Today, Palestine Legal sent a letter to the President of the University of Chicago, calling on the University to take appropriate steps to ensure that students can speak out in support of Palestinian freedom without fear of repression, intimidation, or physical threat based on religion, ethnicity, national origin, sex, gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation.
In recent weeks, members and allies of University of Chicago’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) have faced a number of attacks on campus and online due to their pro-Palestine activism. The individual or individuals behind these attacks used Islamophobic, misogynistic, homophobic, and transphobic rhetoric to intimidate and falsely accuse pro-Palestine students of supporting terrorism and anti-Semitism.
For example, several students have been targeted by fake Facebook accounts, including:
- SJP member Zach Taylor, who was harassed and intimidated online by a fake Facebook user named “Rachel Corrie.” The fake account made several homophobic comments and threatened to post “graphic nude photos of Zach he’s been sharing on [G]rindr” around campus.
- Jewish Voice for Peace member Sara Rubinstein, a queer and transgender student, also received threatening homophobic and transphobic messages from the fake “Rachel Corrie, " including, “[W]hen are you going to get your boobies taken off?” and “I’m going to have lots of fun with you and your family.”
- Another fake Facebook account, set up using the name and photograph of a Palestinian member of SJP, made a number of threatening and misogynistic comments on various Facebook pages in an apparent attempt to malign and intimidate the Palestinian student.
Though the targeted students have reported these incidents to their administration, the University has thus far failed to sufficiently address the situation.
“These incidents are troubling on their own, but they are not isolated. They are part of well-documented efforts to suppress Palestine activism on campuses,” said Rahul Saksena, an attorney with Palestine Legal, which recently issued a report documenting the widespread suppression of speech in favor of Palestinian rights. Indeed, while these incidents were unfolding at the University of Chicago, a Palestinian student at the University of Illinois-Chicago received an e-mail death threat as a result of his involvement with SJP at UIC. Palestine Legal is working with students to address those threats as well.