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Students for Justice in Palestine

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Students for Justice in Palestine
SJP Logo with white background.png
AbbreviationSJP
Motto"From local roots to nationwide branches: bridging student movements"
Formation1993
Location
  • Various independent chapters across North America
Colors
Red, Green, White, Black
AffiliationsPalestine Solidarity Movement, Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) is a pro-Palestinian college student activism organization in the United States, Canada and New Zealand. It has campaigned for boycott and divestment against corporations that deal with Israel and organized events about Israel's human rights violations.

As of 2019, SJP had over 200 chapters on American and Canadian universities.[1] Some SJP chapters in the United States have adopted the name Palestine Solidarity Committee or Students for Palestinian Equal Rights. In Canada, some SJP chapters have adopted the name Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA), or Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR).

Organization

SJP has branches at the University of Auckland[2] and Victoria University of Wellington.[3]

History

Students for Justice in Palestine was first established at the University of California, Berkeley in 1993.

In 2001 the group organized the first Palestine Solidarity Movement (PSM) conference to coordinate corporate divestment from Israel efforts nationwide.

In March 2014 the Center for Student Involvement at Northeastern University suspended the SJP from campus for one year after an incident that the Center described as "intimidation" of fellow students.[4][5] The university reached an agreement with SJP in April that lifted the suspension in lieu of a one-semester probation where the organization was allowed to operate as usual.[6]

PSM served as a national umbrella organization for SJP and other groups until it dissolved in 2006. In October 2011, SJP held their first national conference at Columbia University which was attended by 40 chapters.[7]

The conference resolved on the organization's Points of Unity on October 16, 2011. The Points of Unity stated: "Students for Justice in Palestine is a student organization that works in solidarity with the Palestinian people and supports their right to self-determination. It is committed to ending Israel’s occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Separation Wall. It recognizes the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality. It calls for respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194."[8]

SJP has used Facebook successfully to do outreach to individual and organize and promote events both on and off campus. Many chapters have hundreds of members and also use Twitter and other online social media networks for a broader reach and visibility.[7]

Protests

"Free Speech Fight" at UC Berkeley

The University of California, Berkeley chapter of SJP in 2001 chose the memorial of the Deir Yassin massacre to occupy a campus building and disrupt a midterm exam in progress for over 600 students as part of a protest against their university's investments in Israel. The occupation was broken up by police after warning the students of trespassing. Seventy-nine protesters were arrested for trespassing and resisting arrest. One protester was jailed, on a charge of felony battery after he bit a police officer.[9]

Following the arrests, SJP was banned from operating at UC Berkeley, prompting an SJP protest of two hundred demonstrators a month later. University Chancellor Berdahl said, "It is important to understand that this is neither an issue of free speech, nor of the right to hold demonstrations on campus. The issue is the occupation of an academic building, interfering with the rights of other students to continue their education."[10]

Wheeler Hall sit-in

On April 9, 2002, SJP staged a sit-in Wheeler Hall, one of the largest classroom buildings on University of California, Berkeley. Police were called to the scene and the students ordered to leave or face arrest. 41 students didn't and were subsequently arrested and charged with various violations of UC Berkely's Code of Student Conduct.[11] The University also banned SJP from engaging in on-campus protests.[12]

New Zealand

In 2006, Auckland University's SJP has led demonstrations against the local weapons industry Rakon, a company that sells components US Military.[13] On 28 September 2015, members of the Victoria University of Wellington's SJP branch picketed a talk given by two visiting former Israeli soldiers, which had been organized by the Australasian Union of Jewish Students.[14]

Brandeis University

In April 2011, Avi Dichter, Member of Knesset and member of Israel's centrist and Kadima party, was interrupted by protesters from a group of the Brandeis SJP, while speaking at Brandeis University, calling him a war criminal, and accusing him of torture and crimes against humanity.[15]

Vassar College

Every year the International Studies (IS) program at Vassar College has a course that sends students on a trip abroad. In 2013, it was decided that the trip should go to Israel and Palestine to study water issues in a course titled The Jordan River Watershed.[16] The trip drew the ire of SJP for, among other things, being coordinated with the Israeli research institute Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. On February 6, nine members of SJP picketed an IS class and handed out leaflets criticizing Israel and Israeli appropriation of Palestinian water sources.[17] According to Rachel Friedman, the picketers lined themselves up near the classroom in such a way that it was physically difficult and intimidating for students and faculty to go to the classroom. She claimed that as students broke through the picket line, SJP members made "loud ululating sounds,"[18] a high-pitched vocal sound commonly practiced in the Middle East. The ululation claim was disputed by a student, presumably part of the protest, in a meeting on March 3, 2013, between students and faculty, where the protest was discussed.[17]

Loyola University Chicago

On September 9, 2014, at Loyola University Chicago, students were manning a Hillel table promoting Birthright Israel, a program that pays for Jews to visit Israel. A group of Palestinian students affiliated with SJP lined up at the table and tried to register for trips to Israel. After conversations with the students manning the table, they were turned away because they were not Jews. The Palestinian students then lined up for a photo op some distance away with signs that read: "My family is from the ethnically cleansed village of [each place name] BUT I DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO RETURN." According to members of SJP, the point of trying to register for Birthright Israel was to expose the racist nature of the program.[19][20]

The Hillel students complained and accused the Palestinian students of having harassed and verbally assaulted them "in an attempt to intimidate Jewish students."[21] After two months of investigation, the University cleared SJP of any such allegations, but found both Hillel and SJP responsible for having violated the University's Free Expression and Demonstration policy. Hillel for not having registered their table and SJP for not having registered their impromptu action, having learned about Hillel's tabling the night before.[22]

As punishment, Hillel was required to attend an event on how to register events, while SJP was sanctioned with Probation for the remainder of the school year, which prohibited the group from requesting funds from the school for the duration. It was also required to attend "InterGroup Dialogue Training."[22]

Campaigns

Bowdoin College

In May 2015, following a more than year-long campaign, the SJP campaign at Bowdoin College to boycott Israel ended with 20% of students voting in favor, 21% abstaining and 59% voting against.[23]

Hampshire College

In February 2009, following a two-year campaign by SJP, signed by over 800 students, professors and alumni,[24] Hampshire College in Massachusetts became the first US college to divest from companies involved in the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The Board of Trustees decided to divest from Caterpillar, United Technologies, General Electric, ITT Corporation, Motorola and Terex.[25]

However, Hampshire College President, Ralph Hexter, said that the decision to divest from those companies was not aimed at Israel. He said that the divestment was related to socially responsible investing criteria and criticized SJP for suggesting otherwise.[26][27]SJP replied the college was shying away from the "political implications of its action".[26]

DePaul University

In November 2010, SJP at DePaul University began a campaign to have Sabra brand hummus removed from the university. The parent company of Sabra is the Strauss Group, an Israeli food company that supports two Israeli brigades, the Givati Brigade and the Golani Brigade.[28] The university initially agreed, but a few days later, it reversed its stance by reinstating the Sabra hummus in the dining halls. The university spokeswoman said "in this instance the sale of Sabra hummus was temporarily suspended, by mistake, prior to review by the Fair Business Practices Committee. We have reinstated sales to correct that error by staff personnel."[29]

In May 2011, the DePaul SJP presented a referendum to the Student Government concerning Sabra.[30] The result of the referendum was 1127 in favor, 332 against and 8 extraneous write-ins. The number of votes were 32 short of the 1500 needed for the referendum to be valid.[31]

Stanford University

Stanford's BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) defeat was notably followed by two quick BDS victories at University of California, Riverside and University of California, San Diego. On March 8, 2013, substantial campaigning by SJP at University of California, Riverside (UCR) produced a victory when the Senate voted 11–5 to endorse BDS and divest from Caterpillar and Hewlett Packard. The vote in support of BDS at UCR was large enough to avoid a veto by the undergraduate student body president who opposed the resolution.[32]

Criticism and controversies

Critics have charged that the SJP promotes antisemitism.[33]

BDS Forum at Brooklyn College

On February 7, 2013, Brooklyn College's (BC) local SJP chapter organized and held an open forum on the topic of the BDS movement and boycotts of Israel. The forum was co-sponsored by the college's Political Science department. The two speakers were Judith Butler, an American philosopher who is a supporter of the BDS movement and Omar Barghouti, a Palestinian who is one of the founders of the movement.[34]

The planned forum attracted widespread media attention and the Political Science department was lambasted for co-sponsoring it. Among the critics were the Anti-Defamation League, Alan Dershowitz, who called the planned forum "anti-Israel hatefest," and local New York politicians, who threatened to stop funding the College unless the event was cancelled. But the forum took place with around 200 people in the audience and 150 anti-BDS protestors who had gathered outside.[35]

During Butler's speech, four Jewish students of BC, Yvonne Juris, Melanie Goldberg, Ari Ziegler, and one unnamed student, were asked to leave. They had brought with them anti-BDS literature and flyers which they intended to hand out.[35] According to Goldberg, one of the evicted students, the organizers of the event confronted them, demanded they hand over the papers, and asked a security guard to remove the students from the event, which he did.[36]

This caused controversy and the organizers were accused of anti-Semitism on account of the evicted students being Jewish and of stifling free speech. Four months later, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) filed a legal complaint against the college, alleging anti-Jewish discrimination. This caused BC to launch an investigation which resulted in a 40-page report two months later, while the students that organized the event sought legal help from the Center for Constitutional Rights. The report stated that the eviction wasn't discriminatory, but that it was based on a "political viewpoint." BC eventually settled with ZOA and President Karen Gould apologized for how the school had handled the event.[35]

Notes

  1. ^ Kaplan, Talia (October 30, 2019). "Pro-Palestinian college group is 'main driver of Jew-hatred on campus,' study suggests". Fox News. Retrieved August 28, 2020. “There was a summit on anti-Semitism and we presented our findings, and now this report is focusing on the National Students for Justice in Palestine. They have over 200 chapters in Canadian and American universities and we believe that they are sort of the shock troops of contemporary anti-Semitism on campus.”
  2. ^ "Students for Justice in Palestine University of Auckland Facebook page". SJP University of Auckland. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  3. ^ "Students for Justice in Palestine: Victoria University of Wellington Facebook page". SJP: Victoria University of Wellington. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  4. ^ Northeastern University Bans ‘Students for Justice in Palestine’ for Intimidating Students, 12 March 2014 [1]
  5. ^ Northeastern U. suspends pro-Palestinian group, March 13, 2014
  6. ^ "Northeastern University lifts suspension of Students for Justice in Palestine". Electronic Intifada. 22 April 2014.
  7. ^ a b Students for Justice in Palestine, Anti-Defamation League website, April 27, 2010.
  8. ^ Organizations Resolve to Organize Nationally for Palestine Archived 2017-08-13 at the Wayback Machine Students for Justice in Palestine website, accessed April 18, 2013.
  9. ^ Daily Cal – 10 April 2002 – Israeli, Palestinian Backers Clash During Campus Rally Archived 22 December 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Berkeley Daily Planet- 3 May 2002– Pro-Palestine protesters rally for free speech
  11. ^ "09.25.2002 - Hearings to begin Monday for UC Berkeley students facing charges from Wheeler Hall sit-in". Home | University of California, Berkeley. September 25, 2002. Retrieved August 23, 2020.
  12. ^ "Students protest ban by Berkeley chancellor". San Mateo County Times. 3 May 2002.
  13. ^ McKenzie-Minifie, Martha (2 September 2006). "Excitement inside deafens protest". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  14. ^ Winter, Chloe (29 September 2015). ""Free, free Palestine" chant interrupts former Israeli soldiers' lecture". The Dominion Post. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  15. ^ Jewish leftists disrupt Kadima MK speech at U.S. University
  16. ^ Schneiderman, Jill S. "A Field Geologist in Politicized Terrain." Anti-Zionism on Campus, Pessin and Ben-Atar, Indiana UP, 2018, pp. 317-333.
  17. ^ a b Weiss, Philip (March 20, 2014). "Ululating at Vassar: the Israel/Palestine conflict comes to America – Mondoweiss". Mondoweiss. Retrieved August 22, 2020.
  18. ^ William A. Jacobson, "Anti-Israel, Academic Boycott Turns Ugly at Vassar," Legal Insurrection (March 27, 2014). Qtd. in Schneiderman, 322.
  19. ^ Matt Lamb, "SJP Students Hurl Insults at Jewish Peers, Protest Their Israel Display (Video)," The College Fix (September 16, 2014).
  20. ^ Campion, Angela; Campion/, Angela (October 29, 2014). "Loyola SJP Charged for Peaceful Protest". Palestine Legal. Retrieved August 23, 2020.
  21. ^ "Open letter to Loyola University in support of Students for Justice in Palestine". US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. November 15, 2014. Retrieved August 23, 2020.
  22. ^ a b "Loyola SJP Unfairly Punished". Palestine Legal. November 3, 2014. Retrieved August 23, 2020.
  23. ^ "Bowdoin Students Overwhelmingly Reject Boycott of Israel". Bowdoin. May 6, 2015. Retrieved June 22, 2015.
  24. ^ Goldstein, Lila (February 23, 2009). "Divestment from Israeli occupation: Hampshire College leads the way". Workers World – Workers & oppressed peoples of the world unite!. Retrieved August 23, 2020.
  25. ^ "Hampshire College becomes first college in U.S. to divest from Israeli Occupation!". BDS Movement. February 12, 2009. Retrieved August 23, 2020.
  26. ^ a b Harris, Ben (February 18, 2009). "Pro-Palestinian students, college debate divestment claim". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved August 23, 2020.
  27. ^ "Hampshire officials: investment decision didn't single out Israel". The Electronic Intifada. February 16, 2009. Retrieved August 23, 2020.
  28. ^ "Sabra Dipping Co, LLC". BDS list. Retrieved August 23, 2020.
  29. ^ Lewin, Tamar (3 Dec 2010). "New Subject of Debate on Mideast: Hummus". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-03-13.
  30. ^ McCraney, Lacey (17 May 2011). "Hummus Vote More Than Dip Debate at DePaul". NBC Chicago. NBC News. Retrieved 2013-03-14.
  31. ^ "Ali Abunimah: DePaul students vote by large margin to ban Sabra hummus". US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. May 21, 2011. Retrieved August 23, 2020.
  32. ^ Gordon, Larry (8 March 2013). "UC Riverside student Senate urges divestment from firms working in West Bank". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2013-03-14.
  33. ^ Savage, Sean and Jackson Richman. Pro-Israel Groups Urge University of Michigan to Cancel SJP Conference Featuring ‘Vicious’ Anti-Semites." Jewish Journal. 23 January 2020. 23 January 2020.
  34. ^ "REPORT ON BDS FORUM HELD AT BROOKLYN COLLEGE ON FEBRUARY 7, 2013 - Boycott, Divestment And Sanctions - Politics". Scribd. April 12, 2013. Retrieved August 22, 2020.
  35. ^ a b c David Feldman (29 December 2018). Boycotts Past and Present: From the American Revolution to the Campaign to Boycott Israel. Springer International Publishing. pp. 224–. ISBN 978-3-319-94872-0.
  36. ^ "Jewish Students Have the Right to Feel Safe on Campus". Retrieved 2016-08-30.