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Imagine if, less than a week after the mass terror attacks that killed 130 people in Paris in November 2015, a group of students on American campuses held rallies praising the ISIS-aligned attackers. Imagine if they held up posters that called for more of the same. Imagine as well that they had glorified the murders as an inevitable part of “decolonization and liberation.”
Now you can understand, perhaps, why American Jewish students—and not just Israeli students—are so alarmed by Students for Justice in Palestine, a group broadly sympathetic to Hamas and its ISIS-inspired actions.
Their words are in social media, on signs, in training materials and in other public settings. They call the Oct. 7 murders of 1,400 Israelis and other nationals a “historic win.” Their marketing materials feature and celebrate the image of an armed Hamas paraglider, a reference to the means of transport by which terrorists landed at a desert music festival to embark on the mass slaughter of 260 people, mostly young men and women, and the abduction of many more. Their materials suggest the Hamas pogrom was “legitimate and … necessary.”
And, as usual, their public rallies and online comments are punctuated by the genocidal declaration “Free Palestine” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”
If anyone doesn’t know by now, that means free of Jews. That means the genocide of more than six million Jews in the state of Israel. Perhaps because of experience, Jews are taking this threat literally.
The question is: What will university administrators do when they are confronted by clear evidence that SJP chapters, now on hundreds of campuses across the country, glorify the mass murder of Jews, use violent rhetoric toward Jews and Israelis, and are regularly guilty of what anyone would call genocidal incitement?
We shall see. For decades, many universities treated SJP as just another political advocacy group, like the College Democrats. SJP leaders serve on student governments, and their chapters receive funding from student fees and are advised by faculty.
But the College Democrats don’t celebrate the murder and kidnapping of innocent people.
It’s time universities revisit this hands-off position. SJP glorifies violence against Jews and treats the rape of civilians, the point-blank execution of the elderly and the slaughter of families in their own homes as a mere cost of doing business—the price that must be paid for the progress they seek. Therefore, not only is it excused, but they want more of it.
SJP is not content with fomenting violence and hatred against the Jews of Israel. They take aim at Jews on campus. SJP calls for “dismantling” Zionism on U.S. campuses— that means forcing out not only Israelis who happen to be professors or students, but anyone who believes that the Jewish state is legitimate and deserving of the same rights as, say, Argentina or Poland. That would include Hillel and Chabad—two organizations that serve Jewish students with meals, opportunities for prayer and study and, yes, a way of connecting with and learning about the state of Israel.
Antisemitic attacks and incidents on campus are up meaningfully—no wonder, given SJP’s efforts to demonize Jews. According to the World Jewish Congress, 57 percent of Jewish students reported witnessing or experiencing antisemitic incidents on campus or in public. If I were a university administrator trying to solve the antisemitism problem, I would probably take a hard look at the one group on campus that celebrates the death of the Jews. But that’s just me.
At vigils held by Jewish students this past week, SJP activists held signs of hate and bullhorned their “Free, free Palestine” chants over the prayers and songs. If a pro-Israel professor and policy maker comes to campus, expect SJP to disrupt—or try to. Universities say they want civil dialogue and discussion. SJP makes that impossible if the subject is Israel or the Middle East.
Maybe SJP chapters should be allowed to do all these things. But this isn’t about free speech. It’s about whether the university should sponsor this kind of behavior or underwrite it.
University administrators have a responsibility to protect the rights of all members of the campus to be free from harassment, attack and other civil rights violations. They are, on many campuses, failing to meet this basic standard.
SJP is not the only problem here, or even the most glaring. Also guilty are faculty members such as the lecturer at Stanford who, after the Oct. 7 pogrom, reportedly decided to force Jewish students to identify themselves, separate themselves to a corner of the room and endure a diatribe on how “this is what Israel does to the Palestinians.”
Such outrages are commonplace in American college classrooms—to put it mildly, they don’t support the aims of any university I know of. In fact, they represent the kind of behavior that destroys universities from within.
It’s time for university administrators to pay attention to this threat and finally take it seriously.
Here’s what matters: we have just witnessed a horrific, barbaric act against innocent life. And a well-known campus group supports it.
In the face of such basic facts, university administrators must act. If not, they will be forced to account for their indifference one day. Perhaps to federal investigators. Perhaps to alumni and donors. And, certainly, to the judgment of history: in the face of such obvious evil and totalitarian fascism on campus, they did nothing. We Jews have seen that, too.