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October 23, 2014

Tufts University Hosting National Students For Justice In Palestine Conference

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the nation’s largest pro-Palestinian student organization with more than 80 active chapters on college and university campuses, will hold its 4th National Students for Justice in Palestine Conference at Tufts University. The conference, which runs from October 24-26, is titled “Beyond Solidarity: Resisting Racism and Colonialism from the U.S. to Palestine,” a reference to SJP activists’ efforts to connect varying struggles and movements to the Palestinian cause.sjp-national-conference-tufts-university

As with previous SJP national conferences this year’s conference is only open to students who are active with a campus group. The conference is set to feature a wide array of anti-Israel activists, including university professors, students, clergy members, and members of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Among the invited speakers are J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, an Associate Professor of American Studies & Anthropology at Wesleyan University and an advisor to the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI); Muhammad Desai, the coordinator of BDS South Africa who was seen singing the words “shoot the Jew” at a 2013 anti-Israel protest; Sara Kershner, a co-founder of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network; and several student activists from various SJP chapters.

The conference panels, according to the SJP conference website, will consist of discussions that conflate social justice with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Panel titles include: “From Ferguson to Palestine: Resisting State Violence and Racism,” and “Migrant Justice and the Undocumented Palestinian Experience in the U.S.” SJP chapters often try to link domestic issues and events, such as the Ferguson, Missouri shooting and its aftermath to the conflict in Gaza, couching hostility toward Israel in social justice terms to appeal to a broader audience. In addition, there will also be a session on “Islamic Movements of Palestine,” that will examine “how Islam informed resistance movements and what different ways Islamic movements operated in Palestine.”

In previous years SJP held its national conference at Columbia University in 2011, the University of Michigan in 2012, and at Stanford University in 2013. The conferences typically include inflammatory language and rhetoric to describe Israel, and, at times, speakers have glorified the use of violence by Palestinian groups.

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April 12, 2012

The Persistency of “Pinkwashing” Allegations at Columbia University

Columbia University’s Center for Gender and Sexuality is the latest institution to jump on the “pinkwashing” bandwagon and claim that Israel’s promotion of its progressive record on LGBT rights is an attempt to divert attention from its alleged human rights violations against Palestinians. 

 On April 10, the Center – in conjunction with Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) – held an event titled, “The Ethics of Pinkwashing: LGBT Rights in Israel/Palestine,” the second of two pinkwashing events at the university in less than a week.

On April 4, the Center had sponsored an event featuring three professors and professionals employed at the university who traveled on an LGBT delegation to the West Bank several months ago.The Center’s decision to single out Israel for criticism seems counter-intuitive given their shared commitments to promoting sexual equality rights. Indeed, this relatively new “anti-pinkwashing” campaign, which seeks to minimize Israel’s LGBT values and solely judge it within the context of the Israeli occupation, appears to be an attempt to discredit any and all positive aspects of Israeli society. 
The lead speaker at last week’s event, Katherine Franke (the director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality), criticized Israel’s alleged exploitation of LGBT people, describing it as a “self-conscious” and insincere propaganda effort to divert attention from the occupation. Franke argued that “the one has nothing to with the other” and that Israel’s record on LGBT people should be kept distinct from the occupation. In fact, pro-Israel advocates completely agree, albeit from the opposite perspective: Israel has the right to be proud of and promote its LGBT record, which indeed has absolutely nothing to do with the occupation.

Franke also claimed that Israeli security organizations often pressure gay Palestinians to collaborate with the Israeli government in exchange for asylum or promises of safety. She then accused Israel of creating a situation where gay Palestinians are viewed with suspicion and are isolated by Palestinians because it is assumed that they are collaborators, rather than holding Palestinians accountable for their treatment of LGBT people.  

Franke’s co-panelist, Professor Kendall Thomas, claimed that the situation in the West Bank reminds him of the era of segregation and Jim Crow laws in the U.S. Thomas also asserted that Israel’s Jewish character and democracy are on a “collision course” and cannot be reconciled with each other.

Claims of Israeli pinkwashing gained mainstream attention after an op-ed on the subject was published in The New York Times in November. Pinkwashing-related events have since taken place during this year’s Israeli Apartheid Week program, and at several universities and other venues in recent weeks. 

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March 5, 2012

A Round-Up of Israeli Apartheid Week Events

With Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) drawing to a close in cities around the United States, here is a sampling of what took place on college campuses and elsewhere this past week:
  • Brandeis University: Ali Abunimah delivered a talk in which he discussed his support for a one-state solution and described Israel as a “sectarian government.” Abunimah was quoted saying: “The claim that Israel should be a Jewish state can be asserted, not defended—not legally, politically or ethically…Israel has reached a moral, political and ethical dead-end. The notion that Israel can be both Jewish and democratic violates the rights of Palestinians, which is fine if you don’t see Palestinians as humans, but, if you do, it is wrong.” He also offensively compared the Holocaust to the “Nakba,” a term Palestinians use to describe the 1948 War of Independence and the establishment of the state of Israel. He said, “We must condemn Nakba denial as strongly as we must condemn Holocaust denial.”
  • George Washington University: Members of the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter tried to disrupt an event organized by GW’s pro-Israel organization MEOR. The event hosted a former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier, Sergeant Benjamin Anthony.
  • Columbia University: Members of SJP staged a “house demolition act” that was intended to mimic Israel’s demolition of illegal Palestinian homes. One of the activists argued that these demolitions are made possible by U.S. tax dollars and Columbia University’s investments, which fund “special Caterpillar bulldozers for Israel to demolish Palestinian homes.”
  • New York City: Approximately 100 members of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QAIA) gathered in the lobby of the LGBT Center to protest the Center’s decision not to host events related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. [In March 2011, the Center had decided not to host an IAW event.] Protesters held signs that read “Stop Pinkwashing Israeli Apartheid” and “End Israeli Apartheid,” and accused the center of “succumbing to the outspoken in power” and “betray[ing] its historic mission.” After an hour indoors, the protest moved outside to the sidewalk.

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