In the early morning hours of Thursday April 24th, just three days before Holocaust Remembrance Day began, the New York University chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) slid mock eviction notices decrying Israel’s steps towards “Judaization” and “ethnic cleansing” under the doors of a number of dorm rooms on campus. Though people across the country were shocked by this stunt, much of the media coverage of the incident operated with the implicit assumption that this group is simply one that seeks to further Palestinian statehood.
The truth is far more insidious: SJP’s flyers and the actions of SJP across the country are not pro-Palestine; they’re anti-peace.
SJP was co-founded by the chairman of the radical anti-Israel organization, American Muslims for Palestine (AMP). Hatem Bazian has a track record of making incendiary comments and has been noted for his anti-Semitic remarks allegedly made during the 1990s at San Francisco State University. He allegedly attacked the student newspaper, saying it was full of Jewish spies.
SJP members and supporters believe that peace is only possible with the destruction of the state of Israel. In the words of one George Washington University SJP student, “As the name [SJP] suggests, this organization seeks a just solution for the Palestinian people...Justice is the goal and a one-state solution is the means; will be considered to be the best means for achieving the goal." Pictures on NYU SJP’s Facebook page display slogans like “Gaza today is Warsaw Ghetto” and “Israel = Racism & Genocide.” Following the controversy at NYU, NYU SJP tweeted to SJP supporter Max Blumenthal that “The existence of Israel is in undeniably a flagrant violation of UN Resolutions and int'l law” (A tweet they quickly took down). In his most recent book, Goliath, Max Blumenthal, another SJP favorite, compared Israel to the Nazis. Even the liberal publication The Nation dubbed his book the “I Hate Israel Handbook.”
In a debate on NYU Local’s Op Ed Live series, NYU SJP representative Kumars Salehi openly called the peace process a sham, and had no answer when his opponent pointed out that every time Israel offers a concession which would grant them control of 95% of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, they walk away from the table and respond with government-sanctioned terrorist attacks carried out against Israeli citizens.
On the campus of Northeastern University, the behavior of Students for Justice in Palestine has been so extreme that the chapter was temporarily suspended. During the Operation Pillar of Defense in late 2012, hundreds of Northeastern University SJP protesters gathered in downtown Boston shouting “Resistance is justified when people are occupied,” and “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and physically threatened Jewish counter-protestors.
The actions of SJP chapters across the country are blatantly antithetical to peace of any kind. By parading anti-Semitic speakers around campuses nationwide, crashing Holocaust Awareness Week and other Jewish events, and posting pictures that call for violence against the state of Israel, SJP is fostering nothing more than glorified hate speech against the Jewish state and the Jewish people.
This extremist campus movement is also responsible for the anti-Israel divestment hearings that are making their way to campuses around the country. By fulfilling the aspirations of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, SJP seeks to have universities divest from Israeli companies. No other country has been targeted, holding the Jewish state to a standard well above International norms. This falls under Natan Sharanksy’s widely accepted definition of anti-Semitism as that which demonizes, delegitimizes, or holds Israel and the Jewish people to a double standard.
Divestment resolutions have failed on campuses around the country, from UCLA to Michigan University and a resolution was permanently tabled at Cornell University. The intolerant campaign does not even have the backing of the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, who has rejected the BDS movement plainly affirming, "No, we do not support the boycott of Israel."
Real justice for Palestinians requires the furtherance of a national identity divorced from anti-Israel and anti-Semitic propaganda. Instead of demonizing Israel and the Jewish people, Students for Justice in Palestine should insist on positive Palestinian representation focused on a Palestinian cultural identity as well as a commitment to building a more positive future for both the Israeli and Palestinian people.