[News] Palestine solidarity group banned at Northeastern, students threatened with expulsion
news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Mar 12 10:53:04 EDT 2014
Palestine solidarity group banned at Northeastern, students threatened
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
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
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
"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
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:
Anti-Palestinian groups on campuses including Rutgers University
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/rutgers-hillel> in New Jersey and
Florida Atlantic University
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.
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
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./
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.
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