Running contrary to much of current American political discourse and foreign policy, SJP’s position is exactly the type which needs the support of an institution devoted to free speech.
At about 12:00 pm on May 16, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at the University of Chicago set up an installation on Bartlett quad to mark the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, the Palestinian Catastrophe, when over 700,000 Palestinians were forcibly removed from their land by Zionist forces in an act of brutal settler-colonial ethnic cleansing.
Our installation consisted of 70 flags, each with a fact about Palestine, Israel, and the Nakba. These facts were carefully researched and rendered in the installation. Though we are a political organization and make no claims to a mythical “neutral objectivity,” there were no falsehoods. Our goal was to educate, raise awareness, and foster discussion.
The installation was thoroughly scrutinized in advance by the University administration and approved of. By 3:00 pm the same day, the installation had been vandalized, 10 of the flags were missing, and a hastily-written note was left, accusing us of anti-Semitism. This accusation is patently false. As has always been the case, we vehemently oppose anti-Semitism, just as we oppose all forms of racism. By 1:00 am the following morning, all of the flags had been stolen.
What shocks me about finding myself on Canary Mission is that I am far from being an outspoken activist or organizer on my campus. I am a Jew whose political beliefs differ from the community she grew up in. And because of this, I’ve ended up on a blacklist. . . . I’m not a young Jew with opinions of her own, but a young “radical,” brainwashed Jew.
Earlier this week, I discovered I’d been added to Canary Mission’s database. Canary Mission is a McCarthy-esque blacklist, a website that collects and publishes information about activists who support Palestinian rights. The site claims to document “people and groups that promote hatred of the USA, Israel and Jews on North American college campuses,” with the header, “if you’re racist, the world should know.” When the site launched in 2015, it’s goal was even more explicit: “It is your duty to ensure that today’s radicals are not tomorrow’s employees.”
Apparently, I, a senior at Barnard College, am one of those dangerous radicals.
Fordham University has a real problem with political speech. In the name of avoiding controversy, they suck the air out of political life on campus and then act surprised that so few are able to take a deep breath. The fear of political polarization or controversy . . . often stifles meaningful dialogue on campus and deprives students of the opportunity to engage in the marketplace of ideas.
I am a proud Jew and a proud American. However, I cannot defend the actions of my school — Fordham University — which has recently blocked the formation of a Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter on campus.
On November 17th, the United Student Government stated that SJP “fulfills a need for open discussion and demonstrates that Fordham is a place that exemplifies diversity of thought.”
However, Dean of Students Keith Eldredge would go on to deny SJP official recognition. He stated that Fordham “cannot support an organization whose sole purpose is advocating political goals of a specific group, and against a specific country.” Seemingly unaware of the irony, he went on to argue that “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict . . . often leads to polarization rather than dialogue.”
“For Palestinian students and allies like myself, the experience has been all too surreal. Because of my activism for Palestinian human rights, I have been placed on an online blacklist — an anonymous website ran by students and “concerned citizens” — that is trying to prevent me from being employed, and that blacklist provides the Freedom Center with the information needed to launch its hateful campaign of intimidation. Ever since my name was listed on the posters, I have been followed, bullied and harassed on social media. Like other students, this has caused me to worry for my safety. This experience has also caused me a great deal of psychological trauma, and I worry about my well-being.”
Gardner said Horowitz was leading a “hate organization” because of posters his Freedom Center had put out targeting Palestinian solidarity activists. Gardner wrote his op-ed as a response to Horowitz’s latest campaign, plastering posters on university campuses targeting Palestinian activists by name. Gardner was featured in an L.A.Times exclusive last August describing Sheldon Adelson’s multi million dollar efforts to combat the “exploding pro-Palestinian movement on campuses” — those who support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).
“The major way that McCarthyism worked was not because the government went in and punished people for the speech that they engaged in,” explains Corey Robin, a professor of political science at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center whose name and photo are also featured on the site. “The bulk of it was precisely through these contacts amongst private employers and universities and non-state institutions that would sanction individuals for their speech.”
This past July, Thomas DeAngelis discovered that a bizarre website had placed his name and photo next to claims that he was “whitewashing terrorist violence and calling for more.” The site lists where he goes to school and what he’s studied, includes a lengthy description of his political activity, and even links to his Facebook page and Twitter handle.
DeAngelis, 23, is a first year doctoral student in the Earth and Environmental Sciences program at the CUNY Graduate Center and a longtime activist with Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). The profile on his political activities was posted to CanaryMission.org, a website that publishes the names, photographs, and biographical information of students engaged in Palestine activism across the United States.
The website, which was launched in May 2015, now contains profiles of over 600 individuals, most of them people of color. The site targets students and professors at universities across the U.S., in addition to a small number of people employed by Jewish Voice for Peace and other Palestine advocacy groups. [As of this writing, more than 1,000 US university faculty have signed a letter opposing CanaryMission.org here, AgainstCanaryMission.org.]