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December 22, 2014 / 30 Kislev, 5775
 
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Students for Justice in Palestine: A Pattern of Intimidation

At campuses in the University of Maryland and California systems, pro-Israel students say they are harassed, pro-Israel events are interrupted, viciously anti-Israel speakers are brought into speak, anti-Israel students are even accused of of assaulting pro-Israel students.

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Students for Justice in Palestine is a radical group which is ranked as one of the top ten most anti-Israel organizations in the United States by the Anti-Defamation League.

According to the Anti-Defamation League,

Many universities have one or more groups that organize anti-Israel activity, the most ubiquitous of which is Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), with chapters at close to 75 American universities. SJP chapters regularly organizes activities presenting a biased view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including mock ‘apartheid walls’ and ‘checkpoint’ displays, presentations by sensationalistic anti-Israel speakers.

The Anti-Defamation League says that SJP chapters frequently partner with the local Muslim Student Association, and other Muslim and radical leftist organizations on campus.

Anti-Israel Groups in the University of California System

Yet, aside from hosting anti-Israel events, the Students for Justice in Palestine and other similar anti-Israel campus groups routinely intimidate pro-Israel students on campus. At times, this intimidation can lead to violence.

The first Students for Justice in Palestine chapter was founded at the University of California at Berkeley and was suspended after one year upon the school filing charges for assault and battery, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest against members of the SJP. Since then, the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter reopened at the University of California at Berkeley and is promoting divestment from Israel on campus. Yet, SJP members are alleged to have attacked pro-Israel students at the University of California at Berkeley upon re-establishing themselves and in 2008 SJP members reportedly interrupted a pro-Israel hip-hop concert by draping Palestinian flags at the event and allegedly physically assaulted Jewish students.

More recently, according to Tammi Benjamin, a lecturer at the University of California, a student wrote a letter to the editor in the UCSB weekly newspaper

expressing fear for her safety in the days leading up to the student senate’s vote on the SJP-sponsored divestment resolution. In her letter, she states that she was forced to request secret ballots due to “intimidating forms of coercion and fear tactics used to sway senator decisions…threats and accusations from students and community members…and slanderous and untrue accusations on social media sites,” which made her feel that “not only was her personal and mental well-being being jeopardized, but [her] individual safety as well.”

“Other students who opposed the divestment resolution at UCSB reported being spit on, having their bike tires tampered with, and being refused service at the university bookstore,” Benjamin says.

“At UC Irvine, a former Chair of the Student Judicial Board, who was the sole member of that committee to vote “no” on the SJP-sponsored divestment resolution, expressed feeling “continuously intimidated” and “repeatedly threatened” as a result of her vote. And most recently, two UC Berkeley Student Action senators who voted against the SJP-sponsored divestment resolution were allegedly subject to “death threats and vitriolic accusations.”

Anti-Israel Groups in the University of Maryland system

The University of California system is not the only one in the United States where anti-Israel groups routinely intimidate pro-Israel students. At the University of Maryland at College Park, during the spring 2009 semester, the Muslim Student Association organized a Palestinian Solidarity Week featuring a speaker named Mauri Salaakhan, who reportedly proclaimed “Israel has no more right to exist than apartheid had.” Another speaker, Allison Weir, referred to Judaism as a “ruthless and supremacist faith” in an opinion piece she wrote in the Greenwich Citizen.

In response, some members of the community posted fliers protesting the appearance of such speakers on the UMD campus. Yet Muslim Student Association member Sana Javed, who organized the Palestinian Solidarity Week on campus, accused these people of being Islamophobic in the schools newspaper, The Diamondback, even though those fliers fell under the category of free speech.

The Diamondback also referred to the members of the Muslim Student Association as victims and another article referred to them and other pro-Israel students who opposed the MSA on campus as racists, in addition to calling for action to be taken against certain pro-Israel individuals who protested against Palestinian Solidarity Week. Subsequently, an investigation by the campus police concluded that no crime had been committed. No investigation was ever conducted against the Muslim Student Association for bringing anti-Semitic speakers to campus and not a single pro-Israel article was printed in the Diamondback that semester.

Similarly, according to The Diamondback, upon the formation of the Students for Justice in Palestine on campus, one UMD SJP President, Hira Zeb, brought in a speaker who declared that the “only good Zionist is a dead Zionist” during a Palestinian Solidarity Week that included the formation of an apartheid wall on campus.

The only action taken against the SJP was the removal of campus sponsorship for Palestinian Solidarity Week. The SJP chapter at the University of Maryland at College Park, which was inaugurated by Sana Javed during the fall 2009 semester, still exists today and continues to host anti-Israel events.

At the University of Maryland at Baltimore campus, the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter threw a pro-Israel student, Ben Halpern, out of a planning meeting just because of his beliefs, resulting in the chapter not being formed on that particular campus.

According to Professor Benjamin:

A number of MSA and SJP members have been responsible for physically harassing and assaulting Jewish students, vandalizing Jewish communal property, disrupting pro-Israel speakers, and aggressively confronting Jewish students at pro-Israel events…

Some MSA and SJP chapters consistently sponsor speakers, films, and exhibits that engage in discourse or use language considered anti-Semitic by the U.S. State Department. Some MSA and SJP chapters have associated with individuals and organizations that are linked to terrorist activity and call for violence against Jews.

As a result of the hostile environment created by these chapters and their members, Jewish students have reported feeling physically unsafe, harassed, and intimidated while on campus, and some have even reported leaving the university, avoiding certain parts of campus, and hiding symbols of their Jewishness.”

Benjamin believes that it is possible to be pro-Palestinian without adopting violence, intimidation, anti-Semitic hate speech, or supporting terrorism as part of ones discourse or strategy, yet the Students for Justice in Palestine and other similar groups have not chosen this route.

Visit United with Israel.

About the Author: Rachel Avraham is a news editor and political analyst for Jerusalem Online News, the English language internet edition of Israel's Channel 2 News. She completed her masters degree in Middle Eastern Studies at Ben-Gurion University. The subject of her MA thesis was: "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media."


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16 Responses to “Students for Justice in Palestine: A Pattern of Intimidation”

  1. Barak Thunder says:

    Start attacking these groups' demonstrations in the same manner that they attack ours.Use exactly the same tactics.

  2. Barak Thunder says:

    Start attacking these groups' demonstrations in the same manner that they attack ours.Use exactly the same tactics.

  3. Jesse Rabinowitz says:

    Attn Rachel Avraham:
    I am a pro-Isreal, pro-Palestnina and pro-Peace student at UMD, one of the two colleges you site in your article. I have never experienced anything but respect and friendship with people in SJP and MSA. I, cannot, however say the same for right wing pro-Isreal groups on this campus and around the country. Please check your Jewish exceptionalism and perpetual victimhood before you defame those attempting to engage in peaceful dialogue.

  4. Jesse Rabinowitz says:

    Attn Rachel Avraham:
    I am a pro-Isreal, pro-Palestnina and pro-Peace student at UMD, one of the two colleges you site in your article. I have never experienced anything but respect and friendship with people in SJP and MSA. I, cannot, however say the same for right wing pro-Isreal groups on this campus and around the country. Please check your Jewish exceptionalism and perpetual victimhood before you defame those attempting to engage in peaceful dialogue.

  5. Abigail Jaffe says:

    Rachel Avraham,
    Have you ever set foot on the UMD campus?
    I'm an orthodox student there and the images depicted here are simply slander. While the facts are accurate, this article is distorted entirely beyond reason and was clearly written to fulfill an agenda. The Muslim students I've met at UMD are respectful, tolerant and understanding. We have differences of opinion about the Israeli conflict, but I've never found any to be anti-Israel, and your quote from Professor Benjamin is simply a false depiction of student and campus life:

    "As a result of the hostile environment created by these chapters and their members, Jewish students have reported feeling physically unsafe, harassed, and intimidated while on campus, and some have even reported leaving the university, avoiding certain parts of campus, and hiding symbols of their Jewishness.”.

    Maybe that depiction is true in other universities, but I have never, ever heard a fellow Jewish student complain or describe anything remotely like what you have painted here. You've gotten the facts and given it an entirely new unethical spin just to produce a sensational story. Where is your conscience?

  6. Dear Jesse and Abigail, I am actually a UMD alumna and the experiences that I described in the article in UMD are based on firstly my own experiences as a student at UMD during the spring 2009 semester and then that of a friend of mine who graduated at UMD after me. I did not mention this academic school year at all in the article, except to mention that the group still exists and they still host anti-Israel events, which is true because I saw on facebook that the Students for Justice in Palestine still had a swing of anti-Israel events this past semester. If you check old articles of the Diamondback, you can find all of the stories that I am referring to. And furthermore, I did not generalize Muslim students, of whom some could be perfectly nice people. However, the MSA as an organization during the spring 2009 semester was run by anti-semites and the Students for Justice in Palestine is one of the ten worst anti-Israel organizations in the US according to the Anti-Defemation League and all of those events happened. If you don't believe me, check old articles of the Diamondback. I lived all of these events, as did a friend of mine.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Dear Rachel Avraham,

    This is clearly a desperate act on your part and please, take this as constructive criticism from former student to former student. In your article, you keep re-stating that SJP still “exists” – I believe that the Jewish Student Association still “exists” – point made then.

    I do not wish to comment on anything in your article aside from one thing, which is the picture you so graciously put right above the “Students for Justice in Palestine is a radical group which is ranked as one of the top ten most anti-Israel organizations in the United States by the Anti-Defamation League.” Everything else would be a waste of time to argue about because frankly, your bolded words and phrases are just proof of your credibility.

    The one thing that I would like to point out for yourself as the dubious author of this article; is the picture you posted to represent and/or persuade your arguments. For all other readers, in case you are not familiar with the “acts” performed by the men in this picture – it is not “anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic, anti-Defamation or radical”; it is in fact simply a representation of true pride in one’s identity. The “acts” performed in this picture is a culture dance called Dabke: an Arab folk dance native to the Levant. Mind you, it is mainly popular in the middle-east but this does include Israel. It is performed in both weddings and joyful occasions, not a “hostile environment”.

    This group in the picture is a professional Dabke troupe that has performed in almost half of the ‘close to 75 American universities’ you refer to in your article. Also, you obviously didn’t realize that the source of your picture is from a performance at American University that was indeed hosted by their SJP but the event was called “Dabke Night” not “Anti-Israeli or Anti-Jewish Night”. As an UMD Alumni, you have obviously not visited your campus since 2009 because recently in 2013; the Arab student group, SJP and MSA co-joined in hosting this professional Dabke troupe and had you been there – you would have seen Arabs, Americans, African-Americans AND Jewish students dancing Dabke together, embracing the heritage. Therefore, you apparently have NOT ‘lived all these events’.

    Lastly, the only “Pattern of Intimidation” here is your ridiculous and useless article using a picture that represents everything that has to do with cultural pride and nothing to do with hostility that you keep referring to. The only anti-acts being committed are you writing this article in the first place and using a picture that makes 5 proud men of whom you know nothing about seem like the “vicious students” you speak of. Try learning from the history of your country and not using the past experiences to judge the present.

    I hope all that read this will support.

    Sincerely,
    Palestinian-American Proud Students.

  8. To the Palestinian student who complained about the picture: For the record, I did not decide which picture was chosen for this article: the Jewish Press did. If your main issue is the picture, you need to take it up with the Jewish Press, since they were the ones who utilized it, not me. I just wrote the article, and didn't submit any picture to be posted. Thus, if any one else has any problems addressed toward me, I suggest they stick to the article and not get side-trekked on pictures that I didn't post. On an additional note, in none of my writings, I have never condemned debka dancing nor would I, because I understand that it is cultural. I myself am very much a fan of Israeli folk dancing, which is Israel's traditional dancing. And believe me, if all SJP did was promote debka dancing, I would have no problem with them. Yet unfortunately, the experiences mentioned in this article very much still occur at UMD. SJP recently had an event where they accused Israel of treating the Palestinians like the US treated the Native Americans and I read on the facebook of a current UMD student that they were also intimidated by SJP much more recently. Furthermore, another student I spoke to, who is a current UMD student, said SJP is not open to dialogue with pro-Israel students. So I am sorry but reaching out to anti-Israel Jews is not the same as promoting dialogue and co-existance. Furthermore, you cannot deny the experiences that me and my friends went through. We did live it and no one can deny it. Just because it is old doesn't mean it is irrelevant to the present and didn't happen.

  9. To the Palestinian student who complained about the picture: For the record, I did not decide which picture was chosen for this article: the Jewish Press did. If your main issue is the picture, you need to take it up with the Jewish Press, since they were the ones who utilized it, not me. I just wrote the article, and didn't submit any picture to be posted. Thus, if any one else has any problems addressed toward me, I suggest they stick to the article and not get side-trekked on pictures that I didn't post. On an additional note, in none of my writings, I have never condemned debka dancing nor would I, because I understand that it is cultural. I myself am very much a fan of Israeli folk dancing, which is Israel's traditional dancing. And believe me, if all SJP did was promote debka dancing, I would have no problem with them. Yet unfortunately, the experiences mentioned in this article very much still occur at UMD. SJP recently had an event where they accused Israel of treating the Palestinians like the US treated the Native Americans and I read on the facebook of a current UMD student that they were also intimidated by SJP much more recently. Furthermore, another student I spoke to, who is a current UMD student, said SJP is not open to dialogue with pro-Israel students. So I am sorry but reaching out to anti-Israel Jews is not the same as promoting dialogue and co-existance. Furthermore, you cannot deny the experiences that me and my friends went through. We did live it and no one can deny it. Just because it is old doesn't mean it is irrelevant to the present and didn't happen.

  10. Hassen Khdeir says:

    Who gave you permission to use the photo above? You didn't receive permission to use that photo and I'm requesting you to take the photo down. If not, you will be receiving a phone call from our family Attorney.

    Have a nice day…..

  11. Dimka Nov says:

    somebody needs to chill the **** out

  12. Anonymous says:

    While this article initially frustrated me, upon reading it in its entirety I quickly found that it's nothing but a collection of weakly evidenced, anecdotal ramblings, pushed forth by someone without the slightest bit of shame. I am very proud to have participated in SJP for all 4 years of my undergraduate at the George Washington University, and even more proud that NEVER has SJP led such a dedicated, overt campaign of vitriol, slander and outright bigotry against any student group as is represented here. We were far too busy working to better the lives and understanding of a people who have, for decades, been relegated to the corners of international dialogue, oppressed and victimized by their occupiers, and sprinkled across the globe without ties to or rights in their homeland. Furthermore, it is absolutely ludicrous to complain that SJP hosts "anti-Israel" events. When your national identity becomes synonymous with human rights abuses, defiance against the international community, and racist practices, what is to be expected in a democratic society? Those standing against Israeli practices are not "terrorists" or "hateful," as you claim, but conscientious and honorable. The pro-Israel movement can keep its monied AIPACs, unscrupulous Sheldon Adelsons and pernicious Jewish Presses. And we'll keep our Debke, our morals, and our mission: A FREE PALESTINE.

  13. Calm down, I just e-mailed my editor about the matter. Up until now, it was a holiday in Israel, so no one was working and thus reading such messages.

  14. Laura Welch says:

    This problem on university campuses not only occurs in the USA, but in Canada, Europe, and many other nations/regions of the world. The hatred/anti-Semitism has to stop.

  15. Mahan Amzgr says:

    Irony: Palestinian students are all being polite and respectful in the comments even though they have been offended! Just right such an article about Jewish peopled, and the next day you will be in jail!

  16. Mahan Amzgr says:

    Irony: Palestinian students are all being polite and respectful in the comments even though they have been offended! Just write such an article about Jewish students, and the next thing you know is that you are in jail!

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