There is a disturbing trend on college and university campuses: anytime an event on campus celebrating Jewish or Israeli identity is organized, anti-Zionist students groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) verbally abuse and publicly accosting Zionist students and guest speakers, accusing them of “ethnic cleansing,” “colonialism” and “apartheid.”
It seems to make little difference to SJP that these tired tropes have been proven false. Their contempt for Jews and the world’s only Jewish state appear to overshadow opportunities for reason and dialogue.
On April 20th, when a member of the Israeli Parliament, Michal Coulter-Wunsch, visited NYU to speak on antisemitism, members of the SJP chapter at NYU wrote “Zionists Not Welcome” in chalk at the location of the event, passed out flyers calling Zionism a “racist settler-colonial project” and stormed the room, disrupting the event before an NYU Law school administrator intervened condemning the “heckler’s veto” as against NYU policy.
At Boston University, where we have the largest Jewish population of any private university in the country, SJP at BU engages in the same reprehensible tactics.
Last month, SJP at Boston University participated in “Israeli Apartheid Week”, an insidious campaign that National Students for Justice In Palestine promoted. Between March 20 and 24, SJP at BU held a series of events demonizing “Zionists,” a dog whistle often used interchangeably with “Jews” and “Israelis.” The group also made numerous Instagram posts depicting the State of Israel as the perpetrator of senseless violence against Palestinians. This is, of course, false.
On March 20th, SJP at Boston University hosted Sumaya Awad, a Palestinian socialist who was a founding member of SJP at Williams College.
During her talk, Awad claimed that “this whole support we are seeing between the U.S. and Israel is not about fighting antisemitism… it’s about money.” Awad also asserted that Israel has poured millions of dollars into college campuses to “spread propaganda.” This a comment not unlike Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s 2019 antisemitic tweet claiming that US support for Israel is bought and paid for by AIPAC.
Awad, like Omar, has no reservations about pushing dangerous antisemitic tropes depicting Jews as sinister and power-hungry. This is a common tactic among anti-Zionists who often claim to be “critical of Israel.” This libel dates back to “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a fabricated antisemitic text first published in the early 1900s.
Additionally, Awad has expressed support for violent protestors in the past. In March 2018, Awad posted on Facebook her support for the “March of Return” protest, where 30,000 Palestinians approached the Israeli-Gaza border. The March of Return was organized by Hamas, a terrorist organization that has been controlling the Gaza Strip since 2007. According to Ynet News, riots ensued, forcing IDF forces to secure the border and disperse the violent crowds. Most Gazans who died during the riots were identified as terrorist operatives, including two members of Hamas’ elite Nukhba force.
In March of 2021, Awad published an article asserting that anti-Zionism does not equate to antisemitism. Awad compares Zionist leaders to Nazis and other modern-day fascists, claiming that “Zionism’s colonial character helps explain why its leaders, past and present, have aligned with far-right and violently antisemitic figures: from Nazis in the 1930s to Viktor Orbán or Jair Bolsonaro today.” Equating Jews to the group of people that systematically murdered us is inaccurate and diminishes the significance of the Holocaust and our people’s historical suffering. It’s also fair to mention that such comparisons are considered antisemitic by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
Two days later, SJP at BU hosted Rashid Khalidi, a professor of modern Arab studies at Columbia University, known for making antisemitic statements. In January 2017, during an interview with Chicago public radio station WBEZ, he referred to Jews on Trump’s transition team, “These people infest the Trump transition team; these people are going to infest our government…” Using language often used to discuss pests or disease about Jews is disturbingly similar to Nazi propaganda used to justify the persecution and mass extermination of Jews.
In November 2020, Rashid took part in a virtual interview with the Association for Student Activism for Palestine (ASAP), where he completely denied Jewish people’s connection to the land of Israel. In the interview, he states, “It’s not between two indigenous peoples… The Palestinian people are the indigenous population of the country. The Zionist movement brought in from Europe people who had a religious attachment to Palestine, people who could claim an attachment to Palestine, people who saw themselves as Europeans.” Ignoring the consistent Jewish presence in Israel over the last 4,000 years or that most Israelis are of Middle Eastern and North African origin.
Khalidi is also an outspoken supporter of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, started by an organization that promotes the economic, academic, and cultural boycott of anyone with ties to the State of Israel. According to the Anti-Defamation League, “BDS advocates and campaigns engage in antisemitic rhetoric, including allegations of Jewish power, dual loyalty, and Jewish/Israeli culpability for unrelated issues and crises.”
In 2016, Rashid Khalidi led a BDS petition signed by 40 other Columbia professors, urging Columbia University “to divest from companies that ‘supply, perpetuate, and profit from a system that has subjugated the Palestinian people.”
SJP has a long history of committing acts of intimidation toward Jewish and Israeli students on BU’s campus. In December of 2021, SJP wrote “Long Live the Intifada” on BU’s Greek Rock on central campus, a phrase commonly used to call for violence against Jews. The student group also protested the Jewish National Fund’s (JNF) summit in Boston in November 2022, waving signs calling for “Palestine to be free from the river to the sea” – a euphemism for the destruction of the state of Israel.
SJP at BU also attempted to shut down the Jerusalem: City of Change forum hosted by the Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies, the Department of Religion, and the program in Archaeology in collaboration with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) this past November to suppress Jewish history and Jewish people’s connection to Israel. I addressed BU SJP’s preposterous and libelous assertions in an Op-ed published a few months ago.
This year’s apartheid week came after a BU student published an Op-ed article in BU’s student newspaper, The Daily Free Press, on March 15.
In the article, the student downplayed the extremism and blatant antisemitism in the “Mapping Project,” a website created by supporters of the antisemitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign. The Mapping Project website calls for dismantling “local entities” they believe are “enacting devastation.” Even though the website targeted Jewish schools, Jewish nonprofits, and universities (including BU), the author conceded to the inaccurate assertions made by the Mapping Project.
For instance, the Op-ed falsely conflates Zionism, the Jewish movement for self-determination, with settler colonialism and denies the overwhelming evidence that anti-Zionism strongly correlates with antisemitism.
Totaling over 1,300 words, the article was also several hundred words over the 850-word limit for Daily Free Press Op-ed submissions. Despite directly addressing me in his article, The Daily Free Press would not guarantee that a response Op-ed written by me would be published.
Speaking out as a Jewish and pro-Israel student is becoming increasingly challenging. A study by Alums for Campus Fairness surveyed 75 universities from 2017 to 2022 and discovered that of 195 news articles about Israel across these campuses, only 18 were positive. Furthermore, the same report found a significant disparity between the number of Op-eds that portrayed Israel negatively versus positively. Worse yet, editorial boards are endorsing the BDS campaign and taking down pro-Israel Op-eds.
Why is this happening? Primarily because detractors are falsely promoting their brand of Jew hatred under the guise of social justice.
From disrupting events with Israeli speakers, as was the case at NYU, to the boycott of Israeli professors and courses at the University of Chicago, to glorifying the murder of Jews as “intifada” or “resistance, as BU SJP has done, universities across the United States, including Boston University, have routinely failed to condemn the blatant antisemitism exhibited by Students for Justice in Palestine and other detractors on campus.
Boston University interim President Kenneth Freeman and his administration must take action to turn the tide against Jew-hatred hatred that continues to manifest at an alarming rate where anti-Zionists continue to push their hateful agenda.
This article was originally published in the Algemeiner.