The Students for Justice in Palestine chapter at Tufts University on Wednesday won a student organization award.
The Student Organization Awards ceremony did not take place on campus due to the coronavirus pandemic and instead occurred online.
“We are so excited to win the Collaboration Award at this year’s student organization awards ceremony! We have worked so hard this year alongside our AMAZING coalition working to #EndTheDeadlyExchange, and we want to thank everyone who has joined us in this campaign!” posted Tufts SJP on its social media channels.
Tufts SJP’s “End the Deadly Exchange” campaign called for an end to the university’s police department’s involvement with the Israeli police force and military. Last month’s scheduled vote on the referendum was postponed to the fall in accordance with the suspension of student programming due to the coronavirus outbreak.
In statements to JNS, pro-Israel groups blasted Tufts SJP receiving the award.
Zac Schildcrout, CAMERA’s Campus Advisor and Online Editor, said, “According to Tufts SJP’s own Facebook page, they were selected to receive the ‘Collaboration Award’ due to their extensive activism to advance the ‘Deadly Exchange’ campaign on campus. This campaign, which falsely accuses Israel and Jewish organizations of purposely fomenting racist policing in America, is not an intellectually serious endeavor.”
Schildcrout continued, “Its eerie similarity to classic antisemitic allegations about the supposedly malign influence of ‘Jewish power’ is obvious, and it is a shame to see such ideas so publicly glorified at Tufts.”
In a statement to JNS, the university denounced the award and said it was going to review the awards process.
“We strongly disapprove of this award in light of SJP’s concerning policy positions, including its association with the BDS movement, elements of which we view as antisemitic. We will be reviewing the awards process, which currently does not involve academic deans or senior university leadership and this year did not include students, in order to ensure proper oversight and review going forward,” said Tufts’ president Anthony Monaco, Provost and Senior Vice President Nadine Aubry, Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences James Glaser, Dean of the School of Engineering Jianmin Qu, and Dean of Student Affairs and Chief Student Affairs Officer ad interim Nancy Thompson.
The leadership added that “We as senior leaders take responsibility for this outcome, which should not have happened, and recognize that the award has caused a great deal of pain and concern for Jewish members of our community and others who share concerns about SJP’s policy positions, particularly in light of rising antisemitism in the U.S. and around the world.”
Calls for university president to rescind the award
Academic Engagement Network (AEN) executive director Miriam Elman said that “Tufts-SJP is hardly a worthy recipient of an award for ‘collaboration.’ ”
“As the leading campaigner for BDS on campus, the group rejects the very idea of an open exchange of ideas or intercultural understanding, while singling out the supporters of Israel for condemnation and ostracism,” she continued. “At Tufts, the SJP chapter has also for some years been creating a toxic environment by promoting a divisive and polarizing campaign which traffics in antisemitic tropes about Jewish money, power and influence.”
Elman noted that “while SJP has the right to promote a pro-Palestinian cause, why on earth would campus administrators see fit to award this group after it has failed time and again to advance the core values of the university: dialogue, open inquiry and civil discourse on contentious issues?”
Furthermore, she said, “far from encouraging cooperation, Tufts-SJP works to alienate and marginalize Jewish students by pushing the majority of them out of progressive causes on campus, even those unrelated to Israel, like climate change and fossil fuel divestment.”
She said “bestowing an award for collaboration to a group that seeks to exclude from full participation in campus life other student groups who hold differing views sends exactly the wrong message—namely, that the university condones and even applauds such behavior. It sends a signal to Jewish and pro-Israel students that they are not valued members of the Tufts community.”
Elman called for Tufts president Anthony Monaco to “instruct the committee which evaluated the nominees for the 2020 awards from the Office for Campus Life to reconsider its decision to recognize Tufts-SJP for this honor and to rescind the award.”
StandWithUs co-founder and CEO Roz Rothstein said “this award is outrageous, especially because Tufts SJP has focused its efforts on promoting the antisemitic Deadly Exchange campaign. Scapegoating Israel and Jewish groups for police brutality in America echoes a dark and violent history of Jews being falsely blamed for social ills.”
Like Elman, Rothstein called on Tufts to “rescind this award and unequivocally condemn SJP’s campaign of hate.”
AMCHA Initiative co-founder and director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin remarked, “It is deeply ironic that an organization that continuously incites hatred and intolerance towards a particular group of students is awarded a recognition of collaboration. In the name of promoting BDS at all costs, SJP’s mission and tactics are anything but collaborative.”
Originally published in jns.org.