[News] Palestine solidarity group banned at Northeastern, students threatened with expulsion

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Mar 12 10:53:04 EDT 2014

  Palestine solidarity group banned at Northeastern, students threatened
  with expulsion

Submitted by Ali Abunimah on Wed, 03/12/2014 - 13:34

Authorized Columbia SJP banner removed by Barnard College administrators 
following complaints from pro-Israel groups.

(Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine 

Palestine solidarity activists are facing harsh censorship, repression 
and retribution on at least two US campuses during Israeli Apartheid 
Week <http://electronicintifada.net/tags/israeli-apartheid-week>.

In the most alarming case, officials at Northeastern University 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/northeastern-university> in Boston, 
have banned a branch of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), 
launched police investigations into students and threatened two of them 
with expulsion for distributing leaflets on campus.

At Barnard College <http://electronicintifada.net/tags/barnard-college> 
in New York, administrators have removed an authorized banner expressing 
solidarity with Palestine.

Israeli Apartheid Week is an international series of on-campus events, 
designed to draw attention to Israel's crimes against the Palestinian 

    Northeastern SJP banned

On 7 March, members of Northeastern University's SJP were informed that 
their organization had been suspended until at least 2015 and student 
members have been permanently banned from holding positions in 
recognized student organizations unless they undergo what amounts to 
university-supervised re-education.

Members of Northeastern SJP are calling on their peers across the 
country to stand in solidarity with them 
<http://www.northeasternsjp.org/current-situation.html> as they face 
what appears to be the most serious attack on students advocating for 
Palestinian rights since the Irvine 11 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/irvine-11> trial.

"As if banning our activities from campus and denying us all use of 
campus resources wasn't outrageous enough, the university is pursuing 
expulsion-level sanctions for two students --- all for participation in 
a mock eviction action," Northeastern SJP says in a statement.

The two students targeted for possible expulsion "happen to be the only 
women of color in the Northeastern SJP chapter," Max Blumenthal 
<http://electronicintifada.net/people/max-blumenthal> reports at 
Mondoweiss today 

    Action call

The Northeastern SJP action alert 
<http://www.northeasternsjp.org/current-situation.html> urges concerned 
members of the public to sign a petition to "Reinstate SJP and drop all 
charges against its members."

It urges the public to contact university officials directly, including 
the president Joseph Aoun, and requests organizations to send letters of 
solidarity to Northeastern SJP.

    Punished for leafleting

As Blumenthal reports, the students received a letter from Jason 
Campbell-Foster, director of the school's Center for Student 
Involvement, that "offered a litany of charges against the students."

The main accusation related to the SJP's 24 February distribution of 
mock eviction notices across campus.

Mock eviction notices 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/mock-eviction-notices> are leaflets 
that students have distributed on a number of campuses to raise 
awareness about Israel's systematic demolitions 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/home-demolitions> of Palestinians homes.

This image of the leaflet was tweeted by Northeastern SJP:

    on Twitter

Anti-Palestinian groups on campuses including Rutgers University 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/rutgers-hillel> in New Jersey and 
Florida Atlantic University 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/florida-atlantic-university> have 
responded to mock eviction notices with false claims 
that Jewish students were specifically targeted by the notices, and that 
the notices made Jewish students feel unsafe.

In both cases, university administrators investigated and found no 
evidence to support the accusations that Jewish students were targeted.

    Police interrogations

But Campbell-Foster's letter to Northeastern SJP states: "You have not 
shown a concerted effort to improve your practices and educate your 
members on how to properly operate your organization within the 
boundaries of university policy."

Northeastern SJP has long been the target of university sanctions and 
harassment over members' free speech and advocacy for Palestinian rights.

Max Geller, a second-year law student, told The Electronic Intifada last 
how he had received death threats over his advocacy work as a member of SJP.

Blumenthal reports that the day after the mock eviction notices, Robert 
Jose, Northeastern's associate dean of students, sent a campus-wide 
email stating: "We do not condone any behavior that causes members of 
our community to feel targeted and/or intimidated."

"Jose urged students to express 'how this has impacted [them]' by 
contacting school administrators and the Hillel House of Northeastern, 
an explicitly pro-Israel Jewish communal organization committed to 
countering SJP-related activism," Blumenthal adds.

University officials have now launched a harsh crackdown.

Geller told Blumenthal that campus police summoned students for 
investigation and visited students in their dorms. According to Geller, 
the first Northeastern SJP members to be visited by police were Muslim 
and Arab.

A statement <http://www.northeasternhillel.org> on the Northeastern 
Hillel website condemns the mock eviction notices and confirms that the 
"administration is working with the Northeastern University Police 
Department to conduct a thorough investigation."

Blumenthal's must-read report 
details how the suspension of Northeastern SJP is "the culmination of a 
long-running campaign against the group led by powerful pro-Israel 
outfits based in Boston."

    Crackdown at Barnard College

At Barnard College on 11 March, university administrators removed a 
banner with the words "Stand for Justice in Palestine," pictured above, 
that had been placed by Columbia SJP.

Barnard College is a sibling school to Columbia University 

"The banner was placed after members of [Columbia SJP] went through the 
required bureaucratic channels and processes in order to give voice and 
presence to our week-­long events as part of Israeli Apartheid Week," 
Columbia SJP explains on its website 

The statement says that the banner was "taken down by the administration 
of Barnard College after they caved to pressure from other groups. 
Barnard administration offered no explanation, and no warning that they 
planned to remove our banner."

Columbia SJP adds:

    The fact that our banner has been taken down now is a direct
    violation of our freedom of expression. The removal of our banner
    this morning has left members of Columbia SJP, Palestinian students
    on campus and other students that are often marginalized and
    silenced, feeling that Barnard College does not follow its own
    anti-­discrimination policies. We are alarmed to know that
    "Palestine" and "justice" are not acceptable in Barnard's
    educational space and that certain voices are discriminated against
    by the College.

Campus newspaper /The Columbia Spectator/ reports 

    Barnard Dean Avis Hinkson said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that
    it has been a long-standing policy to allow student groups to hang
    banners outside Barnard Hall promoting their events. But Hinkson
    acknowledged the concern about placing SJP's banner next to
    Barnard's, and promised a re-examination of the banner policies.

The campus pro-Israel group LionPAC "said that the removal of the banner 
was necessary to prevent confusion over Barnard's position on the 
Israeli-Palestinian conflict," according to the /Spectator./

    Under pressure

Last year Barnard president Debora L. Spar, went on a junket to Israel 
<http://www.haaretz.com/news/features/.premium-1.533831> with Project 
Interchange, a /hasbara/ <http://electronicintifada.net/tags/hasbara> 
operation of the Israel lobby group the American Jewish Committee 

As I write in /The Battle for Justice in Palestine/ 
Project Interchange has brought thousands of influential figures, 
including many top US police officials, on propaganda tours designed to 
increase participants' sympathy with Israeli policies.

In 2012, Barnard was the target of a bogus complaint 
by Zionist groups under Title VI of the US Civil Rights Act 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/title-vi-civil-rights-act> that a 
Jewish student faced discrimination. The US Department of Education 
dismissed the complaint 

The administration's latest surrender to such bogus claims and campaigns 
provides yet another disturbing example how of basic free speech rights 
and academic freedom are being sacrificed in order to protect Israel 
from criticism and to suppress solidarity for Palestinian rights.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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