Calling all budding activists at NYU!
Come join us for a social justice discussion on Tuesday, August 26 and Friday, August 29 at 1 PM in Washington Square Park.
Are you interested in sociopolitical issues such as:
– Achieving climate justice
– Ending the War on Drugs
– Expanding fair access to higher education for undocumented people
– Ending discrimination against people impacted by mass incarceration
– Advocating equal rights and justice for Palestinian people?
Join your fellow students for a meet and greet, conversation, snacks and art make with a variety of social justice campaigns organizing at NYU! You’ll get a chance to meet with friendly student activists and forge powerful connections to make a difference in the world.
Where: Meet under the Washington Square Arch at 1 PM or a bit before – we will be walking to the Picasso Statue in Washington Square Village
Be sure to RSVP: http://bit.ly/1u3NQnz
On May 15, NYU Students for Justice in Palestine staged a “die-in” protest to visually represent the mass expulsion and killings of Palestinians from 1947-1949. More than half of the 750,000 Palestinians who fled their homes did so under direct threat from Zionist militias. Others fled after news spread of massacres at Deir Yassin and Tantura, where Zionist militants killed 300 Palestinian civilians.
Just hours after our demonstration, Fox News’s Shannon Bream reported on the demonstration in a segment entitled “Rise of Anti-Semitic Groups on College Campuses.” Her sole guest was a Brandeis student who previously helped spearhead the smear campaign to get NYU SJP suspended over our mock eviction notice action last month.
The Fox News segment baselessly framed our action as anti-Semitic. Bream began the segment by referencing an anti-Semitic photo posted by a group at Vassar College, failing to mention that NYU SJP has no connection to this group. The remainder of the segment continued with the same lack of integrity, with Bream’s guest hurling one smear after the next, and Bream declining to request any evidence in response.
Faced with the dilemma that there was nothing anti-Semitic about our “die-in” demonstration, Bream and her guest resorted to linking NYU SJP to actions and groups to which we have no ties. The segment should be seen as part of an ongoing trend of deliberately conflating criticism of Israeli policy with hate speech and the targeting of Jews as an ethnic group.
Fox News failed to invite an NYU SJP representative onto the program, but did read the club’s statement on air. Unable to respond to the substance of our argument, which addressed current Israeli policy in its historical context, her guest launched into an impassioned testimonial of his personal investment in Israel.
Despite the segment’s accusatory title and the fact that only one side had been invited to the discussion, Bream concluded by declaring Fox’s commitment to “welcome the debate from both sides.” If Fox News actually welcomed dialogue, they would have invited NYU SJP onto the show instead of relying solely on sloppy smears and misinformation. In a political climate in which sensationalistic headlines and network ratings reign supreme, if you can’t use facts to counter criticism of Israel, cry anti-Semitism.
What’s the three sentence overview?
NYU Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) slid mock eviction notices into dorm rooms last Wednesday to call attention to certain abuses of the U.S.-backed Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. A far-right campus organization, TorchPAC, responded with false allegations of anti-Semitismand financial ties to Hamas, and these lies echoed uncritically throughout the mainstream media. Under pressure from the right, the NYU Administration has now told The Jewish Week that it will force all parties to dialogue “under the direction of our Muslim and Jewish chaplains.”
What did the eviction notices say?
The fake eviction notices stated that the U.S. government backs a brutal Israeli occupation that has destroyed 27,000 Palestinian homes since 1967. 160,000 Palestinians have been left homeless as a result of these policies. NYU’s faculty pension fund is also invested. The notices said “THIS IS NOT A REAL EVICTION NOTICE” in large capital letters on the bottom.
Whom did SJP target with its mock eviction notices?
SJP distributed flyers into two dorms because they were large and convenient to where SJP members lived. A TorchPAC member claimed that these dorms were targeted because of their high Jewish population; this claim lacked any evidence – both because it was false and because the dorms were not known for having a particularly Jewish character – and was rejected by the NYU Administration itself.
Who funds SJP?
A TorchPAC member claimed that SJP “absolutely” has financial ties to Hamas. Neither she nor anyone else has made any attempt to present evidence for this claim, which is ridiculous on its surface, since, among other reasons, SJP’s positions are not nearly aligned with Hamas’s, and SJP receives sufficient funding for its activities from the NYU Administration itself as a so-called “All-Square Club.”
Who funds TorchPAC?
I am absolutely sure that Vladmir Putin funds them. And also Mel Gibson. If they can’t prove otherwise, I’m right.*
Have SJP members been harassed since the TorchPAC member made fictitious claims in the mainstream press about anti-Semitism and ties to Hamas?
Yes. SJP members have reported receiving intimidating phone calls since the slanderous allegations.
Why did TorchPAC make up these lies and why did they find such a warm reception in the conservative media?
The aim of those who support the Israeli occupation is to silence anyone who manages to draw attention to its gross injustices. U.S. support for the occupation is vital to its success, and the more Americans learn about it, the more aghast they become. A great deal of effort has therefore gone into ensuring that the population remains ill-informed. This is the latest such episode. TorchPAC’s ability to fabricate sheer nonsense and have it stick in the mainstream press is a damning indictment of our political culture.
Wait – did you say in the summary that NYU is going to require both parties to engage in a religious dialogue to solve this?
Yes. Although NYU has not yet informed SJP, it did talk to a journalist of the following: “among other steps, through the process known as ‘restorative justice,’ we will bring together the parties to work together under the direction of our Muslim and Jewish chaplains, as well as trained moderators, to reverse the cycle from negative to affirmative exchanges.”
But is SJP a Muslim organization?
No. SJP is not a religious organization. And the occupation is not a religious occupation. SJP is an organization opposed to the oppression of Palestinians, regardless of their religion. In fact, SJP’s membership features a high percentage of Jews, and several of its recent presidents happened to be Jews as well.
So what do Muslim and Jewish chaplains have to do with this?
Nothing. At least, not except that NYU is forcing SJP to have a dialog moderated by them.
Will there be Christian, Druze, or Hindu religious figures as well at the “restorative justice” session, since some Israelis and Palestinians practice all of these religions?
No, the NYU administration is only including Muslim and Jewish chaplains.
What about the B’Hai religion? Will there be a B’Hai representative?
Would people from the different religions sing Kumbaya at the end of the “restorative justice” session?
Wait – but doesn’t the First Amendment protect political speech like SJP’s? And doesn’t NYU claim to foster a policy of open exchange?
Yes, and yes. But free speech at NYU is apparently taking a back seat to reactionary but powerful political interests.
What do NYU professors think?
A growing number of them (around 100 as of this writing) have signed a statement denouncing any disciplinary action against SJP. They state that “the First Amendment right of NYU students to express, and advocate for, their opinions on issues of public concern must be respected and protected.”
Have many professors come out in support of punishing SJP?
No, because punishing students for putting mock eviction notices under people’s doors is a terrifying assault on the right to free speech.
What about the general public?
1,052 people have signed a petition to stand in solidarity with SJP as of this writing. A petition in opposition to SJP, which used to accuse them of “hate speech” but then removed the phrase after almost nobody was signing, now has 361 signatures.
*This is intended to be satirical. TorchPAC, like SJP, receives its funding from NYU.
This post originally appeared on Farce Politics.
Below is a letter of solidarity from the International Jewish anti-Zionist Network on our recent action and responses to it:
It is disturbing but unsurprising that as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapters continue to lead the way in championing the Palestinian cause on college campuses and indeed across the nation, yet another SJP – in this case, at New York University – is accused of antisemitism for its defense of Palestinian rights. In this case, as with all false claims of antisemitism, the International Jewish anti-Zionist Network stands with NYU SJP in rejecting such charges.
The facts speak for themselves, and show a consistent pattern of pro-Israel supporters exploiting and misusing the history of anti-Jewish persecution in an attempt to stop criticism of Israel, and to attack Palestinians organizing for their rights, as well as those who support them in that work.
On the morning of April 24, NYU SJP distributed eviction notices to over 2000 students “at large” living in two student residence halls. The notices ordered them to leave their dorm rooms, noting that they would be demolished within three days. At the bottom of the fliers was a clear advisory, stating, “This is not a real eviction notice.” Such fliers are a widely-used tactic, meant to raise awareness of the home demolitions that the Israeli Occupying Forces carry out constantly in the occupied West Bank –189 homes in 2012 alone.
The response rehearsed a typical pattern. A lone member of the NYU campus pro-Israel lobby organization, TorchPAC, accused NYU SJP of “choosing to target Jewish students.” She then noted that “SJP’s actions come so close to Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day),” and described SJP’s attempt to raise awareness of the destructive nature of Israeli colonialism as a “blatant act of fear mongering and religious targeting.” The right-wing press picked up the accusation, referring to “targeting” and intimidation of Jewish students.
Of course, as NYU SJP insists, the accusation of targeting Jewish students is an outright and outrageous lie. Behind the rhetoric, however, is something more dangerous yet. The discourse of “fear mongering” and “targeting,” paired with the reference to the Nazi genocide of the European Jews, is a clear attempt to recall that still-powerful memory as well as the very real history of anti-Jewish persecution to silence criticism of the current ethnic cleansing of Palestine by the State of Israel.
We reject the suggestion that attempts to bring to light the reality of Israeli actions are antisemitic in any way. Furthermore, we take strong issue with the use of the historical crimes of colonizing European states to cover up those of Israel in the here-and-now.
The Holocaust does not belong to the Zionist movement and the long history of anti-Jewish racism does not belong to the Zionist movement. To invoke those brutal crimes to conceal Israeli brutality serves only to cheapen the memory of past suffering in the service of prolonging it in the present. To accuse the principled students of NYU-SJP of antisemitism or targeting Jewish students is offensive. To slur them as bigots for opposing racism, colonialism, and, crucially, the role of the US government in supporting Israeli policies is both inaccurate and unacceptable.
We stand behind and with NYU-SJP in their important campaigns to educate their university and the public about the Palestinian plight.
International Jewish anti-Zionist Network
A growing list of NYU faculty members have signed on to the following statement in support of free speech and the right to peaceful political protest:
“We, the undersigned NYU faculty members, believe that the First Amendment right of NYU students to express, and advocate for, their opinions on issues of public concern must be respected and protected. This includes the mock eviction notices that members of the NYU chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a recognized student organization, recently distributed in NYU dormitories. This act of peaceful political protest cannot reasonably be construed as hate speech, nor is there any evidence that it targeted students belonging to a specific religious group.
We therefore call on the NYU administration to refrain from taking disciplinary action against SJP or the students involved in this action, and to respond vigorously to the tendentious allegations to which they have been subjected by reaffirming the university’s unwavering commitment to free speech and to the open exchange of views on even the most controversial issues.”
- Ada Ferrer, Professor of History and Latin American and Caribbean Studies
- Adam H. Becker, Associate Professor, FAS Senator
- Andrew Needham, Associate Professor of History
- Andrew Ross, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis
- Angela Zito, Associate Professor, Anthropology and Religious Studies
- Ann Pellegrini, Professor, Performance Studies (TSOA) and Religious Studies (FAS)
- Ara H. Merjian, Assistant Professor of Italian Studies
- Arang Keshavarzian, Associate Professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Affairs
- Barbara Weinstein, Silver Professor of History
- Bertell Ollman, Professor, Department of Politics
- Benoit Challand, Assistant Professor, Kevorkian Center for Near East Studies
- Christine Harrington, Professor, Department of Politics
- Crystal Parikh, Associate Professor of English, Social and Cultural Analysis
- Daniel Walkowitz, Professor of Social & Cultural Analysis/ Metropolitan Studies
- David Margolies, Professor at NYU-London
- Dennis Geronimus, Associate Professor
- Diana Taylor, Professor, Performance Studies and Spanish
- Edward Ziter, Associate Professor
- Elaine Freedgood, Professor of English
- Emanuela Bianchi, Department of Comparative Literature
- Gabriel Giorgi, Associate Professor
- George Downs, Professor of Politics
- Gianpaolo Baiocchi, Associate Professor
- Greg Grandin, Professor of History
- Greta Scharnweber, Associate Director, Hagop Kevorkian Center
- Gwendolyn Alker, Associate Teacher
- Hasia Diner, Professor, Hebrew and Judaic Studies, History
- Holly Maguigan, Professor of Clinical Law
- Helga Tawil-Souri, Associate Professor
- Ilya Kliger, Associate Professor
- J David Velleman, Professor of Philosophy
- Jacques Lezra, Professor, Comparative Literature and Spanish
- Jeff Goodwin, Professor of Sociology
- Jeffrey Sammons, Professor of History
- Jim Uleman, Professor of Psychology
- John Archer, Professor
- Jonathan J G Alexander, Professor Emeritus of Fine Arts
- Justin Stearns, Assistant Professor of Arab Crossroad Studies (NYUAD)
- Karl Appuhn, Associate Professor of History and Italian Studies
- Kathy Engel, Assistant Art Professor
- Kim Phillips-Fein, Associate Professor
- Konstantinos Kornetis, Assistant Professor
- Lester W Cohen, Adjunct Professor
- Lina Meruane, Global Liberal Studies
- Linda Gordon, University Professor
- Lisa Duggan, Professor, Social & Cultural Analysis
- Manu Goswami, Associate Professor of History
- Marie Cruz Soto, Clinical Assistant Professor
- Marilyn B. Young, Professor of History
- Marion Kaplan, Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies
- Mark Crispin Miller, Professor of Media, Culture, Communications
- Mark Read, Adjunct Professor
- Medhat Credi, Senior Language Lecturer
- Michael Balter, Adjunct Professor of Journalism
- Michael Gilsenan, Professor MEIS and Anthropology
- Michael Peachin, Professor of Classics
- Michael Rectenwald, Master Teacher, Liberal Studies
- Molly Nolan, Professor of History
- Mona Jimenez, Associate Arts Professor, Tisch
- Moss Roberts, Professor of Chinese
- Muhamed Osman Al Khalil, Clinical Associate Professor and Director of Arabic Studies, NYU Abu Dhabi
- Muriel Dimen, Adjunct Clinical Professor of Psychology
- Myles Jackson, Professor of the History of Science, Gallatin
- Nader Uthman, MEIS
- Nahid Mozaffari, Visiting Associate Professor
- Nancy F Regalado, Professor Emerita of French (Ret.)
- Ned Seeman, Professor of Chemistry
- Neville Kallenbach, Professor of Chemistry
- Nicholas Mirzoeff, Professor, Media, Culture and Communication
- Patricia DeGennaro, Adjunct Professor of Politics
- Pascal Menoret, Assistant Professor of Middle East Studies
- Paul Monsour, Adjunct Professor
- Paula Chakravartty, Associate Professor
- Peder Anker, Associate Professor
- Randy Martin, Professor, Tisch School of Arts
- Rebecca Anne Goetz, Associate Professor of History
- Rebecca E. Karl, Associate Professor
- Richard Schechner, University Professor & Professor of Performance Studies
- Ritty Lukose, Associate Professor
- Robert Cohen, Visiting Scholar
- Rodolfo Aiello, Senior Language Lecturer (Ret.)
- Sana Odeh, Clinical Professor of Computer Science
- Seda Gurses, Research Fellow
- Sibylle Fischer, Associate Professor
- Sinan Antoon, Associate Professor
- Sinclair Thomson, Associate Professor of History
- Stephen Duncombe, Associate Professor
- Stephen Wangh, Arts Professor Emeritus
- Sylvia Molloy, Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities Emerita
- Tamer el-Leithy, Assistant Professor of Medieval History, MEIS
- Tavia Nyong’o, Associate Professor
- Vasuki Nesiah, Associate Professor of Practice, The Gallatin School
- Vivek Chibber, Professor of Sociology
- Yanni Kotsonis, Professor, Jordan Center and Russian Studies
- Zachary Lockman, Professor, MEIS and History
No government is more crucial – financially or diplomatically – in enabling Israel’s crimes and shielding it from international accountability than the United States, which means no one in the global community has a greater moral stake in ending Israeli apartheid than we do as Americans.
According to United Nations Security Council Resolution 446, “the policy and practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 have no legal validity and constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.”
New York University is heavily invested in companies that profit from (and make possible) the occupation, which means we as NYU students have an obligation to demand our university divest from those companies. To name five:
- Caterpillar sells bulldozers to the Israeli government, which are then weaponized and used to demolish Palestinian homes and uproot olive trees.
- Northrop Grumman produces helicopters and missiles the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) use to attack Palestinian and Lebanese civilians and destroy basic infrastructure.
- Motorola develops motion-detecting “virtual fences” used to annex parts of the West Bank and keep Palestinians out of the settlements (all of which are Jewish-only).
- Veolia operates segregated buses exclusively for Israeli settlers, and is working on a light rail project connecting Jerusalem with the surrounding settlements.
- Elbit Systems manufactures armed drones that target civilians in the West Bank and Gaza.
Wednesday night, New York University Students for Justice in Palestine (NYU SJP) called attention to Israel’s illegal demolitions of some 27,000 Palestinian homes by distributing over 2000 mock eviction notices at two campus residence halls. You may have heard or read that our action targeted Jewish students. This isn’t so.
The flyers, which were clearly marked as fake, were slipped under every door on every floor of the Palladium and Lafayette dormitories. The accusation that Jewish students were targeted – which made for sensationalistic headlines in the National Review, New York Post and other right-wing and mainstream outlets – stems from a blog post by a member of the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC’s NYU student affiliate, TorchPAC.
In that post, which calls me out by name, Laura Adkins (whom I recently debated for the Washington Square News) claims that SJP chose “to target Jewish students (or at the very least, a dorm brimming with Jewish students)”. Her only “evidence” is the existence of a Shabbat elevator in Palladium, which she attributes to the residence hall’s disproportionately large Jewish presence.
As we clarify in our statement, published Thursday the 24th, SJP distributed notices not only at Palladium, but at Lafayette as well. They are two of the largest dorms on campus, and were chosen because they were the most accessible to our membership. The charge of anti-Semitism was rebuked publicly by NYU spokesperson John Beckman, who explained in an email that,
we don’t believe there is perception of [Palladium and Lafayette] as being home to a higher percentage of Jewish students (the presence of a Sabbath elevator in one of them to serve Jewish students is the result of a stairway that empties to the street and cannot be entered through the lobby behind the security desk, not because of a particularly large presence of Jewish students in that building)….
Basically, Palladium has this elevator to allow practicing Orthodox Jews to live there. It does not reflect the demographics of the residence hall.
NYU SJP has many Jewish members, all of whom supported the action. They reject the premise that criticism of Israeli policy is anti-Jewish. They reject the Zionist project of an ethnically discriminatory state that privileges Jews at the expense of an indigenous population, and they find the equation of being Jewish and being a Zionist deeply offensive.
Adkins also claims that SJP has financial ties to Hamas, citing an article which purports to uncover SJP’s link to the organization. In fact, NYU SJP has no financial or ideological ties to any political party. As per NYU policy, NYU SJP is funded exclusively by NYU’s All-Square Student Budget Allocation Committee (ASSBAC). This charge was apparently so ludicrous that it was ignored by the same news outlets who so readily parroted her accusation that Jewish students were targeted.
That accusation, on the other hand, has served as a rhetorical bludgeon for those seeking to muzzle Palestine solidarity activism on campus. Brooklyn Assemblyperson Dov Hikind, who led the charge to censor Brooklyn College’s BDS event last year, published a statement condemning SJP’s action as “racially motivated” and “pure hate” – an ironic charge, coming from a longtime member of the Jewish Defense League, which the US government lists as a “violent extremist Jewish organization.” Shamelessly, Hikind demands that NYU “immediately and publicly take action against those who perpetrated this act of intimidation and harassment.”
Attacks like Hikind’s are, at worst, an act of political repression, and at best a distraction from the issues we raised by carrying out this action. SJP hasn’t shut down dialogue – we’ve opened up a space for it. Our intervention has led to more discussion of the Palestinian perspective on campus than ever before.
You can stand with us by signing our petition of support. NYU SJP will continue to shed light on the plight of Palestinians and help consign Israel’s archaic policies to the dustbin of history. We hope you’ll join us.
Kumars Salehi is an MA student in Cinema Studies and a member of NYU SJP. You can read more of his work on his personal blog.