At a local bowling alley Monday night, a University student was allegedly assaulted. The student, who is Jewish, said a man he did not know punched him in the face because he was wearing a pro-Israel T-shirt. The incident was the most recent of several local attacks that some say have targeted Jews.

Citing examples such as the campaign to divest from Israel and local reaction to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Jewish students say many students confuse the policies of Israel with the Jewish community.

Bobby Nooromid, chair of University Hillel’s governing board, said the confusion results from a lack of knowledge. “If (students) are not up to date and informed on the issues, a lot of the information may blend together,” Nooromid, an LSA junior, said. “There’s a difference between hating the Jewish people and disagreeing with the political actions of the state of Israel.”

Nooromid said he does not think anti-Semitism has increased recently in connection with the war in Iraq.

“I personally haven’t heard any anti-Semitic comments … or witnessed any (acts of) anti-Semitism on campus,” he said. “I have seen anti-Semitic literature on campus. I have witnessed a number of anti-Israel materials on campus.”

The student who was allegedly assaulted Monday said he believes his attackers committed a hate crime and were motivated by his T-shirt.

“I was sitting on a bench when I heard a loud noise,” the victim said. “I fell on the floor. I’d been … punched by a Middle Eastern-looking guy.”

The victim added he did not know why he had been assaulted until he heard a man accompanying the assailant yelling at him to take off his shirt, which read “Israel doesn’t need your sympathy, it needs you.”

“I don’t know why this happened,” the victim said. “I’d never seen this guy before.”

The assailant and his companions were escorted out of the bowling alley, the victim said. The Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the case.

Last July, a similar incident occurred when LSA junior Danny Aghion was verbally and physically assaulted. Aghion said three teenage males swore at him, cursed his religion and threw a bottle at him because he is Jewish.

“I was really scared,” Aghion said. “It was the first and hopefully only time I’ve ever feared for my life.”

Aghion chose to press charges and said that pressure from both the Jewish and Muslim Ann Arbor communities forced the assailants to confess. “Stuff like this happens on campus … and I really wanted to do something about it,” Aghion added. “These people who committed hate crimes were minorities and are subject to this themselves.”

Department of Public Safety Sgt. Melissa Overton said the intent behind the hate crime is considered in addition to the crime itself. The criminal “can be charged with ethnic intimidation,” Overton said. “This additional charge is punishible by imprisonment for no more than two years or a fine of no more than $5,000, or both.” Ethnic intimidation is a felony in Michigan.

“While anti-Semitic incidents on campus almost always come to our attention, they are few, and those instigated are exceedingly rare,” Executive Director of Hillel Michael Brooks said.

“Some of the public rhetoric on campus regarding Israel sometimes does cross the line into anti-Jewish sentiment … particularly when it calls into question the very legitimacy of a Jewish state. While some of the strident anti-Israel or Holocaust revisionist discourse on campus probably does, and should, make Jews and others angry, I don’t believe that Jewish students have reason to feel intimidated at (the University),” he said.

Many students said they felt disappointed and disturbed about the recent attack. “Hearing that stuff makes me cringe,” LSA senior Eric Bukstein said. “If someone’s assaulted wearing an Israeli flag shirt, that’s a problem. It makes me ashamed to call myself part of the Ann Arbor community.”

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