR) publicized on its Facebook page on Thursday.

SCR accused Bahr of “a pattern of making hateful, violent, anti-Israel, antisemitic and racially charged statements on social media.” The group called on her to “resign from the student government immediately.” 

SCR’s post included screenshots of several of Bahr’s tweets. One of them, published on June 30, 2018 in response to a video about Israeli forces’ violence against Palestinians, said, “if you still support israel, you can choke, honestly.” Another screenshot showed that she had retweeted, “F** ISRAEL, FREE PALESTINE” on March 29, 2019.

“Anti-Zionism, which denies the right of the Jewish people to self-determination, is antisemitism,” SCR wrote. “… Bahr owes the Jewish community at Stanford an apology.”

Bahr issued two statements in response to SCR’s accusations, one to the University community as a whole, and another to the Jewish community on campus. She directed The Daily to these statements upon its request for comment. In her letter to the University community, titled “My Freedom of Speech Does Not Stop as a Senator,” Bahr apologized to the Jewish community.

Bahr added that her tweets were taken out of context, writing, “The organization [SCR] has called me antisemitic for my support of a peaceful two-state solution and the admonishment of police and military violence.” She wrote that, although she regrets her wording, she will “continue to stand firm” on her beliefs.

“I will not be lectured on antisemitism by an organization that invited a speaker who openly retweeted a tweet saying #BurnTheJews,” she wrote, referencing SCR’s event with conservative filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza last year. “I certainly will not let my freedom of speech be taken away by a white supremacist group.”

SCR President Stephen Sills ’22 labeled Bahr’s accusations of white supremacy as “absurd,” writing in a statement to The Daily that SCR is “one of the most diverse and pluralistic political student organizations on campus” and one that has “repeatedly been a target of attack from the alt right.” Furthermore, Sills wrote that SCR felt “morally obligated” to publish Bahr’s tweets and “expose her violent and vulgar attitudes toward pro-Israel and Jewish students.” 

Bahr later told The Daily that her “white supremacist group” comment was in reference to the group of non-Stanford affiliates sending her threats based on SCR’s post, not SCR itself.

In her letter to the Jewish community at Stanford, Bahr apologized for her tweets and the “lack of context the screenshots SCR’s post came with.”

“I recognize Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people,” Bahr wrote.

In a statement to The Daily, Jewish Student Association (JSA) Co-Presidents Gaby Goldberg ’21 and Avi Kaye ’21 wrote that JSA was “deeply troubled” to see Bahr’s tweets. JSA’s goal “is not to promote a specific political view, but to provide a welcoming space for the entire Jewish community,” they wrote, adding that Bahr’s words evoked pain and frustration for many members of the Jewish community. The JSA co-presidents also wrote that Bahr was “receptive to our concerns”; they commended her “willingness to engage in an open dialogue.”

In the Stanford Israel Association’s (SIA) statement to The Daily, sent by SIA President Zohar Levy ’22, the group alluded to Bahr’s retweet of journalist Aaron Freedman, who on Sept. 1, 2019 wrote, “Anyone who claims to be shocked and horrified by this [an article about the prime minister of Israel’s vow of ‘Jewish sovereignty’ over West Bank] but won’t support BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] is full of shit.” BDS is a Palestinian-led movement calling for boycotts of, divestment from and sanctions against Israel. Bahr’s retweet was pictured in SCR’s post.

While noting Bahr’s mention that she has since distanced herself from BDS, SIA stated that “… BDS explicitly calls for Israel’s annihilation. It is therefore an existential attack on the Jewish state and on every student who identifies with it … The fact that this opprobrium, directed at the only Jewish state, is pervasive even on our campus makes members of the Jewish community feel targeted and unsafe.”

SIA expressed appreciation for Bahr’s apology and wrote, “Although we have been disappointed by her words, SIA considers this incident to be an opportunity for growth.”

Olivia Szabo, who is Bahr’s former roommate and the current president of J Street U, a pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian, pro-peace student organization on campus, told The Daily that Bahr’s tweets were taken out of context. Szabo alleged a tendency of “conservatives to label anything anti-Israel as anti-Semitic,” and said that Bahr understood the complexity of the Israel-Palestine issue. Szabo was “conflicted” after reading Bahr’s tweets, but she accused SCR of “inflaming” Bahr’s words and trying to “split the Jewish community” by treating it as a singular group.

“Mià’s beliefs on Israel are not the same ones I have, but they’re not anti-Semitic,” Szabo added.

Elijah Spiegel ’20, part of the Jewish community on campus, also expressed his frustration with SCR in an open email to the Kibbutz chat: “They [SCR] step in to play at whistleblowing where it suits their ends, and then leave until they need to come back to their self-styled role as ersatz puppeteer of the Jewish community.”

Other members of the Jewish community voiced personal concerns with Bahr’s tweet. A Jewish freshman involved with JSA and SIA, who was granted anonymity due to privacy concerns, said, “I’m not sure if [Bahr] can do anything to make me vote for her.”

“Mià perpetuated the widely held perception that anyone pro-Israel is anti-Muslim and believes in discrimination,” the freshman added.

In its Facebook post on Thursday, SCR also pointed to a March 16, 2019 tweet from Bahr in which she wrote, “white women will ALWAYS put their race before gender. idk why i keep being surprised!!” On Saturday, SCR published another Facebook post with past tweets from Bahr, including a retweet of someone who called for “Death to them all [the police]” in response to a report of police killing civilians while attempting to stop a robbery.

“As a woman of color from Chicago, I have tweeted and advocated against police and military brutality and its disproportionate impact on marginalized communities,” Bahr wrote in her statement to the Stanford community, before Saturday’s Facebook post by SCR. “… I am a pacifist.”

During Bahr’s time in the Senate this school year, she drafted and passed legislation supporting survivors of sexual misconduct and addressing the results of the Campus Climate Survey. In her candidate statement, she wrote that she is running to “empower all students on this campus.”

The controversy over Bahr’s tweets came just days before the ASSU elections on Monday and Tuesday.

This timing is not unusual for SCR. The group has sought to share controversial information on candidates shortly before ASSU elections in past years as well. Last year, a member of an ASSU Executive slate issued an apology for a tweet self-described as “anti-Semitic” after SCR posted it on Facebook. The slate later lost in the election. And in 2018, leaked emails revealed a Hoover fellow was conspiring with SCR to conduct “opposition research” on a liberal ASSU Executive slate that later lost in that year’s election. 

May 19, 3:02 p.m. PT: This article has been updated to reflect that Bahr later told The Daily her “white supremacist group” comment was in reference to the group of non-Stanford affiliates sending her threats based on SCR’s post, not SCR itself.

Contact Marianne Lu at mlu23 ‘at’ stanford.edu and Fan Liu at fliu6 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Fan Liu is a staff writer for the Stanford Daily. She was also a summer desk editor. She is currently studying biomedical informatics.

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