As a law student at George Mason University, I can certainly appreciate and defend the First Amendment rights to which all Americans are entitled. Yet we should all be deeply concerned that our university is hosting Students for Justice in Palestine’s (SJP) national convention this weekend. SJP disguises itself as an organization promoting social justice and the Palestinian cause — yet in reality, SJP promotes war, hate, and destruction, with numerous SJP leaders, members, and guest speakers going so far as to endorse terrorism. The GMU student body deserves to know who is using our university as a place to spread extremism and lies.
SJP has more than 100 chapters on campuses across the country, and draw student activists using rhetoric and tactics that make it attractive for them to join their cause. SJP claims to promote human rights — but it’s a ruse. Look behind the social justice clichés and human rights talking points, and you can easily spot the group’s true agenda: preventing a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, rejecting compromise or negotiation, and advocating the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state.
During my undergraduate studies at Indiana University-Bloomington, I attended an SJP event and was flabbergasted when an SJP member asked an invited speaker, “What will be the final solution to the Israeli problem,” a question frighteningly similar to the one Adolf Hitler addressed in his “Final Solution.” No country is perfect, but SJP consistently scapegoats, using the ugliest of rhetoric and the falsest of accusations, one nation — Israel — for all the world’s ills.
SJP has continually rejected peaceful dialogue in favor of what it euphemistically calls “direct action” — that is, intimidation and preventing other students from exercising their rights to free speech and assembly. On many campuses SJP chapters have posted mock eviction notices on dorm room doors. SJP members disrupt events by shouting down speakers, physically blocking access events, chanting phrases such as “Intifada!” during speeches, and using physical intimidation to make students feel too threatened to exercise their own rights of free speech. SJP chapters have repeatedly posted anti-Semitic material on their social media accounts and glorified the U.S. and EU-designated terrorist group Hamas – a group that has murdered not just hundreds of Israelis, but dozens of Americans.
GMU has not been immune to SJP’s hatred. GMU’s chapter — called Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) — has used these very tactics to intimidate and threaten pro-Israel voices. Professor Craig Willse organized a disruptive walkout of the 2013 GMU commencement ceremony because the speaker held Israeli citizenship. This is rank bigotry. A founder of SAIA, Tareq Radi, led a disruption of a speech by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Washington D.C. A former member of SAIA, Keil Eggers, distributed a petition on campus calling for the boycott of Israeli-linked Sabra hummus and gathered signatures by lying to students. Another former member of SAIA, Jihanne Hadou, champions the release of Samer Issawi, a notorious terrorist imprisoned for repeatedly firing an AK-47 at civilian cars and busses and manufacturing explosives. She now works producing films that promote blood libels and other classic anti-Semitic tropes.
This is already the kind of poisonous hatred and glorification of violence SJP has spread on our campus. This weekend’s conference will promote more hate and violence. One speaker, Ramah Kudaimi, tweeted last year that “we should demand everyone engage in violent resistance.” She calls it “Islamophobic” to criticize Muslims who engage in Holocaust denial and who claim that Israel carried out the 9/11 attacks. Sa’ed Atshan praises those who incite violence against Jews. Garik Ruiz leads an effort to prevent musicians from performing in Israel.
President Cabrera’s commitment to free speech is laudable, but would he allow a Ku Klux Klan or a Neo-Nazi conference on campus? SJP disguises itself behind claims of justice and equality, but in reality spreads hatred and only further polarizes this already contentious conflict.
I am grateful to live in a country where each person can express his or her views freely, but where do we draw the line? I defend SJP’s right to say ugly and terrible things about Jews and Israel – but is George Mason University obligated to provide a platform for such activism? Why are some forms of hate activism allowed and others not? And what inferences are the victims of the authorized hate speech to draw? These are legal and ethical questions GMU students should consider. But they should not distract from the consideration of the truth about SJP, its illiberal behavior on our campus, and the hatred and bigotry it spreads under the guise of promoting “social justice.”
Jessie Nejberger is a law student at George Mason University. She was a 2015 Tower Tomorrow Fellow. Follow her on Twitter @JessieNejberger
[Photo: Students for Justice in Palestine / Facebook]