Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Students for Justice in Palestine, administration react to inflammatory posters

By Aviva Luttrell

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In the wake of the discovery of several posters on the University of Massachusetts campus likening Students for Justice in Palestine to terrorists and anti-Semites this week, SJP members have reached out to the University for support.

SJP Treasurer Evan Scribner said the organization has been in contact with UMass’ Registered Student Organization advising center, known as The SORC, the Dean of Student’s Office and the UMass Police Department.

“Everyone we spoke to took this really seriously and the University offered their support on the issue and they’re going to be investigating and following up,” Scribner said.

Enku Gelaye, vice chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Life, said in a statement Wednesday, “This poster was deeply upsetting to members of our student community. We know similar misleading posters have been found on campuses across the country as part of an organized effort connected to an outside group. Such actions serve only to undermine civil discourse and prevent sustained conversations on difficult issues.”

SJP Vice President Annalise Pforr compared the posters to racist graffiti found on residence hall doors last October.

“This, we feel, is on the same exact level of that,” she said. “We hope that the same measures are taken here as back in the fall.”

Pforr and Scribner said some SJP members feel unsafe on campus, and several have faced verbal and physical harassment at UMass in the past, but declined to give any more details.

“It’s just an awful climate, honestly, which we’re working to change,” Pforr said.

Scribner added, “It always just seems like something that happens somewhere else, so this is kind of a wake up call to us.”

The posters were found on campus bulletin boards, which are the only designated place flyers can be hung without approval, according to Pforr and Scribner. SJP has called on the University to remove the posters, but Scribner said the school must consult legal council to find out if it is able to do so.

Both Pforr and Scribner were also quick to point out SJP is not linked to Hamas and does not support the organization.

“We condemn all violence perpetuated by any party,” Scribner said. “SJP is an explicitly anti-violent organization. … And we do not receive money from Hamas.”

The two clarified the purpose of SJP is to serve as a microphone for the Palestinian people and as a channel to get their “ideas and struggles into the American public conscious.”

The organization modeled its strategy after the academic boycott campaign against South Africa’s apartheid system in the 1980s.

“We use the apartheid analogy because both situations have two different sets of laws for two different ethic groups,” Scribner said.

Pforr said this connection is especially important because UMass and Hampshire College were the first to divest from apartheid South Africa.

Hampshire College was the first of several universities to divest from Israel, she added.

As of Wednesday night, no one claimed responsibility for the posters.

Aviva Luttrell can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @AvivaLuttrell.


7 Responses to “Students for Justice in Palestine, administration react to inflammatory posters”

  1. Melson Andella on February 26th, 2015 5:58 am

    .“We use the apartheid analogy because both situations have two different sets of laws for two different ethic groups,” Scribner said.

    this is not true in israel proper.

    The comparison to SA apartheid is not anaglous atoll

  2. Arafat on February 26th, 2015 8:29 am

    The following is the first half of an article on SJP.
    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.

    And the risk to Jewish and pro-Israel students appears to be growing. Indeed, unless college administrators take a more active role in preventing it, SJP has a good chance of achieving its goal of turning venomous hatred of Israel and bullying of Jews and non-Jewish supporters—with all the violence and fear that inevitably accompany it—into a legitimate and accepted tactic on North American campuses.

    SJP is an outgrowth of an organization called the General Union of Palestinian Students, originally founded in Egypt in the 1950s, and established at San Francisco State University in 1973. In 2001, after graduating from San Francisco State and moving across the bay, a UC Berkeley graduate student—now professor—by the name of Hatem Bazian launched his own chapter of GUPS, just as the second intifada and its campaign of suicidal terror were going full swing. He renamed the group, and refashioned it in his own image.

    According to Accuracy in Academia, a nonprofit research group, Bazian’s extremist rhetoric can be traced at least as far back as 1999, when, in a presentation at an academic conference, he favorably recited a famous anti-Semitic passage from the Quran: “The Day of Judgment will not happen until the trees and stones will say, ‘Oh Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.’” (He later denied having done so.) In 2011, he helped organize the “Never Again For Anyone” speaking tour, during which the Holocaust was invoked and the Palestinians likened to the Jews persecuted by Nazi Germany. The link drawn between Israel and Nazi Germany is, of course, a staple of modern European anti-Semitism.

    SJP does not appear to have strayed very far from its founder’s ideology. On the campus of the University of South Florida, for example, the SJP kicked off the new year by scheduling an event entitled “The Hidden Genocide: The Story of Palestine” Headlining the event was “Motivational speaker,” and Hamas supporter Monzer Taleb, a fundraiser for the terrorist group who has come under investigation by the U.S. government. According to one account,


    Having provided a platform for support of the U.S.-designated terrorist organization Hamas, and employing the shocking and objectively preposterous term “genocide” to describe Israel, the event’s description promptly shifted to the rhetoric of empathy and concern. “After a summer of atrocious massacres,” it said, “it is time we come together as a community to be part of the solution. The people of Gaza are without shelter, food, security, and freedom. They need to know their brothers and sisters in Tampa are here for them.”

    The group is especially consistent in its preference for the language of victimhood. Just a few weeks ago, for example, they held a September 5, 2014 vigil for Gaza on the campus of Binghamton University in upstate New York. SJP member Victoria Brown told the campus paper that the group’s motives were purely humanist. “We feel that we need to commemorate [the Palestinians’] lives, humanize their lives,” she said. “We’re not talking about the military, we’re not talking about the army, we’re talking about children—women and innocent civilians who were massacred.” Brown’s use of the inflammatory term “massacre” is a telling one. It is standard SJP tactic to coat its hate speech with humanitarian Stevia.

    Even when SJP turns away from the “historical struggle,” it retains its focus on the hatred of Israel and denial of Jewish history or legitimacy. Poet Remi Kanazi, for example, who frequently speaks at SJP-sponsored events, represents Palestinian culture through work that attacks Israel as a “racist, apartheid state” that is “built upon the graves of Palestinians.” In one Facebook post from 2012, Kanazi wrote,“Dear Zionists: You have never ‘defended yourselves.’ You came in, stole land that wasn’t yours & maintained a racist state through massacres and brute force.”

    SJP’s support for radical, distorted, and violent views extends into the realm of concrete policy as well. Despite its stated concern for justice and human rights, it opposes any kind of collaboration or coexistence with Israel or its supporters. The SJP National website, for example, proffers what it calls “Anti-Normalization” information with links to articles that oppose working with Israel-associated organizations.

    SJP is also opposes the idea of a two-state solution—the only path to a final peace solution that today seems remotely plausible—and is quite hostile to the peace process in general. Radical-Left Israeli academic Ilan Pappe, for example, who opposes a two-state solution, celebrated the group’s national conference on the organization’s website by deriding “the attempt to reduce Palestine geographically and demographically under the guise of a ‘peace process.’” Instead, he spoke approvingly of SJP as part of “a new popular and successful struggle to bring peace and reconciliation to the whole of Palestine.” In the lexicon of Palestinian nationalism, the “whole of Palestine” refers to all of what was British mandatory Palestine, thus implying the eradication of the State of Israel.

    SJP’s barely-concealed extremism in this regard is further underscored by its dedication to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks to strangle Israel’s economy, sabotage its ability to defend itself, and destroy its standing in the international community. BDS is now the center of SJP activism, at times taking on the appearance of an obsession. As explained by the Tufts University SJP chapter’s motto, the core principles of the organization are “Peace through justice. Equality through resistance. Humanity through BDS.”

  3. Daniel on February 26th, 2015 10:21 am

    How dare anyone exercises their first amendment rights!

  4. Richard on February 26th, 2015 10:59 am

    “We condemn all violence perpetuated by any party,” Scribner said. “SJP is an explicitly anti-violent organization. … And we do not receive money from Hamas.”

    If this were true, then SJP would not even exist, as the whole of Palestine is ruled by violent anarchy, subversion of free society, and has a stated purpose of destroying Israel. How does SJP even comport its ideals with a violent, racist, anarchist/fascist society?

    The two clarified the purpose of SJP is to serve as a microphone for the Palestinian people and as a channel to get their “ideas and struggles into the American public conscious.”

    Thank you, but this market segment is being aptly served by CAIR, MSNBC and all sorts of other media.

  5. School parent on February 26th, 2015 2:03 pm

    SJP is an anti-Israel hate group. It demonizes the State of Israel and supports groups such as Hamas and Fatah that openly call for the liquidation of the State of Israel. Further, SJP seeks to intimidate Jewish students on campus by making defamatory and false claims against Israel, the only democracy in the Mideast. SJP sugar coats its goals by using lofty rhetoric. The UMass student community will not be duped by SJP.

  6. neil on February 28th, 2015 5:42 pm

    identifying jews with israel, and criticism of israel with opposition to jews, is not only idiotic, it’s anti-semitic. israel is a genocidal colonial terrorist racial supremacist state whose destruction would be welcomed by all decent people. if israel is identified with the jewish people, then the jewish people should be destroyed. any anti-racist would deplore such an identification.

  7. Kevin on March 1st, 2015 7:52 pm

    I’m glad to see UMass students stand up against the apartheid state of Israel. Israel does have a democracy and certain political parties understand that a two state solution is needed. Unfortunately the Likud party with PM Netanyahu is beyond aggressive in his approach in dealing with Palestinians. We will soon see the ICC rule in favor of those who suffered unjustly in Israelis attacks in Gaza strip and hopefully world pressure will bring about a peaceful solution in which the Palestinians have their own state to call home,
    I would ask those students who care about peace to call upon their members of Congress to ask that they no longer accept donations and advice from AIPAC.

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