University of California Irvine put the campus chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a group that advocates boycotts of Israel, on probation for two years stemming from an incident in May where members of the group prevented Israeli soldiers from speaking.
During an event sponsored by a pro-Israel group, Students Supporting Israel (SSI), members of SJP began asking questions of the soldiers who had come to speak, and then started chanting “Israel, Israel what you say? How many people did you kill today?” and “Free Palestine,” disrupting the event, The Jerusalem Post reported. A student in attendance recorded the incident in a video, which is embedded below.
“As soon as we heard about what happened at UC Irvine, the SSI national team got together and started brainstorming what we can do best,” Ilan Sinelnikov, the founder of Students Supporting Israel told the Post. “We decided that the best way would be to apply massive pressure on the university, not only from within but also from the outside.”
SSI and Reservists on Duty organized a campaign involving a number of national organizations including Stand With Us, Hasbara Fellowships, the Louis D. Brandeis Center, Hillel International, Amcha Initiative, the Zionist Organization of America, Hasbara Fellowships, and CAMERA.
“People were calling the university […] dozens hundreds of people asking about the solution to the case,” Sinelnikov recalled.
The University’s Office of Academic Integrity and Student Conduct after reviewing the video and interviewing the witnesses determined that SJP had violated university policy and put the group on probation for two academic years. SJP is required to meet with the dean six times a year to discuss free speech issues and must consult with the dean’s office before hosting or co-hosting any campus events. A further violation of the school’s policies could result in SJP losing its status as a campus group.
“UCI welcomes all opinions and encourages a free exchange of ideas – in fact, we defend free speech as one of our bedrock principles as a public university,” the university explained in a statement announcing the punishment. “Yet, we must protect everyone’s right to express themselves without disruption.”
Although SJP has appealed the ruling, no decision on the appeal is expected for several weeks.
It is important that students see and understand what SJP really is, a group aimed at silencing the other side on a regular basis,” Amit Deri, the CEO of Reservists on Duty, said. “The character of their activities threatens the principal of free speech in America.”
Three years ago, the SJP chapter in Loyola University Chicago was also suspended for violating at least six community standards and intimidating other registered student organizations.
In On Many Campuses, Hate is Spelled SPJ, which was published in the October 2014 issue of The Tower Magazine, Daniel Mael described the tactics of SPJ:
SJP claims to stand for human rights, specifically the rights of the Palestinian people; and consistently portrays itself as an advocate for a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and solidarity with the oppressed.
But a closer look at the group’s rhetoric and actions tells a different story.
Instead of promoting justice, SJP and/or its members spend almost all of their energy demonizing Israel, advocating for its eventual destruction, showing an unfortunate affinity for pro-terrorist figures, bullying and intimidating pro-Israel and Jewish students with vicious and sometimes anti-Semitic rhetoric, and even at times engaging in physical violence. While SJP may pay lip-service to peaceful aims, their rhetoric and actions make it hard to avoid the conclusion that a culture of hatred permeates nearly everything the group does—making the college experience increasingly uncomfortable, at times even dangerous, for Jewish or pro-Israel students. Perhaps equally disturbing is the limited response from university authorities that have an obligation to prevent such attacks and protect Jewish students.
[Photo: Gary Fouse / YouTube]