What happens when a group of over twenty students gather on the freshly-cut grass of the City College Quad? A crisp, fiery voice ignites their audience and attempts to intrigue others passing by. But no announcement of an outdoor activity is made. No picnic is prepared. Instead, on April 26, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) hold an event to commemorate the “Nakba”—known as the “catastrophe” for Arabs in the region (when the state of Israel was officially re-established in 1948). And towards the end of the club hour, they use all of their vocal might to repeatedly chant, “Intifada! Intifada!”
While SJP claims to promote “justice, human rights, and liberation for the Palestinian people,” and might have valid grievances to gripe about, their calls for an Intifada neglect any self-respecting social justice goal. Although it quite literally translates to “tremor,” or “shivering” in Arabic, the Intifada has manifested as a historical campaign of terror against Israelis—bus bombings and suicide attacks lasting from 1987 to 1993 (First Intifada), and 2000 to 2005 (Second Intifada), in which a total of 1,300 Israelis were killed. And in recent years, (from late 2014 to June 2016), the Intifada took on a new form, as Palestinians were encouraged to stab Jews with knives. This new wave of terror was called the “Knife Intifada,” or “Stabbing Intifada.” During this time, 36 Israelis were murdered and 558 were wounded.
Why then, would a word that carries with it the deaths of over a thousand Israeli Jews, be chanted on our campus? After expressing their concern to CCNY president, Vincent Boudreau in a meeting the following week, Jewish students were told that SJP’s call for an “Intifada” was a valid form of free speech. When asked if Intifada chants might at least be condemned by the administration, the response was a firm and solid “no.”
How silly of us students to expect that after a call for violence is lunged our way, the brows of every living being on campus would be raised. How foolish of us to assume that the ears of the administration might widen, and that their souls might shudder along with us.
To president Boudreau, the administration, and anyone willing to listen: look beyond my word, if you declare it biased and tainted. Listen instead, to what Hamas, the official government of the Palestinian people in Gaza has to say. In one of their own state-produced music videos meant to inspire Palestinian youth to commit terror attacks, a singer belts out, “Nothing will be told about the Intifada except for the roof of the bus that flew off,” alluding to bus bombings against Israeli civilians. Other lines in the song declare, “How wonderful is your bomb, which blows up the immoral Zionist” and, “We want the street to overflow with dead, and the blood to increase their suffering.”
Watch that video in its entirety. Let those words about killing Jews through an Intifada reverberate through your core. Watch that video again, and tell Jewish students that their fears are unfounded. Tell them that calls for an Intifada on our own campus mean them no harm. Tell them that words are devoid of real meaning—that when someone calls for your murder, there’s
no need to ever believe them. Tell them that history has proven that those who call for the murder of Jews don’t actually intend to keep their word.
Now, SJP is free to hate Israel and its policies. They can hate every Zionist (another word for “Jew”) on our very own campus. They can peddle half-truths, blatant lies, and propaganda—presenting them as indisputable fact. But SJPs first amendment right does not absolve them from criticism. And so, to SJP members and their supporters, I say: sing praises of the Intifada as loudly as your cords allow. Unmask the veil of your true intentions. Let all students, faculty, and staff on this campus know that you unabashedly call for the death of Jews—my people. Unravel yourselves, so that it at least becomes mighty clear to the observer: there are those who worship death, and there are those who cherish life.
This article was contributed by the CAMERA Fellow at City College of New York, Oshra Bitton.