A Closer Look at Students for Justice in Palestine

There is a branch of a radical organization at the 5Cs that refuses to specify whether it supports a one-state or two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The group is so ideologically rigid that it refuses to engage in dialogue with its political adversaries. This intolerant practice is codified in some chapters’ official policies as their “anti-normalization” clause.

You might expect this student club to be a far-right Zionist organization. You would be dead wrong: The fanatical club that leaves open the possibility of a racist one-state solution is Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a pro-Palestinian liberation group that pretends to be passionate about social justice while actively perpetuating oppression. J Street U and the Claremont Progressive Israel Alliance, the other two clubs at the 5Cs that take positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, strongly advocate for a two-state solution.

SJP rallies its members using the troubling chant, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” This slogan seems inspiring until one realizes that in order to create a state stretching from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea, Israel – the only Jewish state in the world – would have to be totally annihilated. Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, has publicly stated that the Palestinian people “would not see the presence of a single Israeli – civilian or soldier – on our lands.” This really means that no Jews would be allowed in Palestine; presumably, Abbas would not expel Israel’s 1.7 million Arab citizens.

SJP members have intimidated and even assaulted Jewish students across the country, including those engaged in religious rather than overtly Zionist activities. In 2014, SJP’s chapter at Loyola University Chicago physically intimidated and verbally harassed a group of students associated with Hillel who were handing out pamphlets advertising trips to Israel. The SJP members surrounded the Hillel table to prevent passing students from approaching and harangued the Jewish students with hostile questions such as, “How does it feel to be an occupier?” and “How does it feel to be guilty of ethnic cleansing?”.

This was not an isolated incident. Also in 2014, a Jewish student at Temple University was punched and pelted with an anti-Semitic slur after approaching SJP’s table at Templefest, the university’s activities fair. In 2010, the president of UC Berkeley’s SJP chapter rammed a pro-Israel student with a grocery cart. In 2013, Brooklyn College of the City University of New York’s SJP chapter ejected Jewish students from a pro-Palestine event. The same group interrupted a faculty meeting to demand that Zionists be banned from their university.

SJP members have been temporarily suspended or banned from protests at campuses like Northeastern University, the UC Berkeley, and Loyola University Chicago. But although Claremont’s SJP chapter has broken university rules, it continues to exist as a 5C club. In March 2016, SJP posted fake eviction notices in dorms across the 5Cs. The notices, which warned that targeted students’ homes would be demolished imminently, were posted in violation of school policies that prohibit posting content on students’ doors without their permission.

The administration did not suspend the club. They also failed to impose effective sanctions when, in direct defiance of the Pitzer administration, Claremont’s SJP chapter erected an “apartheid wall” filled with inaccuracies about Israel later that month. Frustratingly and due to the administration’s inaction, Students for Justice in Palestine remains an approved club at the 5Cs, complete with a table at Turf Dinner.

Until this year, I was content merely to disapprove of SJP’s inflammatory rhetoric, frightening platform, and unnecessarily offensive tactics. That changed over the summer, when Black Lives Matter (BLM) released a platform condemning Israel’s policies towards Palestine. While I am a firm supporter of BLM, I was disappointed at their support for the tired assertion of genocide against Palestinians. This claim is patently false; in fact, the Palestinian population has actually increased exponentially in recent years.

As someone who is deeply interested in progressive causes, I am adamant that those of us involved in social justice must stop legitimizing the radical anti-Israel rhetoric espoused by Students for Justice in Palestine. Unless the organization stops attacking Jewish students around the country and formally endorses a two-state solution that would allow for peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians, it should be roundly condemned as a fringe political group with no right to claim solidarity with groups who advocate for racial justice.

Kate Dolgenos PO '17 is a politics major from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is President of the Progressive Israel Alliance, and wears better shoes than you. 

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