Early in the fall semester of 2021, the Students Supporting Israel Movement applied to be a registered campus club at Duke University. SSI is a rapidly growing pro-Israel international campus movement that supports the State of Israel. Founded at the University of Minnesota in early 2012 by Ilan Sinelnikov and Valeria Chazin, it currently has multiple chapters across the United States and Canada.
SSI is an independent, nonpartisan, grassroots campus movement created by students, for students, to organize a strong and united pro-Israel front on college campuses. They are made up of students from different political, religious, and ethnic backgrounds, who believe in grassroots action, and want to empower students who support Israel on campus to lead their fellow students and the campus community.
However, only five days after the group’s approval to pitch its tent at Duke, in November of 2021, the Duke Student Government vetoed its recognition as a club, citing an absurd reason: apparently, a social media response of SSI Duke’s chapter to a student criticizing Israel violated a non-existing Duke code of conduct.
The unprecedented veto of the club was issued by the Student Government President and upheld by nearly all of the student government senators at the end of a long hearing that looked more like a public trial for the SSI activists.
On Thursday, we received an email from SSI, announcing: “We are now happy to inform you that almost four months after the veto of our club, tonight the Duke Student Government did the right thing and unanimously approved SSI to be officially registered on campus again like it should have been from the very beginning.”
The email noted that “while much can be said about the events of the past four months, in this message we want to highlight one of the most important things that this process showed us; the strength of the pro-Israel community when it stands united. Many organizations, community members, reporters, students, and faculty stood by our side in the process of seeking to overturn the veto.”
Here’s a list of the good guys in this story: “The Louis Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law for informing the students of their rights, maintaining continuous personal communication with SSI and the students, and writing letters. We thank the North Carolina Coalition for Israel, The Zionist Organization of America, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Zachor Legal Institute, Israel Campus Coalition, Stand With Us, The National Jewish Advocacy Center, all who spent time conducting research, writing letters in support of SSI’s club reinstatement, communicating with our team and more. Our thanks go out to the Anti-Defamation League, Coalition for Jewish Values, Alums for Campus Fairness, Hillel, Chabad on Campus, The Edwin Black Show, Campus Reform, and United States Senator Rand Paul for bringing attention to the case and supporting SSI in statements and action.”
Yes, you read right, Senator Paul has good moments.
The Duke SSI folks would also like to “thank the many parents, community members, students, journalists, and professionals who individually helped by contacting Duke administration by emails, phone calls, and letters, signing our petition, sharing the news, and cheering us on in support of our cause.”