In a surprise to nobody, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) announced that its upcoming national conference, set to commence on November 1, will be held on the University of Minnesota Campus in Minneapolis (UMN). Why is this not a surprise? Because Minneapolis happens to be the district of antisemitic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a prominent figure in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.
This is not a coincidence. In fact, the very first goal stated on the conference website is to capitalize on shifts in the political climate, represented by the elections of BDS supporters Rep. Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib. However, the real shift in the political climate – one that SJP itself has played a substantial role in – is the resurgence of the world’s “oldest hatred” in the US under the guise of BDS.
Countless articles and in-depth studies have delineated the various calls for violence by the SJP leadership, as well as their intimate connection with Palestinian terrorist organizations like Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), all of which thrive off an ideology of Jew-hatred. It’s not just the leadership that is guilty of promoting antisemitism, but many student members of SJP as well.
How many times must an SJP chapter host convicted terrorists like Rasmea Odeh at its events before they are called out for their antisemitism? How many social media posts fawning over convicted terrorist Marwan Barghouti and PFLP founder George Habash must be shared by official SJP accounts until the tech overlords ban SJP from their platforms? How many T-shirts glorifying PFLP terrorist Leila Khaled must be sold at their events before the world opens its eyes?
In the past few years, several analyses have been published revealing the link between BDS activity on campus and antisemitism. According to a Brandeis University study, one of the strongest predictors of hostility toward Israel and Jews on campuses is the presence of an SJP chapter. The campus antisemitism watchdog AMCHA Initiative found that antisemitic activity was eight times more likely to occur on campuses where anti-Zionist student groups were present.
This brings us back to the SJP national conference, the center of left-wing antisemitism. We will not be privy to real-time updates from the conference. Access is heavily restricted, and the speaker list has yet to be announced. But if history is any indication, the conference will be replete with the usual delegitimization and demonization of the Jewish state. They will sell paraphernalia with slogans advocating violence, they will compare Israel to Nazis, and they will host terrorists.
In late September, Canary Mission, another campus watchdog, released a report on the 2018 SJP conference. The report showed that 48% of attendees endorsed violence, 63% showed support for terrorism, and 100% chanted for an Intifada (violent uprising). Among the keynote speakers were San Francisco State University professor Rabab Abdulhadi, who has cultivated ties with Hamas-dominated universities; Stanford University professor David Palumbo-Liu, who has repeatedly excused terrorism; and California State University professor Ahlam Muhtaseb, who has glorified terrorists. Abdulhadi’s name may sound familiar since in the last two years she has called Zionists “white supremacists” and said they are not welcome on SFSU’s campus.
“But if history is any indication, the conference will be replete with the usual delegitimization and demonization of the Jewish state. They will sell paraphernalia with slogans advocating violence, they will compare Israel to Nazis, and they will host terrorists.”
Why is UMN allowing this farce onto its campus? Last year, UMN Hillel director of Minnesota Benjie Kaplan condemned a pro-BDS resolution passed by the student body, stating it failed to differentiate between opposition to Israeli policies and opposition to Israel’s very existence. Where is his condemnation now? When UCLA hosted the SJP conference last year, chancellor Gene Block condemned the ideas of BDS and SJP, though he did acknowledge their right to hold the event. A response from Kaplan should be issued forthwith.
The participants in SJP conferences routinely violate the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, which has been adopted by the US State Department and numerous other countries. The definition stipulates that decrying Israel’s existence as a racist endeavor, applying double standards to it, and comparing Israeli policy to Nazism, are antisemitic.
The open antipathy experienced by Jews worldwide has not gone unnoticed by the international community. Last month, the UN released an interim report by the special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief. It found that violent manifestations of antisemitism increased by 13% globally in 2018, and according to the special rapporteur, the number is underreported.
This increase is especially worrisome since college campuses – home of future world leaders – experienced a 70% rise in antisemitism from 2017 to 2018, as noted by a recent AMCHA Initiative study. The special rapporteur also noted that contemporary forms of antisemitism frequently intersect with other forms of bigotry, misogyny and discrimination, for example, left-wing antisemitism, manifested in a hatred of Israel – the bread and butter of SJP.
That being said, the special rapporteur did offer a silver lining via his endorsement of the IHRA’s working definition of antisemitism, which he claims can help identify antisemitism in its many forms, be used for educational purposes, raise awareness and elicit an effective response to antisemitic incidents.
Perhaps most importantly, the special rapporteur stated unequivocally that antisemitism is not merely a threat to Jews, but to all victimized minorities. Bad people are watching. They are waiting to see how good people will react to the hatred they spew. If we let groups like SJP run roughshod over the Jewish people, bigots worldwide will see that these deeds go unpunished and will intensify their attacks on other minorities. We must fight back, not just for ourselves, but for all mankind. And we must ensure that this upcoming SJP national conference will be the last.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.
Contributed by CAMERA’s Israel campus advisor Eitan Fischberger.