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Take swastika graffiti very seriously: Editorial

Posted 12/12/18

The swastika is a symbol of hatred and mass murder, of anti-Semitism and terror.

It has no place in our society, and its appearance at Penn State Harrisburg student housing must be taken …

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Take swastika graffiti very seriously: Editorial


The swastika is a symbol of hatred and mass murder, of anti-Semitism and terror.

It has no place in our society, and its appearance at Penn State Harrisburg student housing must be taken seriously.

The swastika was found in a stairwell at Nittany Place, the apartment complex in the 600 block of Spring Street that is leased to students of Penn State Harrisburg. It was reported to Penn State officials by a Facebook post Dec. 1. The swastika was described as written in pencil. In terms of size, it could be covered by a hand.

Let’s not let the small size of this awful graffiti be an indicator of how seriously we believe it should be taken. Even if this were done as a joke, it’s no laughing matter.

There is no gray area when it comes to what it means. We realize that it is an ancient religious icon used for centuries before World War II, before the rise of Adolf Hitler and German nationalism and racial supremacy.

But now, it only has one meaning, and it’s a meaning we cannot stomach.

“This act of anti-Semitism is abhorrent, and counter to everything for which Penn State stands,” Penn State Harrisburg Chancellor John Mason said. “We must protect against hate and prejudice of any kind, and strive to provide a community that is welcoming to students, faculty and staff from all backgrounds and walks of life.”

Unfortunately, there is a laundry list of recent anti-Semitic acts. just in Pennsylvania. On Nov. 29, at Penn State’s main campus at University Park, a menorah at the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity house was vandalized — it was broken and scratched.

“This vandalism occurred only a month after the deadliest recorded attack of Jews on United States soil,” Penn State said in a statement about the menorah vandalism. “We share in the feelings of hurt expressed by many members of our community. Today, and every day, we stand united with our Jewish friends, neighbors and colleagues. There is no place for hate in our community. Such actions violate the values to which we must commit ourselves and one another.”

That deadliest recorded attack against Jews, of course, happened in Pittsburgh.

Robert Bowers is accused of entering The Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill section of the city Oct. 27 and “shooting indiscriminately” at people inside. Eleven people were killed. He reportedly screamed anti-Semitic slogans as he opened fire, including “all Jews must die.”

Then, earlier this month, Pittsburgh police started investigating the distribution of anti-Semitic pamphlets spread through numerous neighborhoods, including Squirrel Hill, which is home to the synagogue, KDKA reported.

Just Friday, an Ohio man was arrested who said he was inspired by the Pittsburgh shooting. He planned to attack a Toledo-area Jewish house of worship for a “mass casualty attack” on behalf of ISIS, according to

Incidents such as this, no matter how small, must not go unnoticed or unpublished.

No, a swastika is not the same as a mass shooting. But it still is meant to inspire fear and send a message. Those of us in society who believe in freedom and in the rights of all people to worship as they please must take note.

We hope this is an isolated incident. There doesn’t appear to be reports of other anti-Semitic acts in the area or at Penn State Harrisburg, which has a large percentage of students from overseas.

We trust Middletown police will do everything in their power to find out who did this and charge them to the maximum extent the law allows. This might qualify as a hate crime under state and/or federal law, as the FBI defines it as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or gender identity.” 

A swastika, no matter how small, must not be taken lightly.

We must not let hate take root.