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March 22, 2016 3

Intended or Not, SJP’s Actions Have Consequences for LGBTQ People

By Seth M. Marnin, Vice Pres­i­dent for Civil Rights

Recent homo­pho­bic and anti-Semitic inci­dents at Brown Uni­ver­sity came on the heels of the announce­ment that Janet Mock, trans­gen­der author and founder of #Girl­s­LikeUs, a social media project that empow­ers trans women, had can­celled her sched­uled speak­ing engage­ment there. Mock’s talk, Redefin­ing Real­ness, was spon­sored by Moral Voices, the Brown Cen­ter for Stu­dents of Color, Sarah Doyle Women’s Cen­ter, LGBTQ Cen­ter, Sex­ual Assault Peer Edu­ca­tors, Swearer Cen­ter for Pub­lic Ser­vice, Office of the Chap­lains, the Rhode Island School of Design’s Office of Inter­cul­tural Stu­dent Engage­ment, and Brown/RISD Hillel.

React­ing to the fact that Hil­lel was one of the co-sponsors of pro­gram, the Brown Uni­ver­sity chap­ter of Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine (SJP) launched a change.org peti­tion urg­ing Ms. Mock to reject Hillel’s invi­ta­tion to speak, say­ing that she should accept “Brown stu­dents’ spon­sor­ship instead of Hillel’s.”  Although they were only able to gain 159 sup­port­ers (of the nearly 9,000 stu­dents who attend Brown), SJP’s divi­sive efforts led to Ms. Mock can­celling her talk.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

While some may be quick to crit­i­cize Ms. Mock’s deci­sion, con­dem­na­tion should instead be lev­eled against SJP and their efforts to splin­ter a com­mu­nity and use Ms. Mock as a pawn. In their effort to link Hillel’s Moral Voices’ cam­paign — a largely domes­tic ini­tia­tive high­light­ing vio­lence against LGBT+ indi­vid­u­als and com­mu­ni­ties — to vio­lence in the Mid­dle East, SJP forced a trans­gen­der woman of color to choose between silenc­ing her­self or allow­ing her­self to be exploited for their unre­lated cru­sade.  She should never have been put in that position.

The homo­pho­bic and anti-Semitic graf­fiti that appeared on Brown’s cam­pus just days later occurred in an envi­ron­ment that SJP helped cre­ate. Their claim to be sur­prised is unper­sua­sive.   More­over, the graf­fiti is only one vis­i­ble sign of the con­se­quences of SJP’s actions. While SJP’s efforts to alien­ate Jew­ish stu­dents are well doc­u­mented, there are other impli­ca­tions too.

There are far too few vis­i­ble trans­gen­der role mod­els and lead­ers. Efforts that have the effect of quash­ing those scarce voices have far-reaching reper­cus­sions.  For exam­ple, stud­ies have shown that the sui­cide attempt rate among trans­gen­der men and women exceeds 41%, greatly sur­pass­ing the 4.6% of the over­all U.S. pop­u­la­tion who report a sui­cide attempt at some point in their lives. The ele­vated rates of sui­cide attempts are con­nected with sur­vivors’ expe­ri­ences of fam­ily rejec­tion and dis­crim­i­na­tion and vio­lence at school and work. The absence of trans­gen­der voices in main­stream dis­course also plays a role. There few role mod­els for young trans­gen­der peo­ple, and fam­i­lies, co-workers, and friends of trans­gen­der peo­ple have lim­ited oppor­tu­ni­ties to hear from trans­gen­der lead­ers.  Such an expe­ri­ence would bet­ter equip them to be allies in the future. Unfor­tu­nately, SJP’s actions fore­closed that pos­si­bil­ity for the Brown Uni­ver­sity campus.

The impor­tance of pro­vid­ing plat­form for trans­gen­der voices is under­scored by the fact that, accord­ing to the National Coali­tion of Anti-Violence Pro­grams’ most recent report, vio­lence against trans­gen­der women and par­tic­u­larly trans­gen­der women of color remains at an alarm­ingly high rate. At present, only 17 states and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia have hate crime laws that explic­itly cover gen­der iden­tity. Crit­i­cal efforts to address vio­lence against LGBTQ peo­ple, includ­ing advo­cacy for inclu­sive hate crime laws like the 50 States Against Hate cam­paign, are under­mined by orga­ni­za­tions that engage in activism that results in silenc­ing trans­gen­der voices. That too is what SJP did.

SJP encour­aged a speaker – wholly unre­lated to Israel — to reject an invi­ta­tion from a broad coali­tion of stu­dent orga­ni­za­tions solely because one of those orga­ni­za­tions is Jew­ish. Intended or not, SJP harmed the LGBTQ com­mu­nity at Brown and beyond.  It’s well beyond time to reject these divi­sive tactics.

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November 24, 2015 2

Campus Groups Exploit Domestic Social Issues to Attack Israel

Anti-Israel groups on uni­ver­sity and col­lege cam­puses con­tinue to link the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict to issues of police bru­tal­ity and dis­crim­i­na­tion in the U.S., in an attempt to gain broader sup­port for Boy­cott, Divest­ment, and Sanc­tions (BDS) cam­paigns and other anti-Israel ini­tia­tives from minor­ity stu­dent groups. By employ­ing this tac­tic, groups such as Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine (SJP) link domes­tic issues to the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict, thereby couch­ing hos­til­ity towards Israel in social jus­tice terms and mak­ing Israel look like an aggressor.students-for-justice-in-palestine-suhad-khatib

Below are a few exam­ples of these events and actions from the 2015–2016 aca­d­e­mic year:

  • Linda Sar­sour, the National Advo­cacy Direc­tor for the National Net­work for Arab Amer­i­can Com­mu­ni­ties, spoke at Rut­gers Uni­ver­sity on Mon­day, Novem­ber 23, 2015 for an event titled “Sol­i­dar­ity: Uni­fy­ing Com­mu­ni­ties of Color to Break Cycles of Oppres­sion.” Accord­ing to the orga­niz­ers of the event, it was held to focus on a num­ber of issues, includ­ing “mass incar­cer­a­tion, mass crim­i­nal­iza­tion, struc­tural vio­lence, apartheid, racism, state-sanctioned vio­lence, police bru­tal­ity, tear gassed for fight­ing for free­dom and equal­ity– a real­ity for Pales­tini­ans liv­ing under occu­pa­tion, and for Blacks fight­ing an unjust sys­tem here in the United States.”
  • Suhad Khatib, a mem­ber of the St. Louis Pales­tine Sol­i­dar­ity Com­mit­tee (PSC), spoke via Skype at San Diego State Uni­ver­sity on Thurs­day, Novem­ber 19 for an event titled “Resist­ing Oppres­sion from Miz­zou to Gaza.” In her pre­sen­ta­tion, she stated that African-Americans, Pales­tini­ans, Mex­i­cans, and oppressed peo­ple are con­nected, claim­ing that “Fer­gu­son taught me more about my con­nec­tion with Pales­tine than any­thing else because you under­stand racism and sys­tem­atic racism. We as Pales­tini­ans are brain­washed to think we are white when we are peo­ple of color and are oppressed.”
  • The Mar­quette Uni­ver­sity SJP chap­ter spon­sored a panel dis­cus­sion titled “Out­lets 4 Activism,” which fea­tured Ali Abunimah, founder and exec­u­tive direc­tor of the anti-Israel Elec­tronic Intifada blog, as a pan­elist. Other pan­elists at the event included Nate Hamil­ton, an activist from the #Black­Lives­Mat­ter move­ment and brother of Don­tre Hamil­ton; and Oscar Her­nan­dez, an immi­grant rights activist who works as an Orga­nizer for We Own the DREAM. The event was co-sponsored by Black Stu­dent Coun­cil (BSC), Youth Empow­ered in the Strug­gle (Y.E.S), the National Asso­ci­a­tion for the Advance­ment of Col­ored Peo­ple (NAACP), and Jew­ish Voice for Peace (JVP).
  • Many SJP chap­ters and other anti-Israel groups across the coun­try co-sponsored ral­lies and demon­stra­tions held in sol­i­dar­ity with African-American stu­dents at the Uni­ver­sity of Mis­souri. At one of the demon­stra­tions, which took place at Loy­ola Uni­ver­sity on Wednes­day, Novem­ber 11, Nadine Dar­wish, a mem­ber of Loy­ola SJP and Loy­ola Divest, stated “Now is the time to hold admin­is­tra­tors accountable…No longer can we remain com­pla­cent as stu­dents and stu­dent activists. We have to put an end to the poli­cies and prac­tices that con­tribute to the sys­temic trauma­ti­za­tion of stu­dents of color on cam­pus, par­tic­u­larly Black stu­dents and my peers in SJP.”

These events are a con­tin­u­a­tion of what occurred dur­ing the pre­vi­ous aca­d­e­mic year, when anti-Israel groups worked to link the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict to Fer­gu­son, Mis­souri and when SJP and its part­ners began to pub­licly back dif­fer­ent move­ments and offer sup­port to var­i­ous groups, while broad­en­ing sup­port for BDS and other anti-Israel initiatives.

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September 25, 2015 20

University Departments Sponsor Key BDS Advocates

Uni­ver­sity depart­ments on five dif­fer­ent col­lege cam­puses have spon­sored or co-sponsored anti-Israel pro­grams pro­mot­ing Boy­cott, Divest­ment, and Sanc­tions (BDS) cam­paigns so far dur­ing the 2015–16 aca­d­e­mic year. The found­ing goals of the BDS move­ment and many of the strate­gies employed in BDS cam­paigns are anti-Semitic.  Such spon­sor­ship cre­ates the per­cep­tion that spe­cific uni­ver­sity depart­ments sanc­tion these goals and strate­gies, lend­ing an added degree of legit­i­macy and cred­i­bil­ity to anti-Israel advo­cacy and cam­paigns that may alien­ate Jew­ish and pro-Israel students.omar-barghouti-berkeley-flyer

Since the 2012–13 aca­d­e­mic year, there have been at least 99 anti-Israel events that received uni­ver­sity depart­ment spon­sor­ship, includ­ing 44 events which took place in the 2014–15 aca­d­e­mic year.

On Sep­tem­ber 18, 2015, Omar Bargh­outi, a found­ing mem­ber of the Pales­tin­ian Cam­paign for the Aca­d­e­mic and Cul­tural Boy­cott of Israel (PACBI), spoke at the Uni­ver­sity of California-Berkeley. His pre­sen­ta­tion, which dis­cussed the role which he believes acad­e­mia should play in BDS, was spon­sored by the cam­pus Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine (SJP) chap­ter and co-sponsored by eight dif­fer­ent Uni­ver­sity depart­ments, includ­ing the Cen­ter for Race and Gen­der, Asian Amer­i­can Stud­ies, Native Amer­i­can Stud­ies, Eth­nic Stud­ies, Eng­lish, Chi­cano Stud­ies, Near East­ern Stud­ies, and African Amer­i­can Studies.

Bargh­outi, a founder of the move­ment who recently stated that he believes BDS is turn­ing main­stream, has used Holo­caust imagery to con­demn Israel and its sup­port­ers in past pre­sen­ta­tions and inter­views. He also has advo­cated for a one-state solu­tion to the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict, along with the right of return for Pales­tin­ian refugees, claim­ing that one state would mean “equal­ity for everyone–irrespective of iden­tity, eth­nic­ity, reli­gion or any other attribute.”

Barghouti’s event is not unique for this year though, as the Cen­ter for Diver­sity and Inclu­sion at Michi­gan Tech­no­log­i­cal Uni­ver­sity spon­sored a sim­i­lar pre­sen­ta­tion from Israeli anti-Zionist author Miko Peled on Sep­tem­ber 15, 2015. Over the years, Peled has made sev­eral state­ments about Jews, Israel, and the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict that would not define “inclu­sion” or “diver­sity.” These state­ments include his alle­ga­tion that Israel turned Gaza into an “enor­mous con­cen­tra­tion camp” or more recently, when he stated that “nei­ther Iran, Hezbol­lah or Hamas pose a threat to Israel, they pose a threat to the Israeli occu­pa­tion and oppres­sion of Palestinians.”

Other events which received depart­ment spon­sor­ship this year include an upcom­ing per­for­mance by Remi Kanazi, an Orga­niz­ing Com­mit­tee mem­ber of the US Cam­paign for the Aca­d­e­mic & Cul­tural Boy­cott of Israel (USACBI), at John Jay Col­lege. At John Jay, Kanazi’s per­for­mance is being co-sponsored by the Depart­ment of Gen­der Studies.

In addi­tion, a Sep­tem­ber 16 pre­sen­ta­tion at Drew Uni­ver­sity by Bassem Tamimi, a Pales­tin­ian anti-Israel activist who has been arrested in Israel sev­eral times, was co-sponsored by the Mid­dle East Stud­ies Depart­ment; and a pre­sen­ta­tion from Vijay Prashad, the for­mer Edward Said chair in Amer­i­can Stud­ies at the Amer­i­can Uni­ver­sity of Beirut, was co-sponsored by the Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs Program.

While not all advo­cates of BDS are anti-Semitic and may be dri­ven by per­ceived legit­i­mate crit­i­cism of cer­tain Israeli poli­cies toward Pales­tini­ans, many indi­vid­u­als engaged in BDS cam­paigns are dri­ven by oppo­si­tion to Israel’s very exis­tence as a Jew­ish state. Because of this, it’s unfor­tu­nate that uni­ver­sity depart­ments would lend their spon­sor­ship to events that can cre­ate an envi­ron­ment that is hos­tile to Jew­ish and pro-Israel students.

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