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November 24, 2015

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

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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April 1, 2015

50% of Anti-Israel Events in Illinois on Three Campuses

Anti-Israel activity on university and college campuses in Illinois has remained steady over the last two years with student-groups actively working to promote Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel and false allegations such as that Israel is an apartheid state.

Tweets from pro-BDS students during and after the BDS vote at Loyola University.

Since September 2013, more than 70 anti-Israel events have taken place on university and college campuses in Illinois and over 50% of those events were held on three campuses: Loyola University-Chicago, DePaul University, and Northwestern University. So far this year, there have been two divestment resolutions passed by student governments at Loyola University and Northwestern University and 25 anti-Israel events have either taken place or been scheduled on Illinois campuses.

Leading up to the BDS vote at Loyola University, there was a week-long program called “Loyola Divestment Week,” which featured several events promoting BDS and the “Loyola Divest” campaign. Examples of those events included discussions about divestment, a “Palestine 101” session which provided historical context about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and a conversation titled “Reclaiming Our Voices through Social Activism.”

ADL described the Loyola Divest effort as “misguided” and stated that it will likely serve to “divide and polarize the campus community.”

The polarizing effect of the resolution could be witnessed during the voting session and after its passage, as students reacted on Twitter with the hashtag “#LoyolaDivest.” One student remarked during the vote that there were a “handful of privileged white people on one side of room” and that the “rest of humanity [was] on [the] other.” Another student echoed that tweet and wrote “Never understood ‘white tears’ more than now –white jewish students are ‘uncomfortable’ while the Palestinians are suffocating,” and another student celebrated that the campus Hillel allegedly lost members “because #divestment made them uncomfortable and afraid,” stating that, “That’s a win for #LoyolaDivest no one should join Hillel.”

Northwestern University, the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter formed a group called “NU Divest” which worked to promote divestment. Leading up to the Student Government’s vote on their BDS resolution, the group sponsored several anti-Israel events such as a presentation from Hatem Bazian, a founder of American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), on Friday, February 13, 2015 titled  “Colonialism is not Over: Contemporary Movements.” The group also published pro-BDS articles in the campus newspaper to inform their student-body about the BDS campaign and on Wednesday, February 18, 2015, the student government voted to pass their BDS resolution with a 24-22-3 vote.

The BDS campaign at DePaul University was also active this semester because of the campus-wide BDS referendum that was passed by a vote of 1,575-1,333 on May 23, 2014. To follow up on the vote, the DePaul Divest coalition submitted a request to the DePaul Fair Business Practices Committee (FBPC) in January 2015 and asked them to recommend that DePaul divest from Hewlett-Packard, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Veolia, and Caterpillar. The proposal was reportedly rejected by the FBPC.

Flyer from DePaul University SJP Fundraiser for Rasmea Odeh.

Flyer from DePaul University SJP Fundraiser for Rasmea Odeh.

The SJP chapters at both Loyola and DePaul also hosted events to defend and discuss the case of Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian accused by Israel of having taken part in two 1969 bombings by the terrorist group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), who was just convicted on a count of unlawful procurement of naturalization and is facing eighteen months in prison and deportation to Jordan. While Odeh’s case was only discussed at Loyola, at DePaul, the SJP chapter actually hosted a fundraiser for Odeh where all proceeds were to be donated to her legal defense team.

Of the more than 70 anti-Israel events on Illinois campuses since September 2013, SJP has sponsored the majority of those events, which were focused on BDS campaigns and castigating Israeli policy.

Other recent anti-Israel events on other campuses in Illinois include:

  • Shirien D, an Executive Board member of the American Association for Palestinian Equal Rights, spoke about alleged similarities between Ferguson and Gaza at the Illinois Institute of Technology on February 11, 2015.
  • A teach-in for students to learn about and get involved with the BDS movement took place at the University of Illinois-Urabana Champaign (UIUC) on Monday, November 10, 2014.
  • Ilan Pappe, an Israeli anti-Zionist professor who is famous for writing a book titled The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, spoke at the University of Chicago on Friday, October 24, 2014.

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