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November 22, 2014 / 29 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Students for Justice in Palestine’

Loyola U. ‘Suspends’ and Reinstates Students for Justice in Palestine

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

Loyola University Chicago suspended and subsequently reinstated its chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine following an anti-Israel protest this month by the SJP chapter that blocked an event promoting Birthright Israel.

The university informed the chapter on Sept. 19 that it was “temporarily prevented from hosting any on-campus activities or events until their leadership meets with University representatives and the group complies with stated policies and procedures that apply to all student organizations,” according to a statement released by Loyola.

After meetings with university officials on Sept. 25 and 26, the group was allowed to resume its activities.

The one-week suspension was enough time for the university to win accolades for the suspension of SJP. The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (LDB) commended Loyola for instructing SJP to temporarily stop hosting any on-campus activities or events.

It remains to be seen if SJP now will function without violating the rights of others.

The temporary sanctions on SJP came shortly after a member of the group and of the student senate, Israa Elhalawany, was censured by the judicial board of the student government on Sept. 16 for “several Facebook posts over the summer in response to the attacks on Gaza” that included “profanity or expletives.” The board noted that the censure was for the manner of the posts, not the content.

In a protest on Sept. 9, SJP members lined up in front of a table manned by Hillel students promoting Birthright Israel trips. A student news website, The College Fix, quoted Hillel chapter president Talia Sobel as recounting that students from SJP asked Hillel members, “How does it feel to be an occupier?” and “How does it feel to be guilty of ethnic cleansing?”

In March, Loyola’s United Student Government Association took two votes on divestment resolutions. The measure at first passed unanimously. In a subsequent vote, it passed narrowly before being vetoed by the student president.

The university’s president dismissed the resolutions as irrelevant.

JTA contributed to this report.

Pro-’Palestine’ Students at Temple U Blame Victim for Altercation

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

A pro-Israel Jewish student was assaulted by a pro-’Palestine’ student during Temple Fest at Temple University in Philadelphia yesterday, Aug. 20. Except that, according to the pro-’Palestine’ students, the Jewish student harassed and provoked them.

Temple Fest is the event held for new Temple students to become acquainted with the school’s wide diversity of activities and organizations on campus. The myriad organizations set up tables at which literature is distributed and at which members of the organizations describe to new students why they should be interested in becoming members.

Daniel Vessal, a new CAMERA on Campus fellow, claimed that after he attempted to speak to a group of students at the Students for Justice in Palestine table, he was verbally and then physically assaulted. He said he was punched in the face by one of the students at the SJP table, and that others seated there yelled anti-Semitic taunts such as “kike” and “Zionist pig.”

SJP STATEMENT

The SJP’s long, rambling, and at times incoherent statement described what happened as an “unfortunate incident.” It claimed that Vessal is a “former student” (he is a current student) and said that the student who struck Vessal is “not a member of Students for Justice in Palestine.”

Although it states “Temple SJP condones this act of physical violence,” it appears from the context that the SJP meant to write, at least, the opposite.

SJP took the position that Vessal was the one who was not interested in “constructive debate,” claiming he “objected to SJP’s very existence and constitutional right to free speech and assembly.” It is their contention that Vessal was harassing them, saying that the SJP “support terrorism and other racist anti-Palestinian statements.”

It also claimed that SJP relies on civil disobedience and nonviolent protest and “does not infringe on the civil rights of other people, including those who disagree with SJP’s beliefs.” There are many who would take issue with that statement, including the four pro-Israel students who were summarily ejected from a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions lecture at Brooklyn College, based on false claims by an SJP leader who lied about their being disruptive and rude.

According to Temple ’14 SJP student Samantha Pinto, who claimed to be an eyewitness, “this guy wanted to start trouble and insult us. He was calling all Palestinians terrorists and calling us stupid.”

Pinto continued: “I heard him say Israel is not occupying Palestine, but that Palestinians are occupying Gaza. I started laughing at the sheer absurdity because Palestinians are indigenous to Gaza and also unable to leave because of the inhumane siege Israel has maintained since 2007.

“I heard him say ‘You’re sitting here laughing like idiots!’ He aggressively moved closer to me as he said this. It was then that “B,” who is not an SJP member, slapped Vessal. His sunglasses fell to the ground, but he did not,” Pinto said.

Finally, the SJP statement denies vehemently that any anti-Semitic slurs were used. As support for their contention that SJP members did not use such verbal assaults, the group pointed out that SJP has collaborated with Jewish Voice for Peace (a virulently anti-Israel organization), and that there are Jewish members of SJP.

The student who allegedly “slapped” Vessal, said he was “sorry” for what he did,” and admitted he lost his temper, but claimed he did it because Vessal “kept saying ‘you’re protesting for terrorists,  your whole table is pro-terrorist information.”

Temple University officials state the matter is under investigation.

“There were upwards of several hundred people” at Temple Fest on Wednesday,” Ray Betzner, Temple’s Associate Vice President for Executive Communications told The Jewish Press on Thursday.

Jewish Student Assaulted by ‘Pro-Palestine’ Student at Temple University

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

It happened before the school year even officially began.

A group of students were seated at an organizational table at Temple University’s orientation on Wednesday, Aug. 20. The group represented Students for Justice in Palestine, and were handing out literature attacking Israel.

A Jewish, pro-Israel student, Daniel Vessal, attempted to engage in a dialogue with the SJP students, but dialogue is not what they were interested in.  Instead, they started laughing at Vessal, and calling him a “baby-killer,” according to a report at TruthRevolt.

Vessal, a campus fellow for the pro-Israel organization Committee for Accuracy in Media Reporting in America (CAMERA), told TruthRevolt that he attempted  to engage the SJP students in conversation about the conflict, but their response was simply laughter, curses, and then violence.

I said, ‘when Hamas stops sending the rockets, that’s when there can be peace. That’s when we can start.’”

“This one girl sitting at the end of the table was just laughing and laughing at me,” he explained “As she was laughing at me, people at the table were calling me a ‘baby killer,’ I said when she stops then maybe we could have a genuinely peaceful conversation.”

“And then this kid just rocks me in the face as hard as he can. My glasses flew off. After a two-second blur I had no clue what had happened.

As Vessal explained to Temple University security what happened, the SJP students were shouting at him, “Zionist pig!” Other witnesses told TruthRevolt they heard the SJP students yelling “Kike” at Vessal as he lay on the ground.

According to Vessal, Temple’s head of student activities immediately stated that the SJP table should be shut down, but Temple campus security refused, stating that the student who sucker-punched Vessal had already been sent home.

Vessal was taken to Temple University Hospital for evaluation following the assault. He intends to pursue legal action.

Students for Justice in Palestine has been responsible for the vast majority of the most heinous anti-Israel acts on U.S. campuses over the past several years, whether at Brooklyn College or Northeastern University, at Florida campuses and at Michigan. But now that the actions of the group have become violent, perhaps what passes for leadership at Jewish campus organizations and campus administrations will take steps to shut down the organization.

Campus Eviction Notices Fake, but Anti-Semitism is Real

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

The latest anti-Israel trend to gain momentum on college campuses has been the distribution of mock eviction notices in dormitories by members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). Whether or not the notices have specifically targeted Jewish students, experts say the tactic highlights the convergence of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism on campus, creating a hostile environment for Jewish students.

Over the last two years, the mock eviction notices have appeared on at least a dozen campuses around the U.S., garnering the most attention at major East Coast schools including New York University (NYU), Northeastern University, and Harvard University.

Mock eviction notice posted on doors of Jewish students at Northeastern University

Mock eviction notice posted on doors of Jewish students at Northeastern University

The notices at NYU, slid under dorm room doors in April, falsely stated, “Palestinian homes are destroyed as part of the state of Israel’s ongoing attempts to ethnically cleanse the region of its Arab inhabitants and maintain an exclusively ‘Jewish’ character of the state.”

According to Tammi Rossman-Benjamin—a lecturer at the University of California, Santa Cruz and co-founder of the AMCHA Initiative, an organization addressing campus anti-Semitism across the U.S.—the notices are not a criticism intended to “improve Israel as a modern state” or “legitimate criticism about settlements, the Likud government, or any particular aspect of Israeli policy,” as defenders of the mock evictions may claim. Rather, she said the notices are a fundamental “delegitimization of the very notion of the existence of the Jewish state.”

“That in of itself is the key to understanding the difference between legitimate criticism of Israel and anti-Semitic criticism of Israel,” she said.

Brett Cohen, national campus program director for the Israel education organization StandWithUs, agrees that the notices anti-Semitic.

“The intent of a [mock eviction] campaign, which is to demonize Israel and delegitimize the Jewish people’s indigenous right to self-determination in their homeland, is an action deeply rooted in hate and qualifies for the U.S. State Department’s definition for anti-Semitism,” Cohen claimed.

But the more pressing issue, Cohen said, is how SJP “flagrantly violated the universities’ rules with unapproved flyering, and the intimidation of pro-Israel students and invasion of private space that went along with their disruptive actions.” 

Harvey Silverglate, a civil liberties attorney in Boston and co-founder of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, told the Boston Globe in March that the eviction notices at Northeastern University “were obviously not meant to be taken as real eviction notices; they were political statements,” and that the regulations requiring permission for political speech “could, and should, readily be declared invalid under Massachusetts state law.”

But although the notices did state that they were not real, at Northeastern University the flyers were designed to look like legitimate eviction notices that “listed information about a ‘Municipal Court’ ordering the eviction, a case number, a warrant number, and an issue date; it also cited a building code within the explanation of the eviction,” Max Klapholz, a third-year student and co-president of the Huskies for Israel group, said. 

Northeastern administrators initially decided to ban SJP for at least one year for “a series of violations, which included vandalizing university property, disrupting another group’s event, failure to write a civility statement, and distributing flyers without permission,” according to the university, which eventually reinstated the group.

At the various schools, SJP distributed the notices to the dorms of Jewish and non-Jewish alike. At NYU, the anti-Israel group defended itself against the accusation of anti-Semitism by saying in a statement, “Racism is not limited to the practices of the Israeli government, and opposing policies and racist rhetoric, including anti-Semitism, is vital… This action addresses only one of the many horrific aspects of the occupation that Palestinians face daily.”

But AMCHA’s Rossman-Benjamin said the issue is less about whether the notices were intended to specifically target Jews, and more about how they impacted Jewish students. 

First, the notices are being distributed at dorms and invading student privacy, she said. Second, said Rossman-Benjamin, is that “you can have a [mock] eviction notice at a Catholic university that has no Jewish students,” which, while still anti-Semitic, is “not influencing any Jewish students on campus and not creating a hostile environment for them.”  

Students “felt unsafe on their campus” because of the notices, and in their aftermath worried “about just expressing their Jewishness on their campus,” she added.

AMCHA makes the case that at federally funded universities, Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act—which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, color or national origin by federally funded programs—can apply on college campuses if a group is being singled out with harassment, intimidation, or by otherwise negatively impacting students’ rights to a normal academic experience.

This kind of harassment is evident, Brett Cohen said, not only in the mock eviction cases but also in other SJP anti-Israel protests and incidents on campuses, such as the recent University of California, Los Angeles student government elections, in which SJP asked candidates to sign a pledge that they would not take educational trips to Israel.

Laura Adkins, a pro-Israel NYU student activist wrote an op-ed about the mock eviction notices on her campus for the Times of Israel, told JNS.orgthat while opinions remain divided on whether Jewish students were specifically targeted by the notices, she believes they were in fact targeted, especially because the flyers used the term “Judaization.”

“Additionally, one of the two dorms, the Palladium, is well-known to be a dorm that lots of Jewish students choose, in no small part due to the presence of a Shabbat elevator (which automatically stops on each floor so that Shabbat-observant students don’t need to press a button),” she said.

Though the university contested this by saying the elevator exists because of a stairway that exits to the street and cannot be accessed through the lobby behind the security desk, the wall next to the elevator has a plaque written by NYU’s Rabbi Yehuda Sarna.

Rayna Rose Exelbird, the StandWithUs Emerson fellow at Florida Atlantic University and the current social media manager for Howls for Israel on her campus, told JNS.org that when SJP members distributed mock evictions at her campus in 2012, she felt targeted given her experience as an Israel advocate. 

Although non-Jewish students also found the notices posted on their doors, “it definitely wasn’t a coincidence that my door was included in their activities,” she said, adding that she could not find any other notices posted on doors on her floor.

Mock eviction notices have also been posted in dormitories at Claremont Colleges, a California-based consortium of five undergraduate liberal arts colleges and two graduate institutions.

The Claremont McKenna College cafeteria was the site of a 2013 incident in which an Israeli professor tried to get SJP activists to move a protest away from the entrance, so that students would not be blocked from entering and forced to participate in a protest against their own interests. The professor got into altercation with an SJP student, calling him a “little cockroach,” which led to an accusation of racism against Arab students. The professor, however, denied the accusation and said he was provoked.

In the wake of that incident, mock eviction notices appeared at the Claremont Colleges. The Office of Students Affairs at one of the consortium’s schools, Pitzer College, “did respond swiftly and called for the fake eviction notices to be taken down, highlighting the violation in policy,” said Elliott Hamilton, a rising senior at Pitzer, co-president of Claremont Students for Israel, and a founding member of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity chapter at the Claremont Colleges.

But while the administration “did a good job of getting the flyers taken down, they did not openly condemn the students of SJP for violating college policy,” Hamilton told JNS.org. 

While Hamilton does not believe SJP specifically targeted Jewish students at the Claremont Colleges, he said that “did not stop Jewish students from feeling targeted, hated, and vilified.” 

Kenneth L. Marcus, president & general counsel of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and former staff director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, told JNS.org that university leaders “must ban these eviction notices if they enforce their policies on flyers against any other group.” Those leaders, he said, should also “take these eviction notices as a teachable moment to explain that hostility to Israel often crosses the line into anti-Semitism.”

Why Are Student Leaders and Jewish Bruins Under Attack at UCLA?

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

There will always be that one person who does not like you. There will always be that one person who thinks you can do no right. And while you acknowledge your own faults, that one person sees them as far greater than anyone else’s. Implicit in this is the antagonistic relationship between two people, between two differing belief systems, and two differing ways of thought. Unfortunately, this is the situation we have learned to accept when it comes to the relationship between Israeli and Palestinian leaders and pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian groups. On campuses across America, this dynamic is no different.

It seems, however, that during the past year at the University of California, Los Angeles, pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian tensions have reached a climax—partly because there are no longer just two voices fighting against each other, but multiple voices fighting against one. UCLA has seen the mobilization of self-identified minority communities banding together in order to combat the terrors they believe Israel inflicts on the world, and a concerted effort by pro-Palestinian organization to exploit this to their advantage and silence pro-Israel voices on campus.

By going to university, you expect to find yourself, to make friends, and to define beliefs that will guide you for the rest of your life. All of this is happening for me at UCLA, but in a high-pressure situation I could never have anticipated. More than anything else, this was made clear to me during the Undergraduate Students Association Council (USAC) debate over an anti-Israel divestment resolution.

The resolution in question called for divestment from Caterpillar, Cement Roadstone Holdings, General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, and Cemex, claiming that all these companies committed human rights violations against the Palestinian people. If passed, the resolution would be purely symbolic, since the Regents of the University of California had already declared that they would not divest from any companies that maintain operations in Israel.

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a pro-Palestinian organization, authored the resolution, which was sponsored by three council members. SJP has long been active on campuses across America and its ideology is well known. Its website states,

As a solidarity organization, we support the Palestinian call for three basic rights, outlined in 2005: The right not to live under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the right to equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel, the right for Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland. As a group, we focus on supporting these rights instead of advocating for a particular political solution (such as one or two states).

The issue most pro-Israel students had with the resolution was that it did not allow a dialogue on whether or not Israel committed human rights violations; it assumed Israel’s sole culpability without looking at any event in a historical context. Bruins for Israel (BFI), the primary pro-Israel group on campus, was thus the most vocal organization opposing the resolution.

BFI is an entirely mainstream and moderate group. As outgoing President Miriam Eshaghian has said, “By framing factual current events in a historical context, we give the campus community the tools to comprehend the turmoil…. We advocate for a negotiated two-state solution: A Jewish state of Israel and a Palestinian state…. We stand firmly against any form of delegitimization of Israel as a Jewish state.”

To BFI, the resolution was part of the global anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks to delegitimize the Jewish state, and therefore had to be strenuously opposed.

The USAC meeting to vote on the divestment resolution was scheduled for February 25, 2014. For weeks before the deciding USAC meeting, both pro-divestment and anti-divestment groups lobbied individual council members intensely, bombarding them with fact sheets, presentations, explanations of historical context, and, in some cases, friendships that proved to be false and exploitative.

Echoes Of McCarthyism In UCLA Anti-Israel Campaign

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

UCLA has some proud moments in the history of civil liberties.

After World War II, UCLA and the University of California, Berkeley, were hotbeds of opposition to an anti-communist loyalty oath that California tried to impose on academics. Ultimately the professors won in court in 1954.

Sixty years later, a different pressure group purportedly speaking for the “progressive” grassroots wants to impose on UCLA students a loyalty oath of sorts – a pledge foreswearing going on trips to Israel sponsored by certain Jewish organizations.

Issued by five pro-Palestinian groups, the call demanded that candidates for student government take the pledge.

Who would have thought that McCarthyite tactics would be used to target, harass and intimidate pro-Israel students, Jewish and non-Jewish, at UCLA? There are ominous echoes here of both the medieval witch hunts against Jews and Stalin’s show trials.

Leading the charge is Students for Justice in Palestine, which is funded in part by two organizations dedicated to the destruction of Israel, American Muslims for Palestine and Al-Awda.

SJP is using cyberbullying to punish Jewish students in the UCLA student government majority who voted against a recent resolution to divest from and boycott Israel. Jewish students who opposed the resolution reportedly feel uncomfortable even walking on campus because of the hate mail they have received.

Adding insult to injury, SJP has introduced an initiative calling for a judicial board investigation of student council members who have taken trips to Israel sponsored by groups such as the Anti-Defamation League, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and Hasbara Fellowships; the SJP deems the groups have “political agendas that marginalize multiple communities on campus.”

On other campuses across the country, SJP tactics include mock eviction notices against Jewish students, “die-ins,” and promotions of virulently anti-Israel speakers and events.

The SJP initiative demanding that candidates for student government positions sign a pledge not to take certain trips to Israel violates both the UCLA Principles of Community Conduct and the Student Conduct Code against harassment of all kinds.

Unfortunately, what’s happening at UCLA is not an aberration but part of a national trend. Here are examples from a coast-to-coast report compiled by Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a founder of the AMCHA Initiative, a nonprofit group that combats campus anti-Semitism:

  • At UC Davis, a student who expressed concern about anti-Semitic banners displayed at an anti-Israel “occupation” rally was physically assaulted by a protester who screamed in his face, “You are racist and you should die in hell.”
  • At UC Berkeley, a Jewish girl holding an “Israel wants peace” sign was ramrodded with a shopping cart by the head of the local SJP chapter.
  • At San Francisco State University last fall, the General Union of Palestine Students hosted an all-day event where participants could make posters and T-shirts that said, “My heroes have always killed colonizers” – meaning Jews.
  • At Harvard, the Palestine Security Committee frightened Jewish students by placing mock eviction notices on their dormitory rooms.
  • At Northeastern University in Boston, SJP vandalized a menorah and disrupted Jewish events.
  • At the University of Michigan, anti-Israel student activists hurled death threats at Jewish student council members and called them “dirty Jew” and “kike.”

Why is it that so many university administrators and academics seem paralyzed to act if the victims of campus bullying are Zionist Jews?

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block’s reactions to the developments on his campus have been unsatisfactory. First, according to the Daily Bruin, he wanted to “leave the matter to be resolved by students.” Later, he said, “I am troubled that the pledge can reasonably be seen as trying to eliminate selected viewpoints from the discussion,” but he nevertheless stood up for the pledge as free speech protected by the First Amendment.

Jewish DePaul Student: ‘I No Longer Felt Safe on this Campus’

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

This week, students at DePaul University are being asked to get involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and vote on a non-binding resolution that asks the university to divest from companies that do business in the Jewish State. But for some Jewish students on the Lincoln Park, Chicago campus, the campaign behind the proposed measure has created an atmosphere of intimidation, not free speech.

Rachel (last name withheld), a sophomore at DePaul, explained that the “DePaul Divest” campaign, begun two months ago, has transformed this campus from one that used to be “safe and community-giving.”

“This entire campaign and entire sit-in going on in the SAC (Schmitt Academic Center) is totally unsafe for Jewish students and I have had a lot of Jewish students text me and call me today and tell me they are not comfortable walking through that part of our campus, which is really disheartening.”

Rachel added, “About two months ago when SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine) started the ‘DePaul Divest’ campaign, I no longer felt safe on this campus and I no longer felt I could be a proud Jewish student.”

During a Tuesday afternoon public forum on campus about the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, freshmen student Ally (last name withheld) told a pro-Israel panel that as a Jewish student, she feels intimidated on the Lincoln Park campus. (Note: SJP did not respond to an invitation to participate according to moderator Professor Patrick Callahan.)

When asked if she feels as safe as the other students on campus, Ally said, “I do kind of feel as a Jewish student that I am being targeted on campus. I feel that a lot of questions are being directed to me and I am constantly on the defensive on campus,” she explained. “I have to defend myself, my Judaism, my pride in Israel every day and it’s getting a little bit exhausting.”

Ally continued, “I’d like to live and go to a university where everybody can have their own opinions and have a diverse community and feel safe.”

Accusations of intimidation tactics against the BDS movement are not new.

Last month Jewish students were allegedly targeted on the New York University campus. Mock eviction notices were placed under doors in their dorm, causing Jewish students to “feel violated and unsafe.” A similar incident at Northeastern University in March led to that SJP chapter being suspended.

During the investigation of this story, supporters of DePaul Divest holding a rally in a popular “social gathering and study area” became agitated when they noticed photos and video being taken of their rally.

“The outright harassment and intimidation of pro-Israel students is commonplace wherever BDS rears its hateful head,” said Brett Cohen, National Campus Program Director for the pro-Israel group StandWithUs. “Shocking events have occurred at Vassar College over the past few weeks, ranging from BDS supporters violently shouting down opponents and posting actual neo-Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda images to their social media accounts.  A hostile takeover of the Student Government agenda at the University of Michigan last April included BDS supporters shouting racial epithets at student senators.”

SJP DePaul treasurer Hanna (last name withheld) did not respond to an email request for comment regarding Jewish students “feeling intimidated” or concerns about a lack of “open and honest dialogue” on campus.

When asked about charges of anti-Semitism in an earlier on-campus interview, Hanna stated, “There are three goals to the BDS movement. The right of return for the Palestinians as stipulated by U.N. resolution 194; the rights of Palestinian citizens within Israel to full equality; and the end of the occupation. This is a rights-based movement; there is nothing anti-Semitic about it.”

Student voting on the divestment resolution concludes on Friday. DePaul’s President Dennis Holtschneider has stated he “will not be able to honor it one way or the other without first being satisfied that the university community has explored all the matters at issue, and come to a thoughtful, informed, recommendation.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/jewish-depaul-student-i-no-longer-felt-safe-on-this-campus/2014/05/23/

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