In a letter Wednesday, Jewish student leaders “denounce, in the strongest of terms, the recently-surfaced antisemitic comments” made by Gavin Oxley, Student Council presidential candidate and third-year College student. In the comments, which were made in response to a pro-life Instagram post, Oxley compared abortion to the Holocaust, calling abortion “the greatest genocide of all time.”
“I in no way think the topic of the Holocaust to be joked with,” Oxley wrote. “Millions of innocents were slaughtered by the thousands because of the lack of reverence to the sanctity of life. By supporting abortion you are supporting genocide. As awful as the Holocaust was, this genocide has expanded even further than that. These fetuses that are being aborted are DEFENSELESS.”
The Wednesday letter was written by Jewish student leaders and has garnered 50 signatures from individuals representing organizations including the Jewish Leadership Council, the Jewish Law Students Association, J Street U, CavPAC, Challah for Hunger and Hoos for Israel.
“Antisemitism is on a stark and terrifying rise throughout the United States,” the letter said. “In the face of such hate, it is our shared responsibility — both Jewish and non-Jewish — to call out antisemitism wherever it exists. Speech such as Mr. Oxley’s is dangerous and serves to perpetuate antisemitism in our community. Antisemitism, in all of its forms, has no place at the University of Virginia.”
While the letter was intended for Jewish student leaders to sign, Matt Gillam, fourth-year Batten student and chair of the Jewish Leadership Council, said that signatures from the broader University community will not be rejected. The letter invited community members to participate in various events that will be held by Jewish student groups on Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, from sunset April 7 to nightfall April 8 in order to educate themselves about “ongoing efforts to fight antisemitism.”
In a statement to The Cavalier Daily, Oxley said that he stands by his comments.
“When read in full context, it is clear that the comparison used was not to diminish the tragedy that was the Holocaust, taking the lives of 6 million innocent children of God,” Oxley said. “This comment was instead clearly meant to promote the seriousness of abortion, which claims 125,000 innocent lives of the children of God every day. A life is a life. Simply put, there have been more deaths counted from abortion than the Holocaust."
The statistic Oxley cites about abortion rates refers to the number of abortions worldwide per day and appears to come from WorldoMeter, which cites the World Health Organization in its statement that there are an estimated 40-50 million abortions in the world every year. According to data from the WHO, there were an average of 56 million abortions worldwide each year between 2010-2014.
The University Board of Elections is currently investigating allegations that Oxley violated campaign procedures by campaigning before the official start period and that campaign supporters spread misinformation about his opponent, Abel Liu, chair of the Student Council representative body and third-year College student. In a statement posted on Instagram Monday, Oxley stated that his campaign “has been based on honesty and integrity, and it will continue to be until the election has ended.”
Voting for student elections began Wednesday at 10 a.m. and will close Friday at 4 p.m. Information on how to vote can be found on the Student Elections website.