Table of Contents
American Studies Association
California State University
- Professor uses racial slur against Palestinian student
- College attempts to censor mock apartheid wall
Columbia University/Barnard College
- Title VI complaint targets professor
- College removes SJP “Stand for Justice” banner
- SJP receives bomb threat
- ZOA attempts to censor workshop
CUNY Brooklyn College
- College rescinds doctoral candidate’s appointment
- Politicians pressure administrators to cancel BDS event
- Politicians seek cancellation of Salaita event
CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice
CUNY College of Staten Island
Florida Atlantic University
- Students falsely accused of antisemitism for mock eviction flyering
- Students disciplined for protest
- Off campus groups interfere with student divestment vote
- University disciplines SJP for Birthright Israel action
Montclair State University
New York University
- University sanctions SJP for event walkout
- University suspends SJP after mock eviction flyering
- Student Council blocks voting on divestment resolution
- Flotilla fundraiser draws allegations for supporting terrorism
- Title VI Complaint targets “Never Again” event
- SJP falsely accused of antisemitism for mock eviction flyering
San Diego State University
San Francisco State University
- AMCHA levels false accusations against student group
- AMCHA accuses scholar of meeting with terrorists
San Jose State University
University of Arizona
University of California (statewide)
- “Campus climate” report claims Palestine activism hostile to Jewish students
- State resolution denounces Palestine activism
- Graduate student divestment campaign draws legal threats
University of California, Berkeley
- Israeli Consul and national groups interfere in campus divestment debate
- Federal lawsuit and Title VI complaint target campus activism
University of California, Davis
- UC President denounces Palestine activism as intolerant
- Divestment vote draws accusations of anti-Semitism and support for terrorism
University of California, Hastings
University of California, Irvine
- Title VI complaint targets campus activism
- Muslim student group accused of material support for terrorism
- Eleven students criminally prosecuted for event walkout
University of California, Los Angeles
- AMCHA complaint triggers improper investigation of professor
- City Council introduces resolution condemning student advocacy campaign
- Divestment resolution draws accusations of antisemitism and support for terrorism
- Groups seek to defund Middle East Studies program
University of California, Riverside
University of California, Santa Cruz
- Title VI complaint targets student activism.
- Video accuses students of supporting terrorism
- Mock checkpoint draws accusations of terrorism and antisemitism
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
University of Michigan
University of New Mexico
University of Pennsylvania
University of South Florida
University of Toledo
Our Report, The Palestine Exception to Free Speech: A Movement Under Attack in the US documents for the first time the widespread and growing suppression of Palestinian human rights advocacy in the United States.
This Appendix provides detailed descriptions of incidents of suppression of Palestine advocacy on US campuses, including attacks on student activism and on individual academics. This is not an exhaustive catalog of incidents, but a selection that highlights the trends elucidated in the Report. Many of the incidents listed are matters of public record; for those that are not, Palestine Legal obtained permission to include the information presented here.
The majority of incidents occurred in the period since 2012, when Palestine Legal was established, through June 2015, when this Report went into production. A handful of incidents included in the Appendix are older, either because they illustrate the history of suppression at a given school or because they represent an ongoing incident.
American Studies Association
Legislation and legal threats follow passage of boycott legislation
Incident Date: 2013–14
The American Studies Association’s (ASA’s) passage of a historic resolution to endorse the call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions on December 16, 2013, resulted in a significant backlash against the association, including legal threats and legislative maneuvers aimed at sanctioning it. The membership passed the resolution by a two-to-one margin, making the ASA the second US academic association to endorse BDS (after the Association for Asian American Studies). To organizers within the ASA, the vote “represents a principle of solidarity with scholars and students deprived of their academic freedom and an aspiration to enlarge that freedom for all, including Palestinians.”
In the run-up to and aftermath of the vote, Israel advocacy organizations launched vigorous campaigns to punish the ASA. The ASA received thousands of hate mail messages, many likely due to people responding to action alerts from Israel advocacy organizations. Some messages included violent imagery, racist, homophobic rhetoric, and legal threats. Donors and alumni targeted American studies departments and faculty associated with the ASA and demanded administrators defund the programs or prohibit faculty from participating in the ASA. In response, a few universities withdrew their institutional membership in the ASA and, according to the opposition blog Legal Insurrection, more than 250 college and university presidents issued statements condemning the resolution.
In January 2014, William Jacobson, Israel advocate, law professor, and Legal Insurrection blogger, submitted a complaint to the IRS challenging the ASA’s tax-exempt status. The complaint requested that the IRS strip ASA of its tax-exempt status, arguing that the academic boycott clashes with its educational purpose and goes against public policy. To date, the IRS has not notified ASA that it has acted on the complaint.
At the same time, Shurat HaDin threatened to sue the ASA, alleging discrimination and antisemitism, unless the organization “immediately take[s] all necessary steps to cancel the boycott of Israeli institutions and academics.” CCR and Palestine Legal responded on behalf of the ASA, addressing the organization’s unfounded allegations, drawing parallels to historic anti-discrimination struggles like the South African anti-apartheid movement and civil rights boycotts in the US South, and arguing that the First Amendment similarly protects this resolution. To date, Shurat HaDin has not filed a lawsuit.
In October 2014, the American Center for Law and Justice, a right-wing organization known for its anti-LGBT-rights agenda, threatened to sue the Westin Hotel in Los Angeles under California discrimination laws for hosting ASA’s 2014 conference. In a letter to the hotel, the advocacy group asserted that the conference violated a California law that prohibits businesses from discriminating on the basis of national origin, race, and religion, since the ASA’s policy, it alleged, “would have a disparate impact on Jewish Israelis.” The ASA rejected these allegations, noting that ASA events “welcome Israeli academics to attend, and in fact several are already scheduled to participate in the conference program.” The organization did not follow through with its threat to file suit.
In addition to legal challenges, Israel advocacy groups pushed at least seven states (New York, Illinois, Maryland, Florida, Kansas, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania) and the US House of Representatives to sanction universities with academic organizations that voted to support academic boycotts of Israel or to condemn academic boycotts more generally.
On January 28, 2014, the New York State Senate passed S6432, which denies all state aid to colleges and universities that subsidize membership or participation in organizations that support boycotts of Israel. A New York state assembly member then in office, Sheldon Silver, introduced a similar bill in the State Assembly in early January, though it was later withdrawn and amended. The amended bill, _A8392A, reduced state aid to the university by the amount spent to fund travel, lodging, or membership funds provided to organizations that endorse a boycott of Israel.
The New York Times called these bills “an ill-considered response to the American Studies Association resolution [that] would trample on academic freedoms and chill free speech and dissent.” The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), CCR, National Lawyers Guild (NLG), Columbia University faculty, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the Professional Staff Congress of City University of New York, and New York State United Teachers, among other organizations, also opposed the bills.
Palestine Legal and CCR, together with an ad hoc coalition of other local groups, mobilized opposition to the Assembly bill in February 2014, which succeeded in delaying a vote on it. On Friday, June 20, 2014, the New York State Legislature ended its session without passing the bill.
In February 2014, Illinois state senator Ira Silverstein introduced Senate Bill 3017, which, in language substantially similar to the New York State Senate bill, proposed to deny state aid to universities that subsidize faculty or staff membership in academic organizations that endorse boycotting Israel. A coalition of organizations, including Palestine Legal, CCR and other local groups, mobilized to oppose the bill. CCR sent a letter on March 4 urging the Higher Education Committee to reject the legislation, which it claimed would unconstitutionally infringe on academics’ free speech rights. The ACLU of Illinois similarly opposed the bill as an unconstitutional infringement of First Amendment rights. Silverstein moved the bill to the Judiciary Committee, but did not call the bill up for debate or a vote, and the legislative session ended without the bill moving forward.
Senator Silverstein then introduced Senate Resolution 59, a nonbinding resolution condemning all academic boycotts and labeling as antisemites those who support an academic boycott of Israel. An array of groups continued to oppose the resolution vigorously, including CCR, which wrote Illinois legislators warning that the resolution would intrude on academic freedom, and the ACLU of Illinois, which issued a statement opposing the resolution. Despite efforts to mobilize support for the resolution by the Jewish United Fund and other organizations, the Senate Judiciary Committee, after a public hearing, voted to not move the resolution forward to the full Senate.
Maryland state senator Joan Conway Carter and delegate Ben Kramer also introduced bills in the Maryland Senate and House to reduce state aid to universities that fund membership and activities in organizations supporting the boycott of Israel. After Senate Bill 647 and House Bill 998 stalled, Delegate Kramer introduced similar language into the Maryland state budget bill, which passed in Maryland’s General Assembly but only after its conference committee significantly revised Kramer’s language. The final language condemns the ASA boycott and academic boycotts more generally, but has no legal force.
A coalition of civil rights groups, including Palestine Legal and CCR, warned lawmakers that these bills violate the First Amendment and threaten academic freedom “by penalizing universities and faculty for taking public positions based on their political and moral principles.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his fight against South African apartheid, also expressed “grave concern” about these legislative efforts. Even Israel advocacy organizations, such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the American Jewish Committee, and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington opposed the bills, recognizing that they would “stifle academic freedom.
Resolutions in Other States
A nonbinding resolution condemning the ASA boycott passed in the South Carolina House on February 18, 2014. In Pennsylvania, House Resolution 627, condemning the ASA boycott, passed on March 12, 2014. An identical resolution introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate, SR 279, did not advance. On April 11, 2014, the Florida State Senate adopted a resolution (SR 894) with similar language condemning the ASA boycott, which CCR and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) argued “impermissibly intrudes into the academic freedom of faculty members who wish to speak on matters of public concern on the basis of differing viewpoints of certain senators, in violation of the First Amendment.”
In February 2014, United States congressional representatives Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Dan Lipinski (D-IL) introduced a bipartisan congressional bill, HR 4009, in direct response to the ASA vote. Dubbed the Protect Academic Freedom Act, the bill would deny federal funds to academic institutions or groups within those institutions that “participate” in the academic boycott of Israel. The bill has not advanced out of committee or gained additional sponsors. CCR, NLG, and CAIR urged the House of Representatives Education and the Workforce Committee to oppose this legislation, which the groups asserted aims to “punish . . . political speech on matters of public concern at institutions of higher education . . . [and] threatens core First Amendment principles.”
California State University
Groups seek to cancel professor’s speaking tour
Incident Date: February 2012
In February 2012, the AMCHA Initiative demanded that three California State University campuses withdraw official sponsorship and public funding from an event that featured Ilan Pappé, a professor of history and director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at Exeter University who is critical of Israeli policy. Faculty, administrators, and academic departments at three schools in the California State University (CSU) system—CSU Fullerton, CSU Cal Poly, and CSU Northridge—invited Pappé to speak on their campuses. In a letter to the three universities, AMCHA alleged that the events violated “the will and intention of the CSU Trustees,” arguing that the professors who organized the speaking tour—whom they accused of promoting anti-Israel bias—were using university resources for “propagandizing.”
AMCHA’s letter describes Pappé, whose scholarship challenges Israel’s founding narratives, as “an Israeli Jew who harbors deep animus towards the Jewish state” and labels the scholar’s criticism of Israel’s human rights abuses antisemitic. The letter argues that Papp’s events would “undoubtedly foment hatred” and contribute to a hostile environment for Jewish students, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, without contributing any “educational value.”
The three CSU presidents affirmed that the faculty organizers had the right to invite Pappé, noting that universities should not preclude speakers based on their ideas, and emphasizing the need to defend “the expression of views with which we disagree.” Pappé’s events at the three CSU campuses proceeded as planned.
Professor uses racial slur against Palestinian student
Incident Date: 2013
Location: Claremont, CA
In March 2013, during students’ theatrical reenactment of an Israeli military checkpoint at Claremont-McKenna College in southern California, an Israeli professor cursed at a student organizer and requested that campus officials remove the demonstrators.
The Claremont Colleges Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter staged a mock checkpoint at the entrance of the dining hall of Claremont-McKenna College (CMC) during which student performers asked passersby for their identification to mimic the way the Israeli military restricts Palestinians’ freedom of movement in the occupied West Bank. During the action, an Israeli professor approached the mock checkpoint and requested that campus officials intervene to move student protestors away from the dining hall entrance. A Palestinian student organizer asked the professor to identify himself to ascertain whether he had the authority to interfere with the event. According to a campus security officer’s report, the professor responded by repeatedly calling the student a “f______ cockroach.” The student understood “cockroach” to be a reference to his ethnic background as a Palestinian.
After news of the incident spread, the student found his car tire punctured and a note scrawled on his desk in the library that said “this carrel has been reserved for me to f___ [student] in the skull.” A pro-Israel media outlet portrayed the accusations against the professor as antisemitic “Jew hunting.”
The student filed a grievance against the professor, but the colleges initiated an investigation against SJP for potential violations of the student code of conduct. Pitzer College—one of the other campuses in the Claremont consortium and the home college of most of the SJP activists—completed its investigation promptly and informed the campus community that the students had not violated any campus rules.
Officials at CMC issued a report that contradicted the Pitzer report and found that SJP had violated campus demonstration policies by restricting access to the dining hall. The CMC dean of students issued the findings; the CMC president accepted them knowing that the student victim and multiple witnesses disputed key facts and the findings in the report.
The CMC report also determined that the professor’s comments were out of compliance with CMC’s Statement on Professional Ethics, but did not violate the school’s harassment policy. In a letter to the CMC president, Palestine Legal advised the college that by releasing controversial findings on the same set of facts it had prejudged the student’s grievance before it began, effectively denying the student access to the formal grievance procedure provided in the CMC Faculty Handbook. Professor Dan Segal, the SJP faculty advisor, also criticized CMC’s “materially misleading” report, accusing it of “blam[ing] the victims in this incident: the SJP students.”
The student notified the college of his intent to pursue a formal grievance against the professor; however, he asked to postpone the process so that he could complete the semester in good standing, without the burden of an arduous grievance procedure during final exams. CMC denied the postponement two and a half hours after the student requested it, finding a lack of cause. CMC then dismissed the grievance, citing the student’s failure to sign a confidentiality form in the requested time.
Palestine Legal and CCR expressed their concerns to college administrators, emphasizing their obligation to protect students’ speech rights and to protect all students from racist speech, including Arab, Muslim, and Palestinian students.
The students also requested that CMC adopt remedial measures to address racial bias and the stifling of free expression. In particular, students requested that the professor involved in the verbal altercation cease to have a role in CMC admissions, and that the CMC administration make a public statement recognizing its responsibility to create an environment that welcomes political dissent and free speech. CMC did not respond to these requests.
Claremont Colleges, Pitzer College
College attempts to censor mock apartheid wall
Incident Date: March - April 2015
Location: Claremont, CA
In March 2015, Pitzer College attempted to prevent Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) from displaying a replica of Israel’s “separation barrier” on campus—an installation that included facts, pictures, and quotes about the Israeli occupation and its effect on Palestinians.
Students told Palestine Legal that a member of the Claremont Progressive Israel Alliance complained in February 2015 about SJP’s plans to erect a mock wall to the Campus Aesthetics Committee, a university body charged with implementing campus policy for outdoor art and mural projects. The complaint claimed that such a display was antisemitic and would make Jewish students on campus uncomfortable.
In the same month, SJP representatives met with the dean of student affairs to discuss their plans; the dean raised concerns about potential vandalism, warning that someone could “burn it down.” He also gave them a copy of the campus discrimination policy, noting that he anticipated receiving discrimination complaints that would trigger investigations. The dean also directed the students to seek approval for their plans from the Campus Aesthetics Committee.
Before SJP submitted its proposal, a student member of the Aesthetics Committee warned SJP that the committee would likely reject the proposal due to its political message. The member further conceded that he intended to vote against it out of fear of upsetting some students on campus. The Aesthetics Committee ultimately denied SJP’s proposal in a 4–2 vote, failing to furnish any official written explanation for its decision.
When SJP indicated that it intended to move forward with its plan nevertheless, the dean of students cautioned SJP against “plans to demonstrate on campus and display the wall in blatant defiance of [the college’s] shared governance principles,” and warned that such an action violated university policy. In the same email, the dean claimed that students had not provided all of the information requested by the college. In fact, students had not received any requests for additional information and were unaware that the college had sought additional information. Despite the apparent attempt to restrict SJP’s speech, the dean noted that the college has a “compelling interest in unfettered inquiry and the collective search for knowledge,” and “thus affirms, and indeed embraces, principles of protected free speech and expression.”
The students defied the college’s threat and proceeded to construct the wall. Palestine Legal sent a letter advising Pitzer College of its obligation to protect student political expression under the First Amendment, a protection that applies to private schools in California. The students also mobilized community support through action alerts and garnered support on campus for their protest.
SJP displayed the wall on campus for three days and then invited the campus community to help dismantle it. The Pitzer administration allowed the project to go forward without further interference. An SJP member told Palestine Legal that one student opposed to the political message filed a complaint with the student senate claiming that the mock wall violated the campus demonstrations policy, but the senate voted not to open an investigation, out of respect for free speech.
Columbia University/Barnard College
Title VI complaint targets professor
Incident Date: September 2011–January 2012
Location: New York, NY
In 2011, Kenneth Marcus, then director of the Initiative on Anti-Semitism at the Institute for Jewish and Community Research, filed a Title VI complaint against Barnard College on behalf of an Orthodox Jewish student alleging discrimination. The student alleged that a professor told her to avoid a class with Palestinian professor Joseph Massad, a known advocate for Palestinian rights. The federal office charged with investigating such complaints—the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR)—opened an investigation in September 2011, but closed it in January 2012 after it could not corroborate the discrimination allegations against the professor who was accused of discouraging the student from taking the class.
Columbia University/Barnard College
College removes SJP “Stand for Justice” banner
Incident Date: March 2014
Location: New York, NY
In March 2014, Barnard College took down a Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) banner from Barnard Hall after pro-Israel students complained about the banner’s political content.
Columbia SJP, which consists of students from Barnard College and Columbia University, adhered to the standard procedure for student groups wishing to hang a banner on Barnard Hall: they reserved the space, used the material provided by Barnard, and made the banner. The banner read “Stand for Justice, Stand for Palestine” and included a hand-drawn map of historic Palestine and the acronym IAW, shorthand for Israeli Apartheid Week. Barnard hung the banner around 5 p.m. on Monday, March 10, 2014.
Within hours of the banner’s installation, the former president of the Columbia/Barnard Hillel chapter started an email campaign against it. A Facebook post from the former Hillel president called the banner antisemitic and the advertised Israeli Apartheid Week events an “attempt to perpetuate the pernicious lie that Israel is an apartheid state.” The president of Hillel at the time complained that the banner “threatens and makes many students on campus feel unsafe.”
Within hours of receiving the complaints and without notice, Barnard removed SJP’s banner. On March 11, Barnard dean Avis Hinkson announced the college’s decision to reexamine its “long-standing” tradition of installing banners promoting student events alongside the official Barnard banner, stating that “until we have had time as a community to discuss the banner placements on Barnard Hall and better define a policy, [the college] will not be hanging student banners on Barnard Hall.”
In two letters to Barnard’s president, CCR said that Barnard’s explanation for the banner’s removal—that it wanted to avoid the perception that the university endorsed the banner’s content—appeared disingenuous, given that students had hung banners in the same place for many decades without any confusion as to whether the university endorsed their messages. Several student groups, as well as Barnard’s Student Governing Board, expressed outrage at the university’s actions, highlighting its impact on marginalized groups, open discourse, and freedom of speech.
In April 2015, Barnard College announced that it had designated a new banner space inside the second floor of the Diana Center.
SJP receives bomb threat
Incident Date: March 2015
Location: New York, NY
On March 23, 2015, the Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter received a series of tweets threatening to bomb its Israeli Apartheid Week panel discussion, titled “Media, Solidarity and Palestine,” scheduled to take place the following day on Columbia’s campus. The first tweet, issued by a user with the handle @ProudJewYr3833, stated: “all you neo-nazis in one place makes a good target for an IED.” Further tweets from @ProudJewYr3833 stated “LOL a wish isn’t a threat dumb bitch. I knew you were a propagandist and not a real journalist” and “@raniakhalek @ColumbiaSJP But maybe you should cancel the panel just to be on the safe side you never know there are a lot of loons on the” [sic].
After Columbia SJP reported the threat, the university assigned a public safety officer to the event. The university declined to issue a condemnation or other public statement, stating that “public discussion of these kinds of threats, which naturally raises their profile, can often result in copycat, additional threats.”
ZOA attempts to censor workshop
Incident Date: May–June 2015
Location: New York, NY
On May 27, 2015, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) sent a letter to Columbia’s Middle East Institute in order to censor a workshop for high school and college instructors the Institute had cosponsored titled “Citizenship and Nationality in Israel/Palestine.” The letter demanded that the institute provide the names and affiliations of all workshop speakers, copies of all readings and materials, and the names of any films to be screened, in order to “show” that the workshop “will comply” with the Higher Education Act (HEA). Led by Columbia law professor Katherine Franke, the workshop explored issues of nationality and citizenship in Israel/Palestine using Zionist and Israeli texts.
In its letter to the Middle East Institute, the ZOA complained about the workshop’s title, which it deemed inaccurate and misleading “since there is presently no country called ‘Palestine.” The letter went on to attack the workshop as “one-sided and riddled with anti-Israel bias,” incorrectly stating that the HEA requires “diverse perspectives.” ZOA also accused Professor Franke of antisemitism for publicly supporting BDS. The workshop proceeded on June 20th as planned.
CUNY: Brooklyn College
College rescinds doctoral candidate’s appointment
Incident Date: January 2011
Location: Brooklyn, NY
On January 26, 2011, Brooklyn College rescinded the appointment of doctoral candidate Kristofer Petersen-Overton after New York state assembly member Dov Hikind, a staunch Israel advocate with ties to right-wing extremist Meir Kahane, complained about his criticism of Israel. Hikind attacked Peterson-Overton’s syllabus for a master’s-level course on the politics of the Middle East, which Hikind claimed unfairly criticized Israel, and an unpublished academic paper Peterson-Overton wrote on Palestinian identity, which Hikind asserted supported suicide bombing. Hikind, a former member of the Jewish Defense League, described as a “right-wing terrorist group” by the FBI, wrote Brooklyn College after a student planning to take the course complained about Peterson-Overton’s work in Gaza with the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, one of the leading human rights organizations in the region.
Brooklyn College justified its decision to rescind Peterson-Overton’s appointment by saying that the doctoral candidate lacked the proper credentials to teach the seminar. Professor Mark Ungar, who made the decision to hire Petersen-Overton, responded that students still working on their doctoral degrees teach many of the college’s master’s-level courses.
On January 31, 2011, Brooklyn College reinstated Petersen-Overton without condition after the political science department unanimously voted to recommend he teach the course, and after hundreds of CUNY’s Professional Staff Congress members and other scholars from across the US protested his firing. Hikind called Brooklyn College’s reappointment of Peterson-Overton “shameful,” stating that, in doing so, the college “sent a message to suicide bombers and their supporters that a publicly funded institution of higher learning condones suicide bombing as an acceptable method of ‘resistance.’”
CUNY: Brooklyn College
Politicians pressure administrators to cancel BDS event
Incident Date: January 2013—March 2014
Location: Brooklyn, NY
In early 2013, Brooklyn College came under heavy pressure from New York City elected officials to cancel a panel discussion on the BDS movement featuring Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti.
New York state assembly member Dov Hikind led the charge, but more mainstream New York politicians, including Christine Quinn and Bill Thompson, leading contenders in that year’s mayoral election, and Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz also criticized the event and the Political Science department’s sponsorship of it. Hikind called on Brooklyn College president Karen Gould to resign over the event. New York City council member Lewis Fidler and other council members threatened to withhold funding from the college if it did not cancel or remove its official support from the event. Nineteen self-described “progressive” New York City elected officials also wrote Gould, calling the event “one-sided” and demanding that the political science department withdraw its sponsorship of the event.
CCR and the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) wrote to the council members who cosigned the letter to Gould, stating that their threat to withhold funding to Brooklyn College constituted “a form of compulsion the First Amendment prohibits.” Gould, the political science department, the New York Times and Mayor Michael Bloomberg publicly recognized the students’ right to organize the event and the importance of allowing discussion on controversial topics.
The event took place as scheduled on February 7, 2013, though Brooklyn College required attendees to pass through two checkpoints and a metal detector staffed by public safety officers to gain admission. Anti-BDS protestors demonstrated outside.
Following the program, allegations were made that Jewish pro-Israel student activists had been removed from the event and others excluded because they were Jewish. Brooklyn College Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) issued a statement rebutting these claims, stating that the four students had been removed from the event for “talking, shuffling papers, and moving noisily around in their seats for several minutes. . .prompting complaints from other attendees sitting nearby. CUNY trustee Jeffrey Wiesenfeld and lawyer Neal Sher claimed that the college had discriminated against the pro-Israel students and other Jewish individuals because of their religion and political views and threatened to file a Title VI civil rights complaint. Alan Dershowitz also claimed that the removal of the students and the request that they hand over anti-BDS leaflets violated their First Amendment rights.
CUNY’s general counsel led a two-month investigation into the discrimination claims, interviewing more than forty individuals. The investigation found no evidence that SJP students discriminated against anyone on account of their religion. CUNY found that organizers had accidentally left some individuals—allies and opponents of BDS alike—off RSVP lists because of a confused and disorganized registration process, resulting from the significant interest in the event and changing requirements imposed by administrators. The report concluded that students should not have been removed from the event, but dismissed claims of discrimination based on political viewpoint as “speculative.” It also criticized Brooklyn College’s handling of the event, including failing to develop a plan to deal with disruptions and to identify who had authority to remove disruptive audience members. The report acknowledged the unprecedented pressure on the student organizers, who had not “been involved in an event that was as large and as controversial . . .or that was accompanied by such serious security preparation” and “appeared somewhat overwhelmed.”
The report failed to quiet critics, who continued to attack CUNY and Brooklyn College. In March 2014, Gould publicly apologized to the students who had been removed, saying that she found it “likely” that the students had been removed “because they held viewpoints contrary to those being promoted by the SJP,” in contrast to the report’s findings. The statement also noted that Brooklyn College decided to change its policies and guidelines for student organizations and events in response to the BDS event, including by imposing security fees for large public events at the discretion of campus public safety officials. Brooklyn College suspended the fees in October 2014 after Palestine Legal and CCR informed the administration that the fees raised constitutional concerns.
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) and the Brandeis Center both issued press releases praising Gould’s statement and detailing their role in pushing her to issue it. ZOA explained that it had filed a Title VI complaint in July 2013 alleging that Brooklyn College tolerated a hostile environment for Jewish students, and that the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) had mediated a resolution between the college and a group of students represented by the ZOA, which resulted in Gould’s public apology.[125 Brooklyn College made no public announcement regarding the Title VI complaint and failed to notify SJP students about or involve them in the dispute resolution process.
This incident has had repercussions across the CUNY system. Students have reported to Palestine Legal that administrations have subjected their SJP groups to close administrative scrutiny and made it more difficult to organize campus events.
CUNY: Brooklyn College
Politicians seek cancellation of Salaita event
Incident Date: November 2014
Location: Brooklyn, NY
New York state assembly members Steven Cymbrowitz and Dov Hikind demanded that Brooklyn College cancel a November 20, 2014, discussion about academic freedom in the context of conversations about Palestine/Israel. In a letter to Brooklyn College president Karen L. Gould, Cymbrowitz stated that the college “should not make a habit of turning a deaf ear either to the community it serves, which includes a large Jewish population, or to its major funding source” and that the forum “would serve no other purpose but to further incite anti-Semitism.” Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and several Brooklyn College academic departments, including political science, sponsored the event, titled “Silencing Dissent: The University vs. Academic Freedom,” featuring Professor Steven Salaita, who was terminated from a tenured faculty position at the University of Illinois for tweets critical of Israel, Professor Katherine Franke and Professor Corey Robin (see Appendix entry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign). The event proceeded as planned.
CUNY: John Jay College of Criminal Justice
College restricts Gaza “Die-In”
Incident Date: October–December 2014
Location: New York, NY
On October 8, 2014, John Jay College instructed SJP not to use sheets covered in red paint (representing blood) during their “Die-In/Vigil from Ferguson to Gaza” that day after pro-Israel students complained that they felt uncomfortable with the message.
SJP applied for and received permission from John Jay College’s Center for Student Involvement and Leadership to hold the “die-in/vigil.” Approximately a half hour before the event, CSIL’s student life coordinator asked the secretary of SJP to step into his office, closed the door, and told her that the sheets and the red paint made people feel “uncomfortable” and “that’s not okay.” As a result of the meeting, SJP used only half of the painted sheets.
During the early afternoon protest, about thirty students held posters with messages such as “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” “Black Lives Matter, Palestinian Lives Matter,” “US Dollars Feed Israeli War Crimes,” and “Free Palestine.” Seven or eight students staged a “die-in” where they theatrically wrapped themselves in white sheets, some with red paint, and lay on the floor to represent lives taken by military and police repression. Students from Hillel staged a counter-protest at approximately the same time. Later, students reported to SJP that they did not participate in SJP’s protest because the student life coordinator discouraged them from doing so.
On October 14, 2014, the Jewish Weekly published an article suggesting that SJP’s protest was antisemitic and contributed to a hostile environment for Jewish students on campus. On October 21, 2014, John Jay president Jeremy Travis sent a letter to the campus community expressing his deep concern, “both personally and professionally, by recent reports that Jewish students at John Jay College have felt intimidated and harassed on our campus” and linking SJP’s activities with a rise in antisemitism in Europe.
Palestine Legal and CCR sent a letter to President Travis advising him that the college’s actions “[chill] student expression that John Jay College is required to protect.” After two meetings with SJP, as well as Hillel and the United Nations club, President Travis sent a second letter to the John Jay community on December 16, 2014, reaffirming the college’s commitment to the First Amendment and the free exchange of ideas.
CUNY: College of Staten Island
College imposes bureaucratic barriers on Ali Abunimah event
Incident Date: March 2014
Location: Staten Island, NY
In spring 2014, CUNY Staten Island (CSI) imposed a set of administrative requirements on Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) that made it difficult to hold an event cosponsored by the anthropology, English, social work, and sociology departments featuring Palestinian-American author Ali Abunimah. After SJP’s president submitted the event form, CSI administrators informed her that the flyer advertising the event required preapproval by the college and, under a new college policy, would have to include a large disclaimer stating that CSI and CUNY are “not responsible for the viewpoints expressed.”
Administrators further required SJP’s president to meet with them and representatives from public safety on three separate occasions, during which they questioned her about the event’s content. The administration took one month to approve the event. After the event, Provost Fred Naider wrote SJP’s faculty advisor demanding that SJP “balance” its events with pro-Israel voices.
SJP’s president told Palestine Legal that she had faced similar delays and bureaucratic barriers when seeking event approval the previous academic year, SJP’s first in existence. These barriers included requirements to attend meetings with administrators with little advanced notice, repeated questioning about SJP’s activities and delayed receipt of event approval, sometimes the same day as a scheduled event. CSI also posted a security guard outside an SJP meeting and posted at least four security guards at several SJP events during the 2013–14 academic year, which made students feel “like they’re being surveilled or that the school is suggesting that SJP is up to illegal activity.” The students told administrators that they wanted “this special security attention to stop, and for CSI to treat us like any other club.”
The club’s faculty advisor, Sarah Schulman, told Palestine Legal that in June 2013, a few months after SJP’s formation, CSI vice president Ramona Brown had urged her to instruct SJP to hold events with Hillel. Schulman reported that few professors wanted to advise SJP for fear of administrative backlash.
Israeli consul interferes with divestment referendum
Incident Date: May 2014
Location: Chicago, IL
In late May 2014, the local Israeli consulate intervened to help defeat a divestment referendum at DePaul University in Chicago, while Israel advocacy organizations leveled accusations of antisemitism against divestment supporters. The referendum, which passed with 1,575 students in favor and 1,333 opposed, called for the university to divest from companies that profit from Israel’s human rights abuses and prohibited DePaul’s Student Government Association from passing any resolutions the following academic year that contradicted it.
The passage of the referendum came after weeks of mobilizing by DePaul Divest—a coalition of students, faculty, and staff supporting divestment—which faced extensive pressure. According to SJP DePaul’s press release, “This victory did not come without immense outside interference by pro-Israel lobbyist group StandWithUs, whose paid staff frequently presented themselves as individuals affiliated with DePaul University [and] canvassed the student body in a counter campaign to DePaul Divest.” Opponents sought to undermine the referendum by labeling it antisemitic and falsely accusing the coalition of seeking to cut funding for Jewish students groups. A blogger published a video of Jewish DePaul students claiming that they felt unsafe on campus because of the divestment campaign.
Students reported that the Israeli consul general also organized against the referendum, going as far as to canvass students personally on campus on the final day of voting, while members of his entourage photographed pro-divestment student campaigners as they spoke with other students and leafleted. Students who have family and friends in occupied Palestine or who travel there expressed concern to Palestine Legal that such surveillance could have serious consequences for them and their families, given Israel’s documented practice of denying Palestinian-Americans entry into Israel and the West Bank and harassing them at the borders.
Palestine Legal wrote a letter to DePaul’s president raising concerns about StandWithUs’s claims and the presence of the consul general on campus, in the context of the university’s obligations to protect student speech, and informing the university of StandWithUs’s use of Title VI threats to undermine student activism. The university did not respond.
University imposes security fees on SJP
Incident Date: January–April 2015
Location: Chicago, IL
A fundraiser sponsored by DePaul Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) for the legal defense of Rasmea Odeh led to the imposition of extra security fees on SJP, false accusations that SJP supports terrorism, and legal threats. DePaul SJP organized the event in February 2015 to support Odeh, a Palestinian community organizer facing deportation.
Israel advocacy organizations, including the American Jewish Committee, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), and StandWithUs, condemned the event, comparing SJP to Hamas and characterizing Odeh as “a convicted Palestinian terrorist.” In a January 29 letter to DePaul’s president, ZOA questioned “the legality of the SJP’s fundraiser—and the use of DePaul University resources to carry it out” and falsely claimed that the fundraiser provided material support for terrorism. ZOA also implied it might file a Title VI complaint against DePaul if it did not condemn the event. Metro Chicago Hillel also blasted the event in a Chicago Sun-Times editorial, and organized a vigil on the night of the fundraiser for Israeli victims of the 1969 bombing that Israeli military courts convicted Odeh of perpetrating based on a confession obtained under torture.
SJP received dozens of hateful messages on social media accusing them of supporting a “terrorist sympathizer,” and declaring that “justice for rasmeah would be a quick death” and that “killing innocent civilians has been an SJP cause since its inception.”
Two weeks before the event, DePaul officials mandated that SJP organizers hire security guards for the event at SJP’s expense. The university told the student group that it felt, based on social media commentary and the planned counter-protest, that SJP members needed security for their own protection.
Palestine Legal wrote to a university administrator requesting that he clarify its policies on security fees, emphasizing that “when the reaction of others to the content of an event determines a student group’s ability to discuss an issue on campus, it gives those opposing their message an effective veto over their speech rights, and forces the students to subsidize the threatened opposition to or disruption of their event.” Palestine Legal also noted that, based on the students’ experiences, the university rarely forced student groups to pay for their own security, suggesting that the imposition of the fee reflected the university’s opposition to the students’ message.
University counsel responded to Palestine Legal’s letter, but failed to address concerns about the arbitrary enforcement of DePaul’s security policies. The administration ultimately sent four security guards to the event and billed SJP \$480 for their services. Students reported that the event took place without incident and that the security guards “did nothing for us and they spent a lot of time just sitting and talking.”
SJP protested the \$480 fee, stating that it lacked the funds. Since SJP was unable to pay the \$480, DePaul placed a hold on the group’s ability to reserve space in the DePaul Student Center for its events. After several meetings with students, administrators agreed to cover half of the costs, remove the hold on SJP, and extend the due date for the remainder of the fees. The university also agreed to host a workshop for student organizations to clarify the security policy and allow students to provide input about them.
Florida Atlantic University
Students falsely accused of antisemitism for mock eviction flyering
Incident Date: March 2012
Location: Boca Raton, FL
Israel advocacy organizations accused Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) of targeting Jewish students in a mock eviction action it organized in the spring of 2012. On March 30, 2012, university staff approved mock eviction notices and escorted SJP members as they posted the notices randomly on dorm room doors. The flyer, which informed students that their dorm was scheduled for demolition and had a copy of a Palm Beach County seal on the bottom, stated in large bold letters at the bottom: “Not a real eviction notice. Not affiliated with the County.” The flyer contained information about the Israeli state’s practice of evicting Palestinians and demolishing their homes to make way for Israeli settlers.
Some Jewish students and several nonstudent organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, the Zionist Organization of America, and the local Hillel group, strongly objected to the action. In letters to university officials and media appeals, they decried the notices as antisemitic and falsely asserted that the SJP students had created an unsafe environment for and frightened the Jewish community. Palm Beach County also threatened legal action against the student group for using the county seal without authorization.
Israel advocacy groups pressured the university to punish SJP and suspend the students. FAU investigated the incident and ultimately found that SJP had posted the notices randomly and had not targeted Jewish students. While the university did not discipline students, it took unspecified “corrective steps” against the staff members who approved the flyers despite university policies that prohibit posting flyers on dorm room doors.
As a result of the incident and media coverage it engendered, SJP students began receiving emails with racial slurs and death threats. CCR, Palestine Legal, and several other rights groups “urge[d] all universities to resist outside pressure to punish students for their political speech, and to respond with the respect for students’ constitutional rights that it is the university’s duty to protect and to promote.”
The students continued to face harassment after the incident. A video created by a right-wing group, the United West, named by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an Islamophobic hate group, identifies individual students by name and falsely insinuates that they are associated with designated terrorist organizations. The video also attacks FAU for failing to address an alleged antisemitic environment and urges alumni and donors to complain and discontinue their support for the university.
FAU released a statement affirming that SJP had not been observed engaging in antisemitic speech and that students had never complained of SJP harassment or intimidation. It also confirmed that the campus Hillel chapter and the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County had both dismissed as unfounded the accusation that FAU tolerated an antisemitic environment on campus.
Florida Atlantic University
Students disciplined for protest
Incident Date: April–August 2013
Location: Boca Raton, FL
In the spring of 2013, FAU students faced disciplinary charges for protesting a speaking event featuring an Israeli soldier.
The April 19 event, entitled “Ethics in the Field: An Inside Look at the Israel Defense Forces,” featured an Israeli colonel. During a pause at the beginning of the presentation, one SJP student stood up and read several facts about alleged war crimes committed by the IDF. In response, nonstudent audience members yelled epithets and racial slurs at the student. Several other students stood up and walked out, while two others silently held up a banner that read “War Criminal” before leaving the room. The entire protest lasted about two minutes, and the event continued for approximately an hour and a half. FAU subsequently charged five SJP students with violations of the student conduct code, disruption, interfering with the free speech and academic freedom of others, and providing false information to school officials. The investigation and disciplinary process lasted about four months.
While the students did not accept responsibility for the charges, asserting that their protest constituted protected free speech, they agreed to the conditions imposed by the university in order to avoid a protracted legal battle and potentially greater punishment. The conditions included a ban on holding leadership positions in any student group, probation for the remainder of their university careers, and a requirement that three of the students attend a diversity training designed by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the same organization that previously maligned them as antisemitic. Israel advocacy groups had lobbied the university to exact these same punishments on SJP students the previous academic year after students distributed mock eviction notices. Reports also indicated that the ADL and other groups continued to lobby FAU to punish and censor SJP, claiming that “FAU has been too accommodating to the group.” In response to the pressure, FAU officials met with the ADL in June 2013 and publicized a new diversity website, largely focused on its public statements regarding accusations of antisemitism and its extensive programming around topics of interest to Jewish students.
CCR, the National Lawyers Guild of South Florida (NLG-SoFla), the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) of Florida advocated on behalf of the students, writing letters expressing their concern with the disproportionate punishment, which they argued likely violated the students’ speech rights. The university defended its actions and described itself as a “marketplace of ideas.” CCR, NLG-SoFla, and ADC responded that the university had failed to address their substantive concerns regarding potential violations of SJP students’ rights.
Off-campus groups interfere with student divestment vote
Incident Date: March 2014–March 2015
Location: Chicago, IL
At Loyola University in Chicago (LUC), Israel advocacy organizations pressured student government officials and LUC administrators to condemn and overturn student government votes in favor of divestment.
In March 2014, LUC student government twice voted on a measure asking the administration to divest from eight companies that profit from Israel’s military occupation. After the student government first voted in favor of the divestment measure on March 18, 26–0 with two abstentions, Metro Chicago Hillel and the Jewish United Fund pressured the administration and the student government to rescind their decision, claiming that “opponents of the measure had no opportunity to voice their views prior to the . . . vote.”
According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the day after the vote, the Jewish United Fund’s Israel Education Center, along with Metro Chicago Hillel, met privately with the student government president, pressuring him to overturn the vote. Following criticism of the measure from Israel advocacy groups, the university made a public statement criticizing the democratically approved student measure and resolving not to follow its recommendations. The president called the measure “one-sided” and “extremely unfair [to] our Jewish faculty, staff and students.” The provost likewise stated that “a small group of students with little notice or effort to educate others used the student government senate to advance an anti-Israel policy position” and that “the action was harmful and divisive.”
Although the students supporting divestment said they had publicly collected 1,000 student signatures in support of their measure and followed all the normal procedures in bringing forth the vote, the student government voted again to permit students opposed to divestment to address the senate. The senate then again endorsed divestment in a 12–10 vote with nine abstentions; however, the student government president vetoed the resolution one day later, on March 26.
A year later, in March 2015, a coalition of students again brought a divestment resolution to the student government, which again passed, 16–15 with two abstentions. The university president issued a public letter to the entire Loyola community reiterating claims made by students who opposed the resolution that they felt “alienated” and perceived the resolution to be “anti-Semitic.” The president also called the resolution “ineffective” and “useless,” and called instead for the opposing sides to “engage in thoughtful and respectful open discussion.”
Loyola Divest responded, “Although you suggest dialogue and discussion, you have not made any efforts to reach out to or meet with, the coalition of students who dedicated months of their time . . . to raise awareness and educate their campus on the human rights issues at the heart of the Measure to Divest. We have been engaging in non-stop dialogue.” The response also highlighted the impact of the president’s condemnation, causing “senators, out of fear of backlash . . . to have the vote be anonymous” and making them “hesitant to speak out in affirmation or opposition, for fear of displaying bias.”
This time, though, the student government president opted not to veto the resolution, stating in a public statement that “the only messages I received [in opposition to the resolution] were from concerned administrators,” not from students themselves. He emphasized that the resolution was “in no way . . . anti-Semitic. To critique a university’s private investments and a popular political ideology is not the same as endorsing religious persecution.” In reaffirming his role as representative of the student body, his statement concluded, “We as students . . . must come to face the reality that the university will not divest . . . anytime soon. But, with this measure that has now passed three times, the university must now face the reality that this is what the students want and what they believe is best.”
Despite the passage of the student government resolution, the Loyola University Senate announced in April 2015 that it would not discuss divestment, referencing President Garanzini’s condemnation of the resolution and claiming that it “would not be productive.”
University disciplines SJP for Birthright Israel action
Incident Date: September 2014
Location: Chicago, IL
In the fall of 2014, Loyola University–Chicago (LUC) investigated students for engaging in a protest at a Birthright Israel information table.
In September 2014, several students at LUC heard about a tabling event happening on campus the next day for Birthright Israel, a program that takes Jewish youth from around the world on free trips to Israel. According to a statement by LUC Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the group decided not to endorse any actions in response, but individual students later lined up at the table to attempt to register for a Birthright trip in order to highlight the discriminatory nature of the program, which excludes all non-Jews. As the students explained, “Any Jewish student worldwide can register for the program, while indigenous non-Jewish Palestinians are not only ineligible for the program, but often are denied the right to live in or even visit their homeland freely.”
About fifteen students quietly lined up at the Birthright table, and the students at the front of the line calmly engaged in a conversation about why they could not register for Birthright, even though their ancestral villages are located in present-day Israel. Several individuals hosting the table told the Palestinian students that they had somewhere else to be and left their table. The students who had lined up quickly posed for a picture together and then dispersed.
Following the event, students affiliated with Hillel claimed that the action blocked the Birthright table in violation of school policy and that the students’ questions were insulting and threatening. LUC SJP’s statement rebutted these claims, providing video footage to show that the action did not obstruct movement or involve harassment or intimidation of any kind.
After receiving complaints, the administration opened an investigation and contacted several SJP students—some of whom had not taken part in the action—to come in and discuss the action. Within days, the administration decided to suspend SJP temporarily while the investigation remained open. Administrators then informed SJP that the suspension pertained not to its ongoing investigation into the Birthright incident, but to a separate alleged violation of university policies relating to another event.
Administrators lifted the suspension a week later, however, after meeting with students to clarify misunderstandings about the previous event and receiving a letter from Palestine Legal, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Chicago, and local attorney Rima Kapitan that raised concerns with the university’s investigation. The letter highlighted the inflammatory and unfounded nature of the accusations, which followed a pattern of similar such complaints across the country.
After a month-long investigation, administrators charged LUC SJP with six disciplinary violations, including bias-motivated misconduct, harassment and bullying, disruptive conduct, and violating the demonstration policy by failing to register their event. Administrators also charged Loyola’s Hillel chapter, which sponsored the Birthright Israel tabling, with failing to register the tabling event.
After a four-hour hearing, LUC sustained only one of the six charges against SJP– failing to register the “demonstration.” It also sustained a similar charge against Hillel, but meted out strikingly disproportionate sanctions. While LUC placed SJP Loyola on probation for the remainder of the academic year and required members to undergo intergroup dialogue training, it only required Hillel to meet with administrators to clarify school policies. The probation deprived SJP of any additional funding for its activities and put the group at risk of more severe sanctions for any possible future infraction.
Montclair State University
Student government fines SJP for “political activity”
Incident Date: September-October 2014
Location: Montclair, NJ
On September 25, 2014, Montclair State University Student Government Association (SGA) sanctioned and fined the campus Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter for a tabling event it had held three days prior. During the tabling event, SJP distributed brochures with statistics on Israeli settlement activity and home demolitions, a map depicting Palestinian loss of land from 1946 to 2000, SJP’s values statement, and information on how students could get involved with SJP.
After receiving complaints that the group handed out “offensive” pamphlets, SGA’s attorney general sent SJP a “letter of sanction” on September 25, 2014, notifying SJP of SGA’s decision to fine the group 5 percent of its fall semester budget and ordering it to cease all “political propaganda” and “focus [its] events on the Palestinian culture.” SGA did not provide SJP the opportunity to respond to the complaints or appeal the decision.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) sent a letter to Montclair State University president Susan Cole advising her that the “sanctions and censorship demands imposed by [the SGA Attorney General] violate the First Amendment rights of MSJP and must be reversed.”
On October 8, the SGA president informed SJP that SGA had rescinded its September 25 letter and would not impose any sanction on the group.
New York University
Mock eviction action brings false antisemitism accusations
Incident Date: April 2014
Location: New York, NY
In April 2014, NYU’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) faced accusations of antisemitism after a mock eviction action it organized. On April 24, 2014, NYU SJP members distributed flyers in NYU residence halls, which informed students that authorities had scheduled their suite for demolition in three days and included several paragraphs on Israel’s home demolition policies and a disclaimer that “this is not a real eviction notice. This is intended to draw attention to the reality that Palestinians confront on a regular basis.”
Later that day, the Times of Israel published an article by the president of NYU’s Israel advocacy group, TorchPac, falsely claiming that SJP had targeted a dorm with a “high concentration” of Jewish students, noting that one of the two residence halls had a Sabbath elevator, and that the action constituted “anti-Semitic fearmongering.” Several news outlets repeated the baseless claims and the administration summoned SJP for a meeting to discuss the incident.
NYU spokesperson John Beckman rebuked the charges of antisemitism, explaining that “we don’t believe there is perception of this dorm as having an a [sic] higher percentage of Jewish students (the presence of a Sabbath elevator is the result of a stairway that empties to the street and cannot be entered through the lobby behind the security desk, not because of a disproportionate presence of Jewish students in the building).” SJP stated that it chose these two particular dorms, because they were NYU’s largest and the most accessible to SJP members.
The Times of Israel article also falsely accused SJP of maintaining financial ties to Hamas. In a statement, SJP explained that it relies “exclusively” on funding by NYU’s All-Square Student Budget Allocation Committee (ASSBAC), per NYU policy. Administrators took no disciplinary action against NYU’s SJP.
University sanctions SJP for event walkout
Incident Date: April 2013
Location: Boston, MA
In April 2013, Northeastern University put Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) on probation for the remainder of the calendar year after members of the group staged a walkout at a campus event featuring an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier. Campus officials warned students by email before the event not to hold signs or engage in “vocal disruption.” In keeping with the warning, students decided to tape the names of Palestinian children killed by the IDF to their shirts and planned a walkout. During a pause in the presentation, one SJP student stood up and stated, “The IDF are war criminals and they are not welcome on our campus,” then proceeded to walk out with other students, who spontaneously chanted “Free Palestine” as they left the room. The disruption lasted less than one minute and the event continued without further incident.
The following day, campus officials sent students an email notifying them that the university had opened an investigation into whether SJP had violated the university demonstrations policy, which could affect their status as a group. They also cancelled an event SJP had scheduled that evening, a scholarly lecture by Palestinian researcher Dr. Abu Sitta, referencing the previous day’s walkout and SJP’s “failure to plan the event in a timely manner.” SJP members, who told Palestine Legal that they had organized the event according to the usual procedures, opted instead to hold the event at Northeastern’s law school.
On April 17, the university sent SJP a hearing notice, which informed students that they faced charges of failing to comply with school officials’ directions on how to conduct their protest, violating the demonstration policy by not registering their walkout seven days in advance, and failing to comply with the university’s cancellation of Dr. Sitta’s lecture. After a hearing, the university found SJP responsible for violating the demonstration policy, clearing them of the other two charges, and put the group on probation until December 2013. It also directed SJP to write a “civility statement.”
The administration did not specify what content it expected SJP to include in the “civility statement,” but noted, “Our goals remain to support our student organizations to experience success and to maintain high standards of civility and respect to all members of the University community.” SJP submitted a statement in December 2013, which reasserted students’ rights to free speech and declared, “We will continue to challenge repugnant ideas vocally, expressing an alternate view. This should be welcomed at a prominent university.”
The sanctions that Northeastern applied to SJP sharply contrasted with the university’s decision not to sanction other students who staged similar “disruptions,” including pro-Israel students’ vocal protest of a lecture by political scientist Norman Finkelstein in 2010. The administration denied that it engaged in discriminatory treatment, noting that the pro-Israel students sought and received “emergency permission” to demonstrate. Though aware of SJP’s plans to protest, and in communication with organizers, including with directions on how to protest, administrators at no time notified SJP that it could request emergency permission for the action.
A Boston Globe columnist questioned whether the students’ political views factored into the sentencing and challenged the school’s policy: “No signs or shouting at demonstrations? Those things are essential to protest, time-honored democratic traditions. A requirement that students get a permit a week ahead is especially onerous.”
This incident took place amid pressure on the university by Israel advocacy groups to restrict SJP’s activity. In a July 2013 letter to Northeastern that was copied to a major university donor, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) raised concerns about the allegedly hostile, antisemitic environment on campus and suggested it might file a Title VI complaint. The previous winter, in December 2012, a right-wing group, Americans for Peace and Tolerance, released a documentary film alleging antisemitism at Northeastern. The film targeted SJP and three professors, including SJP’s faculty advisor, and included surreptitiously recorded footage from SJP events and the professors’ classes.
Administrators imposed additional bureaucratic hurdles on SJP amid this external pressure campaign. Other obstacles SJP faced included the cancellation of a mock-checkpoint action the day before due to an alleged failure to follow proper procedures, a police presence at all SJP events against its express wishes, and attempts to revoke SJP’s status for not properly signing a student group registration form it had submitted. Civil rights organizations, including Palestine Legal, CCR, National Lawyers Guild–Massachusetts, and ACLU–Massachusetts complained to Northeastern that these bureaucratic obstacles amounted to apparent discriminatory treatment.
University suspends SJP after mock eviction flyering
Incident Date: March–April 2014
Location: Boston, MA
In March 2014, Northeastern University suspended Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) after a mock-eviction action it organized. On February 23, 2014, SJP members at Northeastern University distributed flyers under the doors of students’ dorm rooms that stated that authorities had scheduled the dorm for demolition, accompanied by a note explaining that it was not a real eviction notice and contained facts about Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes.
Two days later, Northeastern’s Associate Dean for Cultural and Residential Life emailed the student body, urging students to express to administrators and Hillel House of Northeastern “how this had impacted [them].” Northeastern’s Hillel also published a letter on its website stating that it was working with Northeastern’s police department to “conduct a thorough investigation.”
As part of its investigation, students told Palestine Legal that campus police interrogated two SJP students in their homes, approached two students in class, and called four other students on their cell phones.
On March 7, 2014, Northeastern informed SJP that it had decided to suspend the group through December 31 for this and prior incidents. The list of prior incidents, according to SJP, included incidents it had nothing to do with and others for which the administration had found it “not responsible.” Northeastern also charged two SJP students with violating the code of student conduct by “constitut[ing] a threat to self and others or to the proper functioning of the university,” failing to control guests, and violating university posting policies. The university sustained the latter two charges against two students after completing its investigation. SJP noted that, “the Handbook guidelines on flyer distribution in dormitories are flouted, if not flatly ignored by other student groups, as well as individuals, on a regular basis.”
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) immediately praised and claimed credit for the group’s suspension, and other Israel advocacy groups followed suit. The incident attracted significant media attention.
In addition to a large campaign joined by numerous community groups, unions, and student groups, Palestine Legal, CCR, the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), and the ACLU of Massachusetts pressured Northeastern to lift SJP’s suspension, arguing that it constituted viewpoint discrimination in violation of Massachusetts law. On April 23, 2014, SJP announced that the administration had reinstated it. The students agreed to a probationary period and regular meetings with an associate dean.
Student Council blocks voting on divestment resolution
Incident Date: February–March 2015
Location: Boston, MA
In February 2015, Northeastern University’s student government blocked the campus Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter from placing a referendum on the election ballot regarding divestment from companies profiting from violations of Palestinian rights.
In order to put a referendum on a ballot at Northeastern, the referendum’s sponsor must obtain the approval of the student executive board, which is charged with assessing “feasibility, adherence to university policy and fairness in wording,” and ensure that the measure has the support of 750 undergraduate students. On February 19, 2015, SJP submitted the referendum form to the student executive board for approval. The next day, student body president Noah Carville sent a three-page memo to SJP stating that the cabinet had unanimously denied its request to put the referendum on the ballot out of concern that doing so would create a “hostile, threatening, intimidating, or abusive environment” for Northeastern students and “pose a risk to the safety of the undergraduate student community.”
On March 2, 2015, a student government parliamentarian notified SJP that the student senate had decided to allow the referendum to go forward, noting that the constitution only allowed the senate—not the cabinet—to block referendums from placement on the ballot. SJP proceeded to collect signatures from undergraduate students for their petition in support of putting the referendum on the ballot, collecting over 900.
Amid continued calls to prevent the student body from voting, on March 12, Palestine Legal, the ACLU of Massachusetts, CCR, and the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) of Massachusetts sent a letter to the student body president urging the student government to resist calls to suppress student democracy by preventing the student body from voting on the divestment referendum. The letter rejected claims of antisemitism and warned of the risks of restricting “the discussion of human rights and international law likely to be engendered by the referendum proposed by SJP.” More than thirty Boston-area community organizations and 5,000 people from across the country signed petitions urging the student government to allow the referendum to appear on the ballot.
At the same time, the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) urged student government members to bar the student body from voting on SJP’s divestment referendum, calling it a “simplistic” and “one-sided” approach that would contribute to making “Jewish, pro-Israeli students feel isolated and besieged.” Northeastern’s Hillel also urged people to reach out to student government senators “and ask them to vote no” to allowing the referendum to be placed on the ballot.
On March 16, 2015, after a three-hour hearing, the student government voted not to put the referendum on the ballot. Students told Palestine Legal that senators expressed concern that the referendum would displease donors and lead to an increase in antisemitism on campus.
Student body president receives death threats for pro-BDS video
Incident Date: September 2014
Location: Athens, OH
In September 2014, Ohio University’s student body president, Megan Marzec, received death and rape threats after posting a video of herself taking a “blood bucket challenge,” in which she dumped fake blood on her head to protest Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and in support of BDS. Marzec’s action came in response to an August 2014 “ice bucket challenge” by Ohio University president Roderick McDavis as part of a campaign to raise money for research on ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), where participants pledge a donation, make videos of themselves dumping buckets of ice water on their heads, and then challenge others to do the same.
Marzec soon received thousands of hate messages, including death and rape threats. The university advised Marzec to go into protective housing and not walk alone, and offered a police escort. The university also informed Marzec that President McDavis had also received death threats.
On September 4, two days after Marzec posted the video, President McDavis issued a statement distancing the university from Marzec’s message and emphasizing the need for “civility” in discussions about Israel/Palestine.
Students active with Hillel and Bobcats for Israel, a campus Israel advocacy group, along with other national and international Israel advocacy groups, began calling for Marzec’s resignation as student body president. In February 2015, campus police arrested four students with Bobcats for Israel for interrupting a student senate hearing, calling for Marzec’s resignation. The students faced fourth-degree misdemeanor charges for disturbing a lawful meeting after they refused to plead guilty to lesser charges, which were later dismissed on procedural grounds.
Campus rabbi Danielle Leshaw, who also serves as executive director of the campus chapter of Hillel, wrote an open letter to Marzec calling for her resignation, stating that Marzec’s video:
makes Jewish parents want to bring their kids back home to the safety of the Jewish suburbs. It makes alumni want to pull their funding. It makes Jewish organizations call and demand that we do more. It makes people threaten, and when we don’t comply and do exactly what they say, they threaten some more.
Dozens of Ohio University faculty signed a statement supporting Marzec and raising concerns that the invocation of ‘civility’ “functions to silence dissent and debate on issues of current concern.” Palestine Legal also wrote to Ohio University administrators, advising them of their obligation to protect Marzec and others who speak out for Palestinian rights against groups that falsely allege antisemitism and call for sanctioning individuals based on First Amendment protected activities.
University subjects SJP to bureaucratic scrutiny for mock-checkpoint actions
Incident Date: 2011
Location: West Lafayette, IN
In 2011, Purdue University officials subjected SJP students to burdensome and discriminatory bureaucratic scrutiny. Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) members set up mock-checkpoints on campus to demonstrate the constraints Israel places on Palestinians’ freedom of movement. Students told Palestine Legal that after the first checkpoint action, university administrators requested documentation beyond the regular requirements for student event approval when SJP wanted to set up another mock checkpoint. Administrators requested evidence that Israeli checkpoints violate Palestinian human rights, the scripts checkpoint actors would use, and the names and phone numbers of all participating students. In meetings with administrators after the event, one administrator compared the theatrical demonstration’s reenactment of the abuse Palestinians experience at checkpoints to a mock lynching put on by a white supremacist organization. As a result of the burdensome approval process, the group opted not to organize another checkpoint in the 2012–13 academic year. Students said that because of the obstacles administrators had imposed upon them, they preferred to organize off campus.
Flotilla fundraiser draws allegations of supporting terrorism
Incident Date: November 2010
Location: New Brunswick, NJ
In the fall of 2010, Hillel and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) alleged that a student fundraiser for the Gaza Flotilla violated federal law and constituted support for terrorism.
BAKA (Belief, Awareness, Knowledge and Action), a student organization at Rutgers University’s main New Brunswick campus, organized a November fundraiser to support the US boat to Gaza, part of the Flotilla, which aimed to break the siege and blockade of Gaza. As early as September 2010, Hillel and the ADL notified Rutgers’s student allocation committee, the university president, and the chief legal counsel that the event, funded by the university, could violate federal law. Although raising funds for a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, as per university requirements, the fundraiser came under attack by Hillel, which claimed that the proceeds would fund a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization and thereby constitute material support for terrorism. Hillel further alleged that the flotilla, and planning events supporting it, violated the Neutrality Act, which makes it a felony for private citizens to undertake naval expeditions against friendly nations.
CCR advised the students that the US boat to Gaza, and therefore their fundraiser, did not violate federal or international law. CCR’s memo clarified that material support laws “prohibit only knowing provision of material support to specifically designated groups or individuals.” It also referred to international legal principles and analyses that illustrate the illegality of the Israeli blockade and the legality of the flotilla itself, which “falls within . . . the right of the participants to freedom of expression, freedom of association and political participation.”
Rutgers University ultimately prevented the organizers from donating the money they raised to the designated nonprofit organization supporting the flotilla. For two years, the university refused to disburse the funds raised to several alternative beneficiaries the students identified. Instead, in 2012, the university eventually disbursed funds to the organization American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA), in defiance of the students’ and donors’ intention to support the Gaza Flotilla. During those two years, Israel advocacy groups filed complaints with the Department of Education (DOE) about subsequent events by BAKA, which led authorities to investigate Rutgers (see below).
Title VI complaint targets “Never Again” event
Incident Date: January 2011-September 2014
Location: New Brunswick, NJ
In July 2011 the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) filed a complaint with the Department of Education (DOE), alleging that recent events on Palestinian human rights had created a hostile environment for Jewish students.
In early January 2011, Israel advocacy groups objected to an event titled “Never Again for Anyone,” organized by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) and American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) and endorsed by several Rutgers student groups, including BAKA (Belief, Awareness, Knowledge and Action), which featured speeches by Holocaust survivors and a Nakba survivor. Opponents of the event publicly accused BAKA of antisemitism and the ADL denounced the event as “a tool to demonize Israel.” Rutgers Hillel, a local synagogue, and Jewish Federation chapters in the area sent alerts to their members urging them to protest the event.
The evening of the event, pro-Israel protestors physically assaulted event volunteers and called them “towelheads” and “suicide bombers,” among other sexist, racist, and homophobic slurs. A Jewish volunteer reported being called a “traitor” and several students faced cyberbullying after the event via email and on Facebook. Campus police delayed the event for over an hour because of the protests.
Because of last-minute changes to the contract from the university, as well as university-imposed security fees, endorsers of the event charged a last-minute fee to attendees, which StandWithUs and other groups falsely claimed organizers had levied only on Jewish and pro-Israel individuals.
In April 2011, the ZOA threatened Rutgers with a Title VI complaint to the Department of Education (DOE), arguing that BAKA’s events demonized Jews and created a hostile, antisemitic environment for Jewish students. The letter claimed that, in order for the university to comply with DOE policy, it needed to “publicly [label] and [condemn] anti-Semitism when it occurs on campus, including when it is expressed as anti-Zionist or anti-Israel sentiment that has the effect of promoting prejudice against or hatred of Jews,” and to investigate several incidents, including the “Never Again” event.
Rutgers explained that it had adequately responded to and investigated the incidents, noting that administrators had met with concerned Jewish campus and community groups and leaders, including Hillel and rabbis in the community, and that it had barred IJAN, one of the “Never Again” event organizers, from using university facilities until January 2012.
In July 2011, ZOA filed a complaint with the DOE requesting an investigation into violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act at Rutgers for tolerating an environment hostile to Jewish students. The complaint identified several incidents, including the alleged admission fee for Jewish and pro-Israel attendees at the “Never Again” event, online threats a pro-Israel student claimed to have received, and anti-Israel bias in the Middle East studies program. Rutgers rebuffed ZOA’s allegations as “factually inaccurate and significantly distorted” and argued that they did “not reflect the true environment of inclusiveness and a free exchange of ideas that exists at Rutgers University.
Three years later, in September 2014, the DOE dismissed the complaint, holding that the incidents grew out of political disagreements and not racial, ethnic, or religious bias, and that it could not corroborate the facts alleged in the complaint. Regarding the “Never Again” event, DOE stated that “the evidence failed to substantiate any specific incidents in which the fee requirement was imposed unequally on Jewish or non-Jewish attendees.”
SJP falsely accused of antisemitism for mock eviction flyering” event
Incident Date: October 2013
Location: New Brunswick, NJ
In October 2013, Rutgers New Brunswick Hillel falsely accused the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter on campus of “targeting Jewish students” when it posted mock eviction notices in student dorms to raise awareness about the demolition of Palestinian homes. Students clearly identified the notices as fake and distributed them randomly, taking special precautions to avoid predominantly Jewish housing. The university conducted its own investigation, and found that while the students violated a housing policy on posting flyers, they did not target Jewish students. The Rutgers Bias Committee rejected a student complaint regarding the mock eviction notices, noting that the incident did not constitute bias. Although Hillel maintains that it did not file any complaints, press identified the student who filed the bias complaint as a student employed as Hillel’s Israel advocacy co-chair.
San Diego State University
Divestment referendum ballot excludes pro-BDS statement
Incident Date: April 2015
Location: San Diego, CA
In a student referendum on divestment at San Diego State University (SDSU) in April 2015, the student Elections Committee excluded from the ballot a statement in support of the initiative, apparently as punishment for minor election-rule violations by divestment proponents. The ballot asked students whether they support divestment of university funds from companies profiting from the Israeli occupation of Palestine—yes or no—and then included an opposition statement persuading voters to vote “no.” The committee permitted divestment supporters to provide a short rebuttal to the “no” statement, but not to submit a separate statement in favor of divestment.
The Elections Committee imposed this sanction after receiving complaints from students opposed to the referendum alleging that divestment proponents had posted too many flyers, misused the university logo, and emailed professors about the referendum in violation of the Elections Code. Students opposed to the referendum also tried to block the statement by branding it antisemitic. SDSU Divest Coalition appealed the decision to exclude the “yes” statement,” arguing that the sanction deprived students of a fair opportunity to consider the arguments for and against the referendum, thereby prejudicing the outcome and undermining the democratic process. Campus authorities denied their appeal.
Students in the SDSU Divest Coalition reported to Palestine Legal that they believed their pro-divestment message triggered an unprecedented, disproportionate, and heavy-handed response by the Elections Committee to minor rule violations.
Despite the sanction, the majority of voting students (53 percent) voted in favor of divestment. The percentage, though, fell short of the supermajority required to pass the referendum officially.
San Francisco State University
AMCHA accuses student group of supporting the murder of Jews
Incident Date: November 2013
Location: San Francisco, CA
The AMCHA Initiative accused the student group General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) of supporting the murder of Jews after a November 2013 event celebrating the sixth anniversary of a community mural honoring the late Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said. At the event, students from GUPS and an indigenous rights student group set up a table for passersby to make signs and brought stencils. One of the stencils read, “My heroes have always killed colonizers,” a phrase which students adopted from community events featuring stories of global Indigenous resistance to colonization, in particular the genocide of Native Americans by European colonizers.
The AMCHA Initiative accused the event’s student organizers of “glorifying the murdering of Jews,” calling the stencil a threat to Jewish students on campus, and launched a media campaign demanding that the university investigate and punish the students. The university initially issued a statement condemning the students’ speech and implicitly supporting AMCHA’s charges. After a community outcry, the university issued a second statement emphasizing “that social justice is a strategic priority and our commitment to free speech runs deep.” AMCHA has repeatedly referenced the stencils in order to try to demonstrate a pattern of antisemitism on campus that threatens the safety of Jewish students and, in particular, to vilify GUPS’s faculty advisor, SFSU professor Rabab Abdulhadi.
San Francisco State University
AMCHA accuses scholar of meeting with terrorists
Incident Date: March—August 2014
Location: San Francisco, CA
In March 2014, the AMCHA Initiative launched a campaign asking San Francisco State University (SFSU) to investigate Palestinian professor Rabab Abdulhadi. After returning from travel to Palestine and Jordan in January 2014, Professor Abdulhadi organized a campus event to discuss her trip, her research, and the firsthand experiences of Palestinians living under occupation. AMCHA argued that Professor Abdulhadi’s event threatened the safety of Jewish students and contributed to a “hostile environment.”
In May, AMCHA accused Professor Abdulhadi of misrepresenting the nature and purpose of her trip and abusing taxpayer funds to meet with “known terrorists.” SFSU reviewed the facts and concluded that AMCHA’s allegations had “no merit.” The record, including documents AMCHA cited, demonstrated transparency and accuracy in Professor Abdulhadi’s application for travel authorization. As SFSU confirmed, Professor Abdulhadi correctly reported the purpose of her trip: to attend an international conference, meet with diverse figures in Palestinian society as part of her scholarly research, and collaborate with potential university partners toward a possible memorandum of understanding between SFSU and Palestinian universities. She carried out these activities as planned, though university-imposed delays in approving travel to “high-risk” countries prevented her from attending the conference.
After a wave of public support for Professor Abdulhadi, SFSU president Leslie Wong issued a statement: “Professor Abdulhadi’s academic work in race and resistance studies requires examination of some of the world’s most challenging and controversial issues. San Francisco State University will continue to respect academic freedom, and we will not censor our scholars nor condone censorship by others.”
Even after SFSU rejected AMCHA’s allegations, AMCHA continued its campaign, reciting its accusations in a June 24, 2014, complaint to the California State Controller’s office requesting an investigation. Palestine Legal, CCR, and other groups wrote the Controller, emphasizing that AMCHA’s complaint relied on “spurious and politically motivated allegations that have already been dismissed by SFSU administrators.” The letter also contextualized AMCHA’s ongoing efforts to intimidate and silence those with whom it disagrees politically. The Controller’s office took no action on the complaint.
In August 2014, SFSU audited Dr. Abdulhadi’s international travel for the previous five years, despite having already found AMCHA’s charges baseless. SFSU notified her that, “to conduct a more thorough review and to show the university’s due diligence, we expanded the review to include international travels you made since .” Dr. Abdulhadi reported to Palestine Legal that this unprecedented action had taken a significant toll on her. She outlined the consequences in a May 2015 letter to the SFSU Academic Senate in which she called for action to remedy the harm to academic freedom:
Because the university administration sat on its hands for seven months while AMCHA continued to publicize its false accusations, I spent my 2014 sabbatical responding to those attacks and providing support and reassurance to my students whose learning environment was severely disrupted by the intensity and malevolence of AMCHA’s attempt to destroy our program [the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities Diasporas initiative] and implicitly brand them, by association with me, as potential “terrorists.” As a result I was unable to work on the book I had planned to write during my sabbatical and am now behind schedule in completing the research and publications necessary to advance to a full professorship.
San Jose State University
AMCHA calls for probe of educational workshop
Incident Date: April 2013
Location: Stanford, CA
In April 2013, the AMCHA Initiative called on San Jose State University to investigate an educational workshop organized by its Middle East studies program titled “Peacebuilding, Nonviolence, and Approaches to Teaching the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” Comparative literature professor Persis Karim organized the workshop for high school teachers and community college faculty to explore ways of teaching the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to allow students to understand it more fully. The workshop received funding from the United States Institute of Peace, an independent institution funded by Congress.
AMCHA objected that the workshop failed to provide a sufficiently “balanced” view of the conflict, thereby violating United States Institute of Peace funding guidelines and federal funding requirements under the Higher Education Act. In particular, it claimed that none of the workshop speakers “will present the Israeli narrative, and that some may even make presentations which demonize and delegitimize Israel.” AMCHA further noted that Karim harbored anti-Israel views and that other university departments had sponsored anti-Israel events, such as a lecture about “the difficulty of life under Israeli ‘occupation’ for Palestinians in the West Bank.” In addition to its complaint, AMCHA submitted public records requests to review the university’s support for the event and initiated an online pressure campaign against the university.
Although the university opted not to interfere with the workshop, it also chose not to publicly defend the event or Professor Karim’s academic freedom, despite requests from Karim herself and the Academic Freedom Committee of the Middle East Studies Association of North America.
Students of Color Coalition accused of antisemitism
Incident Date: April 2015
In April 2015, Israel advocacy groups falsely accused the Students of Color Coalition (SOCC) at Stanford University, which supported a campus divestment resolution that passed in the student senate in February, of contributing to an antisemitic campus environment. Six Stanford student organizations—the Black Student Union, MeChA, the Muslim Students Awareness Network, NAACP, the Stanford American Indian Organization and the Asian American Students Association—make up the SOCC coalition.
The divestment resolution, which called for divestment from multinational corporations complicit in human rights abuses in Palestine, passed 10–1 with four abstentions during a revote on February 16, 2015, a week after it had fallen two votes short of the required two-thirds threshold (9–1 with five abstentions). The resolution specifically called for divestment from companies “maintaining the illegal infrastructure of the Israeli occupation,” “facilitating Israel and Egypt’s collective punishment of Palestinian civilians,” and “facilitating state repression against Palestinians by Israeli, Egyptian or Palestinian security forces.” In a statement after the vote, Stanford Out of Occupied Palestine, a coalition of nineteen student groups, including all of the SOCC constituent groups, who came together to support divestment, lauded the “immense student support” for the campaign, including the more than 1,600 Stanford students who signed the divestment petition.
During the student election season that followed divestment, a Jewish candidate for the student senate named Molly Horwitz accused SOCC of antisemitism after SOCC members questioned her about her position on divestment during an endorsement interview. Horwitz, who publicly opposed divestment, alleged that a SOCC representative asked her during her interview, “Given your Jewish identity, how would you vote on divestment?” SOCC strongly rejected the uncorroborated allegation, offering nine witnesses who participated in the Horwitz interview to dispute her claim.
The Stanford Review, a conservative student newspaper with a long history of attacking SOCC and other progressive groups, also accused SOCC of asking endorsed candidates to sign a contract promising not to associate with Jewish groups. SOCC immediately released its endorsement contract, which contained no such language.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) wrote to Stanford, claiming that student debate about divestment from Israel created a divisive environment that bred antisemitism and resulted in the allegedly biased questioning of Horwitz. The New York Times featured these allegations in a major investigative piece on April 15, despite reporters’ inability to corroborate them. The New York Times piece also repeated the narrative that campus debate about divestment contributes to an antisemitic campus environment. Other media sources picked up on the story, subjecting SOCC to days of public scrutiny.
The day after the New York Times ran its story, the Stanford Board of Trustees announced that it would not act on or even evaluate the divestment request, highlighting its “divisiveness.” On April 16, Stanford provost John Etchemendy told a faculty senate meeting that he had become “increasingly distressed by the tenor of discourse on campus,” citing Israel-Palestine as an example. These characterizations starkly contrasted with the public statements by the diverse student coalition supporting divestment, which consistently focused on corporate conduct that abuses human rights and violates international law.
SOCC continued to face intense pressure. On April 17, Stanford’s Constitutional Council voted to hear a case brought by the Stanford Review demanding that SOCC make public its private notes from its endorsement interviews under the student government constitution’s freedom of information provision. On April 20, the student government’s financial manager notified SOCC that he had placed all its constituent groups on probation and had frozen their funds pending the outcome of the hearing. The student senate, though, reversed the freeze on April 21 and SOCC prevailed in the Constitutional Council case in a unanimous decision (4–0, with one abstention). SOCC interpreted this unprecedented disparate treatment as punishment for its political positions on divestment and other issues.
Three weeks later, members of a Jewish fraternity at Stanford discovered swastika graffiti on their fraternity house. Media reports quickly made the connection to divestment and the Horwitz incident, despite no evidence supporting such a connection. The president of the Stanford Israel Association commented, “I don’t want to speculate to the cause of the vandalism, but after divestment, there has been a rise in hostility towards Jewish communities.” On June 24, police arrested a nineteen-year-old suspect with no apparent connection to the Stanford campus or the Israel/Palestine issue, whom they accused of painting the swastikas.
In April, in the wake of the swastika vandalism, the AMCHA Initiative wrote to Stanford demanding that the university adopt the State Department’s definition of antisemitism—a redefinition that would define divestment and other advocacy for Palestinian rights as antisemitic.
Campus Hillel chapter changes name after legal threat from parent organization
Incident Date: March 2015
Location: Swarthmore, PA
In March 2015, Hillel International threatened legal action after Swarthmore Hillel announced plans to host an event critical of Israeli policy and supportive of BDS. The event, part of a tour organized by the Open Hillel Movement entitled “Social Justice Then and Now: Lessons from the Civil Rights Movement,” featured Jewish civil rights veterans Ira Grupper, Mark Levy, Larry Rubin, and Dorothy Zellner, who planned to make connections between their work in the Jim Crow South and activism around Israel/Palestine today.
Hillel International warned that the event violated its “Standards of Partnership” guidelines prohibiting campus Hillel affiliates from hosting speakers supportive of BDS, and argued that the campus organization could therefore not use the copyrighted Hillel name. In a letter to Swarthmore administrators, Tracy Turoff, Hillel International vice president and general counsel, wrote that Hillel International needed “to protect its guidelines, name, and reputation” from a program in which “the speakers present or proselytize their known anti-Israel” agenda.
In response, student leaders voted 7–3 to formally disassociate with Hillel and change the group’s name to Swarthmore Kehilah, which means “community” in Hebrew.
One year prior, in December 2013, the group, then still known as Swarthmore Hillel, had declared itself part of the “Open Hillel” movement, defining itself as “a religious and cultural group whose purpose is not to advocate for one single political view, but rather to open up space that encourages dialogue within the diverse and pluralistic Jewish student body.” Open Hillel, a national student-run campaign “to encourage inclusivity and open discourse at campus Hillels,” seeks to change the “standards of partnerships” in Hillel International’s guidelines and to end the exclusion of Jewish students who question Israeli policy. Hillel International CEO and president Eric Fingerhut described rejection of the Campus Israel Activities Guidelines as “not acceptable,” proclaiming that “‘anti-Zionists’ will not be permitted to speak using the Hillel name or under the Hillel roof, under any circumstances.”
In a March 2015 statement on “Hillel International’s Legal Threats Against Swarthmore Hillel,” the Open Hillel Movement wrote, “Rather than empower young Jews who are working to create meaningful programming, Hillel International has tried to bully them into silence. As students involved in our Hillels around the country, we demand an immediate halt to any attempts to legally blackmail our peers and ask that supporters of openness in the American Jewish community join us in actively expressing our shame in Hillel International’s actions.”
Israel advocacy groups call for SJP removal after altercation
Incident Date: August 2014
Location: Philadelphia, PA
In August 2014, Israel advocacy organizations called for the removal of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) from Temple University after a physical altercation broke out beside an SJP table at a large student organization fair.
The incident began when Daniel Vessal, a student and campus fellow for the right-wing, pro-Israel media watchdog organization CAMERA, approached the SJP table and made racist comments, including calling the SJP students “terrorists” and “Hamas.” Vessal returned to the table numerous times, despite being asked to leave by four SJP members, who felt harassed. Vessal then engaged in a contentious conversation with another visitor to the table, who slapped Vessal. SJP issued a statement condemning the incident, explaining that although its members witnessed the incident, they were not responsible, as the student who slapped Vessal was not a member of the group.
Vessal nevertheless blamed SJP, further alleging that SJP students had used antisemitic slurs against him, which SJP firmly denied. Hillel of Greater Philadelphia demanded that Temple hold SJP responsible, and a Facebook group formed entitled “Demand the Removal of SJP from Temple University.”
Jewish Voice for Peace of Philadelphia wrote a statement in support of Temple SJP, “expressing deep concern that the incident is being manipulated by pro-Israel groups in an attempt to smear the reputation of Temple SJP and suppress their campus activities” and stating that SJP members “have been consistent in their condemnations of anti-Jewish racism. . . . We find the accusations of anti-Semitism leveled against the group to be far-fetched, to say the least.”
The university investigated the incident and decided not to take action against SJP. The individual who slapped Vessal faced charges of simple assault, though the prosecutor declined to prosecute it as a hate crime because, based on the victim’s own statement and those of witnesses, “they did not believe this victim was assaulted because of religion, race or ethnicity.”
University of Arizona
Mock border wall vandalized
Incident Date: March-April 2011
Location: Tucson, AZ
In March, 2011, vandals destroyed a large mock border wall at the University of Arizona (UA), which had been erected by student activists with the chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and the immigrant-rights group No Mas Muertes (No More Deaths). Students assembled the nearly 1,000-foot-long mock border wall on March 21, 2011, in the middle of the UA campus, partially blocking movement across it. Made of wire fencing and decorated with posters, the structure represented the wall on the US-Mexico border and Israel’s “separation barrier” in the West Bank. The organizers provided boards near the wall for people to express differing opinions. Organizers planned to leave the wall in place for ten days.
Early on March 26, a UA campus police officer reported that the entire Palestinian-themed section of the mock wall had been uprooted, with the posters torn away and steel poles and loose wire strewn across the nearby roadway. In a joint statement, several campus organizations, including JVP, No Mas Muertes and SJP, urged the dean of students to acknowledge the vandalism and denounce it as a racially motivated hate crime.
The following day, organizers found that the section representing the border wall between Mexico and the US had also been vandalized. Vandals ripped down posters and signs on that section and nailed an effigy of a murdered immigrant to the fence, with blood crudely painted on the mock corpse.
Organizers again urged the administration to investigate both incidents as potential hate crimes. The dean’s office instead determined that the vandalized sections of the wall constituted safety hazards and directed a fence company to remove those sections, leaving only half of the wall standing for the full ten days. The dean stated that his office did not investigate the vandalism because organizers had not immediately filed complaints, although students said they filed complaints shortly after the dean’s initial statement. The organizers also filed two police reports, one for each incident, but never heard from the UA police on the status of any investigation. Rather than address the vandalism, UA instituted a new policy in January 2012 limiting the size and duration of similar structures on campus.
University of California system
“Campus climate” report claims Palestine activism hostile to Jewish students
Incident Date: 2010–14
A 2012 campus climate survey commissioned by the University of California (UC) system echoed the claim regularly put forward by Israel advocacy groups that Palestine activism creates a hostile environment for Jewish students and that university should therefore punish “antisemitic speech,” including criticism of Israel.
Pressured by Israel advocacy groups to regulate Palestine activism on campus and confronted with several racist, homophobic, and antisemitic incidents, the statewide administrators of the University of California system formed a Campus Climate Advisory Council in 2010. As its first order of business, the council commissioned two taskforces to study the campus climate: one focusing on the grievances of Jewish students and the other on those of Arab and Muslim students. Although ostensibly created to assess the climate for all minority groups on UC campuses, the council initially only formed these taskforces and did not publicly report on the grievances of other minority or religious groups.
Alice Huffman, president of the California National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and Richard D. Barton, national education chair of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), visited campuses to interview Jewish students during the 2011–12 academic year and published their findings in July 2012. The report found that Palestinian rights activism created “an environment in which [Jewish students] feel isolated and many times harassed and intimidated” and a campus climate generally hostile for Jewish students. It recommended enacting university policies to punish speech critical of Israel and applied an overbroad redefinition of antisemitism, referred to then as the “European Union working definition,” but now known as the “State Department definition.” The redefinition defines common forms of criticism of Israel as antisemitic. In 2015, Israel advocacy organizations lobbied the UC Regents to adopt this definition of antisemitism.
A number of groups protested the report, pointing out its methodological flaws, its factual misrepresentations, and the constitutional issues its recommendations raised. Its survey consisted of a series of meetings with handpicked students, who offered unsubstantiated and anecdotal evidence. The report omitted the views of Jewish students who visited with the fact-finding team and expressed dismay at their exclusion from Jewish community groups on campus because of their criticism of Israel. The report also included erroneous factual “findings,” such as a claim that “the use of the swastika drawn next to, or integrated with, the Jewish Star of David is commonplace” on signs at protests. Jewish students disputed the veracity of these claims. While campus officials have addressed reported incidents of swastika graffiti, there is no evidence linking these incidents to Palestine rights activism.
More than 2,200 students, faculty, and alumni—many of them Jewish—signed a petition asking UC president Yudof to set the report aside. The University of California ultimately declined to adopt the report’s recommendations, which Yudof noted would violate the First Amendment, and removed the report from its website.
University of California system
State law denounces Palestine activism
Incident Date: 2012
Shortly after the publication of the campus climate report (see above) in August 2012, the California State Legislature unanimously passed a nonbinding resolution known as HR 35, which praised the report and urged the university to adopt its recommendations. HR 35 further recommended that the University of California (UC) adopt the “European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights’ working definition of anti-Semitism”—now known as the “State Department definition”—a redefinition of antisemitism that includes criticism of Israel. Legislators pushed HR 35 through quickly, and several later told constituents that they had not reviewed the bill’s contents before voting on it.
The resolution’s author, Republican assembly member Linda Halderman, told press that President Yudof’s office, the California State University administration, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center “were all very involved in terms of drafting language and amending it to make sure that it protected the rights of free speech for students.” While Yudof’s office suggested excluding the recommendation that UC refrain from funding student groups that criticize Israel, based on First Amendment concerns, the language remained in the resolution. UC ultimately chose not to support the resolution, though Yudof made his prior knowledge of and initial support for the resolution clear in a letter to its author.
HR 35’s passage provoked an outcry from students, faculty, and free-speech advocates, including CCR and Palestine Legal, who denounced the mischaracterization of facts about Palestine advocacy on UC campuses and the resolution’s unconstitutional recommendations. CCR and Palestine Legal, together with other rights groups, wrote to Yudof to contextualize the allegations of antisemitism and hostility to Jewish students, noting that Israel advocacy groups have long sought to shut down Palestinian solidarity activism across the UC system. The letter also detailed how UC administrators have repeatedly condemned speech critical of Israel, conflated it with antisemitism and labeled it as hateful or threatening, thereby stigmatizing and chilling the speech of Palestine advocates on campus.
University of California system
Graduate student divestment campaign draws legal threats
Incident Date: July – December 2014
As graduate student workers and union members at the University of California (UC) considered endorsing a BDS resolution, Israel advocacy groups threatened to sue the union and prohibit graduate student instructors from discussing BDS in the classroom.
The United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2865, a union representing 13,000 graduate student instructors at the University of California, passed the resolution in a December 2014 vote, which made the UAW the first major labor union in the United States to support BDS. Sixty-five percent of voting members voted for the resolution, which also called on the UC and the international UAW to divest. Fifty-two percent of voting members, 1,136 individual graduate students, also voted to take an individual anonymous pledge to support the academic boycott of Israel. The union membership’s endorsement came on the heels of a July 2014 vote by union leadership to issue a general statement in support of BDS.
The campaign triggered significant backlash. Political opponents argued that the resolution constitutes unlawful discrimination and violates university policy. An opposition group named Informed Grads argued that “BDS is potentially illegal” and claimed the union could face a legal challenge, as the American Studies Association had when it endorsed BDS. The group also circulated a letter to the president of the International UAW claiming that an academic boycott “bars people with Israeli citizenship from joining the union.” These accusations mischaracterized the resolution, overlooked the union’s emphatic statement of opposition to all forms of discrimination, and ignored the union’s explanation that the boycott targets institutions, not individuals.
Shortly before the vote, the American Center for Law and Justice—a right-wing organization known for its anti-gay and pro-Israel agenda—sent a letter to the local union leadership, the International UAW, and the University of California alleging violations of discrimination law, union law, and university policy. The letter threatened legal action, including “individual liability” for union leaders. In response, Palestine Legal issued a public fact sheet providing information about the First Amendment’s protection of boycotts and countering claims that a boycott against academic institutions is discriminatory.
Off-campus organizations like the AMCHA Initiative and the Brandeis Center also demanded that the statewide university administration prohibit graduate student instructors from advocating for BDS or discussing Israel as a settler colonial or apartheid state in the classroom. The AMCHA Initiative generated “over a hundred emails,” according to a September 2014 letter from the UC provost to the chancellors of all nine UC campuses, complaining that the union’s activity supporting BDS violated UC policy on acceptable classroom discussion and calling for monitoring and censorship of BDS activities. The letter also enumerated policies that govern the conduct of graduate student instructors in the classroom and appended a communication from AMCHA and several other Israel advocacy organizations, but failed to provide analysis or qualification of the AMCHA letter, suggesting that campuses should heed its call. One graduate student reported removing relevant course material on Israel/Palestine out of concern that he could face sanction if he discussed the subject.
University of California, Berkeley
Israeli Consul and national groups interfere in campus divestment debate
Incident Date: 2010
Location: Berkeley, CA
During UC Berkeley’s 2010 student senate debate on divestment, Israel advocacy groups and the Israeli consulate lobbied administrators, harassed students, and made false accusations of antisemitism in an effort to defeat the initiative. In March 2010, UC Berkeley’s student senate passed a bill calling on the university to divest from companies that facilitate and profit from the occupation of Palestinian territory. The bill passed 16–4 after a six-hour discussion that included testimony from eighty speakers. The student body president, who did not attend the debate, vetoed the bill, asserting that it took sides on a complicated issue and alienated a segment of the student community.
The senate convened on April 14 ^^ to decide whether to overturn the veto. The Israeli consul testified at the meeting, which spanned “upward of nine hours, [with] more than four dozen speakers, and countless moments of excited applause and tense anticipation” with over 400 community members in attendance. The senate opted to table the bill, subsequently scheduling the vote for two weeks later. After another session in front of hundreds that went into the wee hours of the morning, the senate voted 13–5, falling one vote short of the necessary threshold to override the veto.
Berkeley Hillel coordinated what the Jewish Daily Forward called a “comprehensive national lobbying campaign” to combat the divestment push, bringing in the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Jewish Community Relations Council, J Street, local rabbis, and Akiva Tor, Israel’s consul general in San Francisco. The lobbying focused on managing the university’s response to the divestment bill and involved frequent communication with high-level administrators, as revealed by public records. Documents show, for example, that Tor consulted with administrators about the initial divestment vote, which led them to refrain from making a public statement to avoid attracting more attention to the issue. One administrator commented that the “consulate is quite pleased with this approach.” Alumni also sent a high volume of emails and letters to administrators promising never to donate again if divestment succeeded at UC Berkeley; low-level administrators forwarded many of these emails to top university officials. After the senate vote fell short of overriding the veto, the chancellor, along with a team of high-level administrators, met with Tor and representatives of Israel advocacy organizations because Tor thought the university needed to work with them more on the issue of divestment.
Israel advocacy groups also put out action alerts encouraging supporters to lobby student senators to oppose the divestment bill. Although the San Francisco Jewish Community Relations Council asked respondents to “please send POLITE and RESPECTFUL messages to the students (remember, they are 18–22 years old),” noting that “messages that attack the students or use profanity are NOT helpful and may harm efforts to sustain the veto,” senators received a large number of hateful and threatening messages from anti-divestment activists.
In the midst of the debates, AIPAC’s leadership development director, Jonathan Kessler, vowed to take over student governments. When asked how to fight Berkeley’s divestment initiative at a national policy conference, he said, “We’re going to make sure that pro-Israel students take over the student government and reverse the vote. . . . This is how AIPAC operates in our nation’s capital. This is how AIPAC must operate on our nation’s campuses.”
The opposition repeatedly made false claims that divestment targeted Jewish students for being Jewish. Hillel organized a closed-door meeting to influence student senators, during which Israel advocates told senators that it was antisemitic to compare Israel to apartheid South Africa and a “blood libel” to accuse Israel of failing to discriminate between civilians and combatants. At the second student senate hearing, Israel advocates distributed talking points to Jewish students urging them to avoid debate on the substantive human rights issues and instead to focus on feelings of “personal attack” and attack on the Jewish community and identity.
After the divestment hearings, Tor penned an op-ed claiming that “the anti-Semitism in the room was blatant.” Jewish Voice for Peace noted that “Mr. Tor compares the Berkeley hearings to the Moscow show trials, trials in which witnesses were detained, tortured, forced to confess to crimes they did not commit and then sentenced to death or to labor camps. He also refers to a large multi-faith group that included Christian pastors, Jews, Muslims and others as a menacing group of ‘100 Muslims,’thus revealing more than we could ever say about how he sees the ‘other side.’”
Advocates have repeatedly made the claim that the 2010 divestment debate at Berkeley created a hostile climate for Jewish students on campus, including in an unsuccessful Title VI complaint against UC Berkeley, the UC campus climate report, HR 35 (see above), and the 2013 divestment debates at Berkeley.
In April 2013, the Berkeley student body passed a divestment resolution again, by an 11–9 vote, amid vigorous opposition in a heated all-night proceeding. The senate president decided not to veto the resolution.
University of California, Berkeley
Federal lawsuit and Title VI complaint target campus activism
Incident Date: March 2010–June 2014
Location: Berkeley, CA
In March 2011, former student Jessica Felber sued UC Berkeley (UCB) in federal court, claiming that the university failed to protect her from a hostile and antisemitic environment on campus, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Neal Sher and Joel Siegal, attorneys who serve on the Brandeis Center’s Legal Advisory Board, represented Felber, a former fellow and staff member for Hasbara Fellowships, an organization that trains students on pro-Israel campus advocacy. Felber amended the complaint in May 2011 to add a second plaintiff, then-student Brian Maissey.
The lawsuit claimed that in March 2010, a student active with SJP hit Felber with a shopping cart as she held a pro-Israel sign. The lawsuit argued that UCB failed to stop speech and activity for Palestinian rights on the UCB campus, such as theatrical mock checkpoints and events critical of Israel’s policies, which created a hostile climate for Jewish students. The lawsuit also falsely accused MSA of having “ties to terrorist groups including Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.”
The university vigorously rejected the claims in the lawsuit, including allegations that it failed to respond to complaints by Jewish students, and asserted that SJP activities enjoy First Amendment protection and do not constitute harassment. The student pushing the shopping cart, filled with toys collected for a donation drive for children in Gaza, also denied intentionally hitting Felber.
The court dismissed the suit in December 2011, ruling that the actions that plaintiffs complained of, even if true, constitute “pure political speech and expressive conduct, in a public setting, regarding matters of public concern, which is entitled to special protection under the First Amendment.” The court also noted that the allegations failed to identify conduct for which the university could be held liable, including denying “access to the University’s educational services in any meaningful sense.” The court granted leave to amend the complaint, since public policy encourages second opportunities, but plaintiffs repeated the same arguments that the court had already rejected in an amended complaint.
The parties settled in July 2012, after the judge encouraged settlement discussions. Although UCB made no concessions and the plaintiffs gained no compensation or attorney fees, the university agreed to hold a public comment period to clarify its policies relevant to mock checkpoints, specifically those pertaining to blocking ingress and egress to university spaces and the use of imitation firearms. That process, though, did not lead to any significant policy changes.
On the same day in July 2012 that the federal court dismissed the lawsuit, the unsuccessful plaintiffs submitted a Title VI complaint to the Department of Education (DOE), repeating similar allegations, but escalating the rhetoric. The complaint called Israeli Apartheid Week activities such as mock checkpoints “strikingly analogous to the infamous ‘Passion Play’ depicting Jews as blood-thirsty barbarians.” Felber’s attorney said in a press statement that “the atmosphere that some of these Jewish kids have been subjected to is reminiscent of what went on in Nazi Germany in the ’30s.”
The DOE opened a limited investigation into the complaint in September 2012, despite the federal court’s dismissal of the claims. The university reiterated that the allegations were “completely unsupported” and called the complaint “an effort to tilt the field of campus discourse in favor of Complainants’ preferred viewpoint on an issue of great political and public concern.” It urged the DOE to “firmly reject Complainants’ invitation to become a censor of political debate in American higher education.”
The DOE dismissed the complaint in August 2013, together with complaints against UC Irvine and UC Santa Cruz. The dismissal letter stated that the main allegations “describe[d] events that constituted expression on matters of public concern directed to the University community. In the university environment, exposure to such robust and discordant expressions, even when personally offensive and hurtful, is a circumstance that a reasonable student in higher education may experience.”
Complainants appealed the decision in October 2013; the DOE made a final agency determination to deny the appeal in June 2014.
University of California, Davis
UC President denounces Palestine activism as intolerant
Incident Date: February 2012
Location: Davis, CA
After a heckler unaffiliated with SJP disrupted a February 2012 event at UC Davis featuring Israeli soldiers, UC president Mark Yudof issued a public statement that compared Palestinian rights activism to the hanging of nooses on African-American students’ dorm doors and drawing of swastikas on Jewish students’ property.
The Israel advocacy group StandWithUs sponsored the event on February 27, 2012, entitled “Israeli Soldiers Speak Out,” featuring former Israeli soldiers. The UC Davis Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter planned a silent walkout of the event in protest of the Israeli Defense Forces’ military actions against Palestinians.
In contrast to the SJP walkout, a student unaffiliated with SJP began yelling during the presentation in an effort to prevent the soldiers from speaking. The heckler expressed anger about the violent actions of the Israeli military—for example, yelling, “How many women have you raped?” Police eventually escorted the heckler out of the event. Some community members critical of the Israeli military remained at the event to ask questions, but audience members yelled at them whenever they tried to speak.
As a result of his protest, the university suspended the student and he lost his campus job. Police also raided his apartment, seizing his laptop and other items. UC Davis’s SJP decried this disproportionate response to a student engaged in a verbal, nonviolent protest.
UC president Yudof, who rarely wrote public messages in response to specific campus events, penned a letter after the event to voice concern about the “intolerant” campus climate. Yudof’s statement erroneously referred to “hecklers” in the plural, when only a single heckler, acting alone, had disrupted the event. He depicted the incident as an example of antisemitism, even though the walkout protest and the hecklers comments focused on the actions of soldiers, without criticism based on race, religion, or ethnicity. Yudof also compared Palestinian rights activism to racist incidents, like the hanging of nooses on African-American students’ dorm doors or swastikas on Jewish students’ property. Yudof announced that he intended to involve the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance in an effort “to improve campus climate for all students.”
In response, SJP wrote a letter clarifying that it had no involvement in the heckling and objecting to Yudof’s characterization of Palestinian rights events as antisemitic and racist. SJP also pointed to the administration’s different treatment of discrimination complaints by Arab and Muslim students. The students cited in particular the university’s inadequate response to vandalism targeting the Palestinian community. In 2010 at UC Davis, vandals defaced a “Third World Mural,” which depicted students of color on campus, by painting over a dove in the colors of the Palestinian flag with the star of David on top of a dove in the colors of the Palestinian flag. The university decided not to meet with SJP or investigate the incident, despite requests by the student group, opting instead to issue a statement condemning the defacement and promoting the use of its new “UC Hate and Bias Reporting System.” In contrast, when vandals defaced an Israeli flag at UC Riverside two years later, UC system president Mark Yudof released an open letter to the UC community condemning the vandalism and supporting the Chancellor’s decision to initiate an investigation by campus police. Mindful of this history, SJP wrote in its 2012 letter, “We lack faith in our administration’s ability to provide Palestinian and Arab students and their allies a safe and accepting environment in which we are free to share our political opinions and beliefs and to voice the truth.”
UC Davis professors, as well as a group of 150 academics from California colleges, wrote a letter criticizing Yudof for mischaracterizing facts and giving preferential treatment to the concerns of pro-Israel students.
University of California, Davis
Divestment vote draws accusations of antisemitism and support for terrorism
Incident Date: January–May 2015
Location: Davis, CA
In the aftermath of the passage of a divestment resolution at UC Davis on January 29, 2015, divestment supporters became targets of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim attacks. During the Senate hearing, Muslim students who had campaigned for divestment exclaimed “Allahu akbar,” a common expression of Muslim faith that translates to “God is Great.” Following the divestment vote, student senator Azka Fayyaz, in an attempt to mock accusations that divestment emerged from a violent antisemitic movement by Muslims and Arabs, posted a satirical Facebook message stating that “Hamas & Sharia law have taken over UC Davis.”
The news media immediately highlighted the tongue-in-cheek Facebook comment—along with the expression of Muslim faith during the Senate vote—to claim that divestment supporters embraced terrorism. Fox News ran the headline, “Pro-Palestinian Students Heckle Cal-Davis Opponents with Cries of ‘Allahu Akbar!’” The Washington Free Beacon headline read, “Hamas on Campus. At UC Davis, Students for Justice in Palestine Chant “Allahu Akbar,” Endorse Terrorism.” The right-wing news site Breitbart.com wrote, “The Muslim students demonstrated—to each other and to the outside world—that the true audience for their vote against Israel is not UC Davis campus but the Muslim world. . . . Radical Islamists have considerable influence and sympathy among students at University of California campuses.”
Two days after passage of the divestment resolution, vandals spray-painted two swastikas on the walls of the UC Davis chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi, a Jewish fraternity. Public reports immediately connected the incident to the divestment vote, despite the fact that police had not yet identified any suspects and divestment supporters condemned the incident.
In response to these events, UC Davis’s Facebook page saw a surge of hate messages, including “wipe out these vermin now,” “wipe out these Islamic savages now,” “Send every one of these foreign students who had anything to do with the vote and graffiti hate speech home to their native land,” and “Palestinians are an invented people. They are the same savages as their role model ‘Mo the Savage.’” Comedian Roseanne Barr tweeted to her more than 271,500 followers that she hoped UC Davis would “get nuked.” Fayyaz reported receiving “hateful emails and violent messages,” including being “labeled as an anti-Semite, a spokesperson for Hamas and a Jew-hater.” The president of UC Davis Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) told the Sacramento Bee that group members were “afraid to walk on campus” and that Muslim students wearing head scarves had been particularly singled out and called “terrorists.”
SJP’s faculty advisor explained to Palestine Legal,
Students felt anxious about participating in public events and protests in the weeks following the divestment vote and many felt fearful about appearing at the SJP table or continuing to be associated publicly with SJP. This led to some members becoming less involved. . . . An incident where stones were thrown through a dorm room window with a Palestinian flag only heightened the climate of anxiety, fear, and self-censorship. Students were even reluctant to report incidents of harassment or racism to the campus authorities for fear that there would be repercussions.
Several weeks after the student senate voted to pass the divestment resolution, Jonathan Mitchell, a former student senator and member of the campus fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi, which has ties to Israel advocacy organizations, filed a complaint with the student court challenging the constitutionality of the bill. The court invalidated the resolution, finding that it did not pertain to a matter of “student welfare” and was therefore “unconstitutional” under the bylaws of the Associated Students of UC Davis. The court deemed the resolution “primarily political” and held that “politicized resolutions must be primarily focused upon student welfare, and therefore, drawing strong, clear links to student welfare is mandatory.”
Divestment supporters decried the decision, noting that the well-being of Palestinian students and their families does affect student welfare and that the court had never before dismissed a resolution for being “political.” The judicial bylaws do not provide a forum for appeal. The student senate, though, voted a second time to support a divestment resolution on May 28, this time highlighting how Palestinian students at UC Davis face discrimination, as Israel can deny them access to study abroad programs at Israeli universities solely on the basis of their identity or place of birth. The second divestment resolution passed and has not been challenged.
University of California, Hastings
University withdraws from law school conference
Incident Date: March 2011
Location: San Francisco, CA
In March 2011, UC Hastings Law School cancelled its sponsorship of a conference entitled “Litigating Palestine: Can Courts Secure Palestinian Rights?” in response to a campaign by Israel advocacy organizations who labeled the conference “anti-Israel.” The conference featured legal scholars discussing relevant court cases and human rights advocacy.
Administrators received emails and letters from alumni who threatened to withhold future contributions if the conference proceeded at UC Hastings. A member of the Hastings Foundation’s board of advisors threatened to resign from her position if the university did not withdraw sponsorship of the conference. Representatives of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the American Jewish Committee (AJC), and the San Francisco Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) met with administrators to pressure them to cancel the conference, which they depicted as “one-sided” and “an anti-Israel political organizing conference using law as a weapon.” Rabbi Doug Kahn of the JCRC described in a “candid briefing” for Jewish community leadership how the JCRC, AJC, and ADL worked together on an action plan that included “[l]ots of way behind-the-scenes calls [and] a continued flurry of excellent email communications to school officials.” UCSC lecturer Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, founder of the AMCHA Initiative, wrote suggesting she would file a Title VI complaint with the Department of Education (DOE) against UC Hastings.
In response to this pressure, the board of directors held an emergency closed-door meeting on the eve of the conference and resolved to “take all steps necessary to remove the UC Hastings name and brand” from the conference. ^^ The dean cancelled his opening address, and the private Cummings Foundation withdrew all funding. The conference went forward, but only after organizers removed reference to UC Hastings’s sponsorship from the advertising materials.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that nearly all of UC Hastings’ tenured faculty signed a letter to the board denouncing its actions as infringing on academic freedom. On April 13, the Associated Students of UC Hastings, the elected student government body, passed 29–1 (with one abstention) a resolution requesting that the administration issue a statement explaining the process by which it decided to remove the UC Hastings name and brand, apologize, and issue a statement of commitment to academic freedom. Thirty student organizations endorsed the resolution. The administration, though, did not provide an apology or explain its actions publicly.
University of California, Irvine
Title VI complaint targets campus activism
Incident Date: 2004–13
Location: Irvine, CA
In 2004, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) filed a complaint with the US Department of Education (DOE) alleging that UC Irvine had violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The ZOA claimed the university tolerated a hostile environment with regular antisemitic harassment and had failed to respond to student concerns.
The incidents alleged in the complaint conflated together pure speech activities, such as rallies and lectures arguing that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians constitutes apartheid—political statements which the ZOA disagrees with—with actions that, if true, would constitute assault or harassment, such as swastika graffiti and threatening messages. The ZOA filed the complaint shortly after the DOE adopted a Title VI policy recognizing claims of discrimination against religious groups when targeted for their actual or perceived shared ethnic ancestry.
The DOE’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) opened an investigation in 2004 and ultimately dismissed the complaint in 2007, finding that the activities reflected political opposition to Israeli policies, not animus toward Jewish students, and that other claims had either already been addressed by the university or were time-barred under OCR procedures. For example, the complaint alleged that the university failed to respond promptly to complaints by Jewish students that Muslim students wore stoles with Arabic script with the opening verse of the Quran at graduation, which the complaining students considered “violently anti-Semitic because they associated it with terrorism against Jews and Israel.” The dismissal noted that the university consulted seventeen different translators to verify that the script was not hateful, and spoke to both the Jewish and Muslim students to diffuse tensions. The complaint also included allegations that Muslim students gathered in a student lounge and intimidated Jewish students by glaring at them and speaking Arabic. OCR determined that this posed no physical obstacle or danger to Jewish students and that the evidence failed to demonstrate discrimination based on national origin.
The ZOA promptly appealed the decision, which led OCR to open another investigation in 2008 based on new allegations in the appeal letter. The second investigation remained open for five years. In August 2013, OCR again dismissed the complaint in a decision emphasizing that discrimination laws do not “restrict the exercise of expressive activities or speech that are protected under the First Amendment of the US Constitution,” especially “in the university environment where academic freedom fosters the robust exchange of ideas.” OCR concluded that the majority of incidents of alleged discrimination or harassment that the ZOA complained of involved disagreements “based on the students’ political views,” not the national origin of the complainant.
University of California, Irvine
Muslim student groups accused of material support for terrorism
Incident Date: 2009
Location: Irvine, CA
In 2009, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) complained to UC Irvine (UCI) officials that the Muslim Student Union (MSU) had raised funds for Hamas, which the US government has declared a Designated Terrorist Organization (DTO). The ZOA sent a letter to UCI’s counsel alleging that the MSU had violated UCI policies and may have acted illegally when it organized an event in which a British parliamentarian, George Galloway, solicited funds for a convoy to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza.
The university opened an internal investigation into the alleged policy violations and referred the fundraising matter to law enforcement and the Department of Justice for investigation. No charges were filed. In a series of press releases, the ZOA faulted the university for failing to punish the students or take action upon completing its investigation.
ZOA has long targeted MSU, lobbying the administration and government agencies over many years to investigate and punish the student group. In a 2009 letter to campus counsel in response to ZOA’s letter about the Galloway fundraiser, MSU detailed ZOA’s sensationalist allegations over the years, including complaints that students wearing graduation gowns with Islamic scripture “incited terrorism against Jews and Israel.” MSU also noted that ZOA’s campaigns “have actually created a hostile environment for Muslim students at UCI,” referencing racial and ethnic slurs shouted at their events and death threats received by group members. While repeatedly repudiated by the university and by the DOE itself, ZOA’s persistent pressure likely paved the way for the disproportionate discipline and prosecution of the “Irvine 11” (see below), which the ZOA praised.
University of California, Irvine
Eleven students criminally prosecuted for event walkout
Incident Date: 2010–2014
Location: Irvine, CA
After students peacefully protested a speech at UC Irvine (UCI) by Michael Oren, then Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Orange County officials charged eleven students with criminal misdemeanors for disrupting a public meeting, and a jury found ten of them guilty. The case prompted a public outcry about threats to campus free speech.
UCI’s political science department and law school sponsored the February 2010 speech. During the protest, several students stood up at separate times during Oren’s speech and read short statements aloud, then voluntarily left the room escorted by security. Police promptly arrested, cited, and released the students. Oren left the podium for a period, then returned and continued his speech.
An internal university investigation led to disciplinary actions. The university suspended MSU for one quarter and placed it on probation for two years, and suspended the individual students, noting the sanction on their official school records. Local media reported that Rabbi Aron Hier, director of campus outreach for the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC), met with Irvine chancellor Drake before the university announced the sanctions.
Almost a year later, the Orange County district attorney charged the eleven students with criminal misdemeanor counts of conspiring to disrupt a public meeting and disrupting a public meeting, charges that carry sentences of up to six months in jail, probation and community service. SWC’s Rabbi Aron Hier, along with UC Riverside’s Hillel director, also reportedly met with staff from the district attorney’s office before it filed charges in the case.
The students all plead not guilty. During the pretrial period, the judge prohibited prosecutors from discussing the case publicly because their statements were “tainting the jury pool by labeling the student defendants as anti-Semitic, declaring them guilty and other ‘ethically irresponsible’ statements.” The defense also showed that the Orange County district attorney illegally used subpoenas intended for felony cases to obtain confidential attorney-client communications in a misdemeanor case. The judge found this behavior to constitute prosecutorial misconduct and ordered the DA to remove the main investigator and deputies from the case.
The charges prompted a significant public outcry. The ACLU of Southern California protested the charges and one hundred faculty members, including several deans, called for the DA to drop them. The Los Angeles Times editorial board and local faith and civic leaders also objected. Many pointed to similar instances of disruption that did not lead to criminal sanctions, including Jewish Voice for Peace members, who noted that they themselves had similarly disrupted events without facing sanction.
On September 23, 2011, ten of the students were found guilty and sentenced to three years’ probation, fifty-six hours of community service and fines. In the defendants’ appeal to the California Superior Court, Appellate Division, CCR, and Palestine Legal, together with Jewish Voice for Peace, submitted an amicus brief in support of the students. The brief challenged the unconstitutional vagueness of the law under which prosecutors brought charges and suggested that the students’ viewpoints and religious and ethnic backgrounds may have influenced the DA’s decision to charge them. It detailed examples of other similar disruptions, for which prosecutors opted not to press charges:
So the question remains: Why was this case worthy of criminal prosecution while the others were not? Jewish peace activists posit that similar prosecutions are not pursued against Jewish protestors . . . and that the large-scale prosecution here was attributable to bias against the religious background of Appellants combined with their controversial message. The highly anomalous prosecution of these Muslim Appellants, expressing unpopular speech, underscores both that the “implicit customs and usages” of this type of event would have allowed such a disruption without threat of arrest or prosecution, and that the risks of discriminatory enforcement . . . were very real in this case.
The California Court of Appeals denied the student’s appeal in March 2014.
University of California, Los Angeles
AMCHA complaint triggers improper investigation of professor
Incident Date: 2012–2015
Location: Los Angeles, CA
In 2012, AMCHA objected to material supportive of BDS that Professor David Shorter included on his course website; the chair of the UCLA Academic Senate responded by investigating Shorter and releasing false information about the accusations to the press, in violation of Shorter’s academic freedom rights.
Professor Shorter taught a Tribal Worldviews class, which focused on indigenous people’s use of media to assert claims of sovereignty, and included in the online course materials two links to the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) website, in addition to articles opposing BDS and articles on a range of other topics.
On March 29, 2012, the AMCHA Initiative sent the first of several letters to UC president Mark Yudof and Andrew Leuchter, chair of UCLA’s Academic Senate, among others, decrying “promotion” of the boycott on an official UCLA class website. AMCHA alleged that academic freedom did not protect Shorter, claiming that he had violated university policy as well as state and federal law.
Although AMCHA had no standing as an outside organization to object to course material, the Senate chair responded by initiating an investigation outside of the formal channels and without notifying Shorter. Had the chair properly referred the complaint to the appropriate Academic Senate committee, the committee would have conducted the review confidentially. Instead, the chair publicly relayed erroneous information to AMCHA and to public officials that AMCHA had previously copied in its original complaint. The Senate chair told AMCHA and the press that Shorter’s inclusion of the USACBI links in the course material represented a “serious error in judgment” and that Shorter committed to not repeating the mistake in the coming year—an admission that the Senate chair later acknowledged Professor Shorter did not make.
In July, the UCLA Academic Senate Committee on Academic Freedom issued a letter affirming that posting the USACBI links on the course website fell within Professor Shorter’s right to academic freedom. It noted that UC policy provides faculty “the right to present controversial material relevant to a course of instruction,” and expressed concern that the Senate chair had made inaccurate statements to the press and to an outside organization about a review process not sanctioned by the university. The letter further stated that only members of the university, not “outside organizations,” maintain standing to complain about course materials, and found that the Senate chair’s actions violated Professor Shorter’s rights.
AMCHA wrote to the UC Regents expressing “outrage” at the UCLA Academic Senate Committee letter, which it argued gave “official endorsement” to Shorter’s use of the BDS links on his website. AMCHA called on the Regents to publicly affirm their commitment to the UC Regents Policy on Course Content, which condemns “political indoctrination” as “misuse of the classroom,” suggesting that failure to do so would amount to “a sanctioning of institutional anti-Semitism at the University of California.” President Yudof responded on behalf of the Regents, affirming UC’s opposition to antisemitism, but also maintaining that the issue fell within the purview of the Academic Senate and the UCLA administration and expressing confidence that they would handle the issue “appropriately.”
This provoked yet more protest from AMCHA, which claimed that UC was protecting antisemitism under the guise of academic freedom. On August 14, AMCHA submitted to Yudof and the Regents a petition reportedly signed by more than a thousand people, including some UC students and faculty, asking UC to protect classrooms from misuse for political purposes, including antisemitism, and academic freedom from faculty abuse. AMCHA continues to demand that UC apply its course content policies to prohibit discussion of BDS in the classroom.
While the UCLA Academic Senate’s Academic Freedom Committee vindicated Shorter, he suffered considerable damage as a result of the smear campaign falsely accusing him of antisemitism and received intense scrutiny in the Los Angeles Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and Inside Higher Ed. Shorter told Palestine Legal that he reached out to law enforcement after receiving death threat notes on his car and at his house. He also reported losing friends and colleagues, as well as months of his time responding to the false accusations. In addition, Shorter, who had worked as a consultant with the entertainment industry, told Palestine Legal that he had failed to secure any consulting contracts since the smear campaign began.
Three years later, in June 2015, Professor Shorter reached a resolution to the grievance he filed through the UCLA Academic Senate Committee on Privilege and Tenure. In a letter to Professor Shorter, the committee affirmed that he had the right to include the USACBI links and that the university had violated his rights through the process, including when the Senate chair publicly relayed erroneous information about him.
As part of the resolution, the former Academic Senate chair, Andrew Leuchter, wrote a letter of regret:
I replied to the [AMCHA] complaint with copies to the original recipients summarizing what I mistakenly thought was the gist of an informal agreement between Professor Shorter and his department chair. My statements that he made a “serious error in judgment” and a “mistake” turned out to be an erroneous characterization of Professor Shorter’s conversation with his department chair. My words were not based on any formal or informal review of Professor Shorter’s teaching nor did they reflect an official view of the Academic Senate or the UCLA Administration. I regret that my email statement created the impression that he was doing anything other than teaching about a controversial subject.
In a joint statement, Professor Shorter and Dr. Leuchter wrote, “When any outside organization attempts to drive discussions on our campus for the sole purpose of furthering its own political agenda, this belittles our faculty, students, and the values of this great public university. Such actions are antithetical to the spirit of UCLA, where we strive to maintain a welcoming environment for students of all religious and ethnic backgrounds.”
University of California, Los Angeles
City Council introduces resolution condemning student advocacy campaign
Incident Date: May 2014
Location: Los Angeles, CA
In spring 2014, the Los Angeles City Council introduced a resolution condemning efforts by student groups at UCLA to organize an “ethics pledge” which challenged the influence of Israel lobby organizations on campus, mischaracterizing the students’ efforts as harassment.
The impetus for the ethics pledge grew out of concern about the role of Israel advocacy organizations during the 2014 campus debate about a student government divestment resolution. A coalition of student groups organized a pledge asking student government candidates not to accept free trips sponsored by organizations that promote discriminatory and Islamophobic positions, such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and Hasbara Fellowships. Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) also filed a case with the student judicial council, arguing that accepting such trips to Israel represented a material conflict of interest under UCLA student bylaws. Students explained that experiences of racial bias and discrimination, as well as concern about Israeli state practices, motivated their campaign.
Israel advocacy organizations on- and off-campus argued that the ethics pledge and the judicial council case represented “intolerance,” “harassment,” and “bullying” of Jewish students, making them feel unsafe on campus. The AMCHA Initiative issued a letter and action alert and met with UCLA chancellor Gene Block, demanding he investigate and sanction SJP and alleging that the student group had violated multiple laws and regulations, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.
Chancellor Block issued a statement “on civil discourse” that characterized SJP’s advocacy as intimidation, even if protected by the First Amendment. UC’s new president, Janet Napolitano, also condemned the student campaign as violating principles of “civility, respect, and inclusion.” Meanwhile, the Los Angeles City Council proposed a resolution to condemn student advocacy against the Israel lobby on campus, which it mischaracterized as “bullying” and “harassment.” The resolution also urged UC to restrict student speech activity and refer cases of “intimidation or harassment” to “the proper law enforcement agencies.”
A coalition of civil rights organizations, including Palestine Legal, CCR, and the ACLU of Southern California, wrote to the council warning that “if passed, this Resolution would violate the LA City Council’s obligations under the First Amendment . . . by directing the UC to censor political debate on campus on a specific issue. The Resolution casts exactly the ‘pall of orthodoxy’ over the UC on matters of public concern that the Supreme Court has proscribed.” The resolution has yet to move forward in the City Council.
University of California, Los Angeles
Divestment resolution draws accusations of antisemitism and support for terrorism
Incident Date: November 2014—April 2015
Location: Los Angeles, CA
After passage of a successful divestment resolution in the student senate, Israel advocacy groups launched an attack campaign against Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the resolution’s sponsor, falsely accusing them of antisemitism and support for terrorism.
UCLA’s student senate passed the divestment resolution, sponsored by more than thirty student groups representing a range of different constituencies, “to divest from companies engaged in violence against Palestinians” in November 2014. It passed despite extensive efforts by Israel advocacy groups to defeat it, including UCLA Hillel partnering with a public relations firm to fight divestment on campus, as revealed by media reports and leaked emails. In its correspondence, Hillel pledged to “isolate” SJP on campus and to paint the group as “unrepresentative, a groups [sic] of isolated graduate students, part of Nationwide Agenda that has nothing to do with Student Life at UCLA and is an issue which our student government shouldn’t even be considering.” Media reports also cited emails showing that a wealthy Israel-aligned and anti-Muslim real estate agent in the Los Angeles area, Adam Milstein, donated through UCLA’s Hillel to a UCLA political party ostensibly to build support for Israel in the student government.
Three months later, in February 2015, the David Horowitz Freedom Center (DHFC), a hate group according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, pasted posters on the UCLA campus and in the surrounding neighborhood that depicted images of executions from the Arab world, along with the words “#JewHatred” and “Students for Justice in Palestine” in large font. Part of a broader campaign entitled “Combat Jew Hatred on College Campuses” that also features a website, videos, and teach-in events, the posters aim to depict SJP chapters as supporters of terrorism. In a fundraising email, the DHFC identified its “target” as “Students for Justice in Palestine, a Jew hating and terrorist loving organization that supports Hamas and the destruction of the Jewish State and the extermination of the Jewish people.”
The posters threatened students, because, as SJP wrote, “intimidating a specific group of students creates a deeply harmful environment that prevents student learning and community-building. . . . Coupled with the recent upsurge in Islamophobia on a national scale, we are concerned for the safety of our fellow students and student organizers.”
SJP at UCLA held a community meeting to discuss the impact of the posters and consider how to respond. One of the attendees at the meeting provided detailed information about the participants and their safety concerns to Jew Hatred on Campus, which published them in an online article. SJP members believe that the DHFC sent this individual to infiltrate and report on their meeting.
UCLA chancellor Gene Block failed to respond to SJP’s repeated requests to meet with him during the 2014–2015 academic year to discuss the intimidation campaigns threatening their speech rights. In a media interview, the chancellor said he met with “Muslim” students to discuss the Horowitz posters, without acknowledging that the posters explicitly targeted Students for Justice in Palestine. Later in the semester, another administrator told SJP representatives that the chancellor would not meet with SJP.
The same month, a national furor erupted when the New York Times reported that members of the UCLA student council had asked a student nominee for the judicial board, Rachel Beyda, whether she could remain objective, given her Jewish identity and role in the campus Jewish community. The campus paper, the UC president, and the UCLA Chancellor immediately condemned the incident as unacceptable and antisemitic. The student council members who questioned Beyda and received a large quantity of hate mail as a result of the media attention the story generated, including death and rape threats, penned a public apology. SJP also issued a statement clarifying that it was “not involved in, had no knowledge of, and would not support the questioning of Beyda or anyone else based on their identity.” It further noted that it opposes discrimination and that its members “believe in the inherent equality and right to freedom for all people, a stance that inspires us to both support the Palestinian call for BDS as well as to oppose incidents like that which befell Beyda.”
Despite SJP’s condemnation, Israel advocacy organizations such as the ADL pushed the narrative that Beyda’s questioning grew out of the divestment campaign on campus, arguing that the campaign created a hostile environment for Jewish students. In its front-page piece, the New York Times framed the Beyda incident as reflective of “a surge of hostile sentiment directed against Jews at many campuses in the country, often a byproduct of animosity toward the policies of Israel.” Fox News also attributed the questioning of Beyda to campus advocacy for Palestinian rights. SJP responded to these accusations, noting,
These assertions [that divestment causes antisemitism] ignore all of our efforts to conduct our campaigns and debate the issue of divestment in an inclusive, transparent and accessible manner. Our town hall, willingness to compromise on the divestment resolution’s language and open letters to the pro-Israel community show how much we worked to ensure that the debate on this issue was carried out by two sides that respected each other despite political differences precisely the opposite of creating a hostile climate.
In March 2015, the UCLA student council unanimously adopted “A Resolution Condemning Anti-Semitism.” The resolution incorporated the “State Department” redefinition of antisemitism that encompasses criticism of Israeli policies as “anti-Semitic,” including speech that “demonizes Israel,” “delegitimizes Israel,” or holds Israel to a “double standard.”
Students opposed the State Department redefinition both before and during the student council hearing, but the lead drafters of the bill, student leaders of UCLA Hillel, refused to accept any amendments to the text clarifying the distinction between criticism of Israel and antisemitism. Palestine Legal and Jewish Voice for Peace both expressed alarm at the conflation of criticism of Israel with antisemitism, explaining that the State Department redefinition resulted from lobbying efforts by Israel advocacy groups to codify criticism of the state of Israel as antisemitic. Some student senators who voted in favor of the resolution emphasized that they sought to condemn genuine antisemitism and that the vote would not impact the divestment resolution passed the previous fall.
University of California, Los Angeles
Groups seek to defund Middle East Studies program
Incident Date: September 2014
Location: Los Angeles, CA
In 2014, Israel advocacy organizations called on Congress and the US Department of Education (DOE) to defund or closely monitor Middle East Studies centers, using as a case study the UCLA Center for Near East Studies, to combat “anti-Israel bias” and antisemitism. The Brandeis Center and the AMCHA Initiative published reports purporting to present evidence of rampant antisemitism and low representation of viewpoints sufficiently sympathetic to Israeli government policies at UCLA and other university Middle East Studies centers. The lobbying effort aimed to change the requirements for federal funding of Middle East studies programs under Title VI of the Higher Education Act.
AMCHA not only used an overly broad definition of antisemitism encompassing nearly all criticism of Israel, but also misrepresented the programs organized by UCLA. The UCLA Center responded by pointing out that programming on Israel addressed diverse topics such as cinematography, food, and music, often received co-sponsorship from other units of the university, and only constituted 11 percent of its total programing. It further noted that much of its programming focused on uprisings in the Arab world and featured voices critical of Arab regimes without providing “balance.”
The Brandeis and AMCHA reports also falsely presumed that the Higher Education Act conditions funding for Middle East studies programs on presenting “diverse perspectives.” In a letter to the Department of Education (DOE), civil rights organizations including CCR, Palestine Legal, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice–Asian Law Caucus pointed out that the statute does not require “balance” and that any such “balance” requirement imposed by the government would restrict academic freedom and violate the First Amendment.
University of California Riverside
Groups seek to cancel student-led course on “Palestinian Voices”
Incident Date: April 2015
Location: Riverside, CA
In April 2015, the AMCHA Initiative and partner organizations launched a public campaign against a student-led course called “Palestinian Voices” at the University of California (UC) Riverside, demanding that the university cancel the course for violating university policies. The course sought to explore “Palestinian voices through contemporary literature and media.” Assigned reading materials, from Palestinian authors such as Edward Said and Rashid Khalidi and a spectrum of Israeli Jewish writers from Benny Morris and Eyal Weizman to David Grossman and Neve Gordon, focused on Palestinian historical narratives, literature, and cultural production.
In a letter to the UC Riverside chancellor and other top administrators in the UC system, AMCHA complained that the course’s “clear intent [is] to politically indoctrinate students to hate the Jewish state and take action against it.” It argued:
The course schedule is filled with egregiously one-sided, anti-Israel readings and films that falsely paint Israel as a settler-colonial and apartheid state, hold Israel to a double standard to which no other democratic country is held, vilify and demonize Israel and Israel’s supporters, and argue for an end to the Jewish state; these tropes are all considered anti-Semitic according to the US State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism.
AMCHA’s complaint highlighted the student instructor’s leadership in Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and a divestment resolution she had authored, and the faculty advisor’s involvement in the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. The reference in AMCHA’s complaint to the State Department definition of antisemitism, which includes criticism of Israel, coincided with an advocacy campaign demanding that the whole UC system adopt the definition. AMCHA also claimed that the Palestinian Voices course violated the UC’s course content policy, Regents Policy 2301, prohibiting misuse of the classroom for political indoctrination.
In response to complaints, President Yudof’s office requested that the Riverside campus perform a detailed review of the course. In UC Riverside’s review, Chief Campus Compliance Officer and Associate Vice Chancellor Bill Kidder explained that “the course was approved via the regular application of professional faculty/Senate review standards and this course did not violate UC policies including the Regents’ policy on course content.” The review added that “available evidence indicates that there was not a failure to adhere to the ‘political indoctrination’ prohibition in Regents Policy 2301 when that policy is interpreted harmoniously with (as it should and must be) and alongside the University’s robust commitment to academic freedom.” Echoing comments in a letter from the UC Riverside Academic Senate’s Committee on Academic Freedom, the review of the course also identified the university’s commitment to academic freedom as fundamental to its mission.
But as a result of AMCHA’s public campaign, the student instructor became the target of anti-Muslim hate mail and cyberbullying. For example, she received an email that read, “Since the palestinians weren’t a people, but an islamo-nazi invention for the annihilation of Jews, then anything can be taught in colleges. Like hamas baby shields, college baby brains are a great weapon.” The website Canary Mission, which aims to blacklist student activists for Palestinian rights, also targeted the instructor. A misogynist blogger who criticized the course posted a picture of a woman in a sexually provocative position, suggesting it was the student instructor, and wrote, “The chick looks like an attention-whore.”
A group of faculty wrote to the chancellor asking the university to publicly defend the student instructor against these malicious attacks:
Faculty and students involved have been subject to malicious, racist, and in some cases threatening communications that are at the least alarming and at worst have the potential to eventuate in physical threats and endangerment. We urge you to address this issue forthrightly and publicly and to repudiate in the strongest terms any external attempt to interfere with the right of faculty and students to pursue the inquiries that they see proper or to control and censor the content of either their research or their teaching and learning.
To date, the university has not publicly responded to the smear campaign.
University of California, Santa Cruz
Title VI complaint targets student activism
Incident Date: June 2009–June 2014
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
In June 2009, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, co-founder of the AMCHA Initiative, submitted a complaint to the Department of Education (DOE) against UC Santa Cruz (UCSC) alleging institutional discrimination against Jewish students in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. According to the complaint, UCSC violated Title VI by allowing “anti-Israel” and “anti-Jewish” events to take place on campus, such as a screening of the documentary Occupation 101 and a talk by a former IDF soldier and a Holocaust survivor critical of Israeli policy. The complaint referenced earlier letters to UCSC warning administrators that these events would negatively affect Jewish students and noted that Jewish students who attended these events had felt hurt and offended. The complaint further asserted that the use of university property for “political” purposes, such as courses on the poetry of Palestinian resistance and on violent and nonviolent social change, and a conference on “alternative Zionist histories”—programming that Benjamin argued was biased against Israel—does not fall within the protections of academic freedom.
The previous year, Rossman-Benjamin’s persistent complaints to administrators and to the Academic Senate resulted in the Senate Executive Committee referring the matter to the Senate’s Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF). CAF issued a statement, endorsed by the Senate Executive Committee, which declined to investigate the antisemitism charge and instead set out to determine whether the “activities of those making the complaint” threatened academic freedom. The committee, though, concluded that filing the complaints fell within Rossman-Benjamin’s free speech rights.
In March 2011, the DOE’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) opened an investigation in response to Rossman-Benjamin’s 2009 complaint as part of a renewed commitment to more aggressively combat antisemitism on campuses. The DOE ultimately dismissed the complaint in August 2013 in a strongly worded letter which emphasized that speech critical of Israel falls within the “robust and discordant expression” that regularly takes place on college campus. Rossman-Benjamin issued a forty-page appeal letter arguing that the DOE’s decision would “undoubtedly result in Jewish students feeling more vulnerable and less safe on university and college campuses across the country.” The DOE denied her appeal in June 2014, declaring that the opinion represented the agency’s final determination.
University of California, Santa Cruz
Video accuses students of supporting terrorism
Incident Date: February 2013
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
In February 2013, a video surfaced showing UC Santa Cruz (UCSC) professor Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, director of AMCHA Initiative, making accusations that SJP and the Muslim Students Association (MSA) support terrorism. She asserted that members of both groups are “generally motivated by very strong religious and political convictions, they have a fire in their belly, they come to the university, many of them are foreign students who come from countries and cultures where anti-Semitism is how they think about the world,” and that such students “come with a serious agenda, who have ties to terrorist organizations.”
In response, UCSC students petitioned UC president Mark Yudof to condemn Rossman-Benjamin’s statements and end communication with the AMCHA Initiative. Students created a poster and online video campaign featuring testimonies about how Rossman-Benjamin’s statements had harmed them. One student explained, “I am not a terrorist, I am a biology major.”
Rossman-Benjamin responded by claiming that the campaign constituted harassment and that she feared for her safety, and asking the university to sanction the students for their campaign against her. She petitioned Yudof to ban SJP and MSA chapters throughout the UC system for “illegal activity” and suggested a list of alleged connections between SJP, MSA, and “terrorists.”
University of California, Santa Cruz
Mock checkpoint draws accusations of terrorism and antisemitism
Incident Date: March 2015
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
A Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) street-theater action to “demonstrate the daily oppression the Israeli military inflicts on Palestinians” in March 2015 resulted in the student organizers facing accusations of support for terrorism and antisemitism. During the action, approximately thirty students, dressed in black, linked arms to form a line across the entrance to the campus library and two other campus locations. Students had a cardboard cutout with the word “gun” written on it and several wore t-shirts with the words “IDF.” They explained that they were staging a mock military checkpoint and asked those passing through to show ID. They also handed out flyers with information about the Israeli occupation and performed skits intended to illustrate how Palestinians experience military checkpoints.
Students told Palestine Legal that campus security came to monitor the protest several times throughout the day, but left without interfering in the action. At one point thirty police officers and four white vans came to the scene. According to what an officer told organizers, they came in response to a call from a student’s mother expressing concern about his physical safety.
The following week, the chancellor announced in an email to the campus community that the administration was reviewing “hate/bias” reports filed against the mock-checkpoint demonstrators. Administrators did not provide the identities of the complainants to SJP due to confidentiality constraints, but they did allow SJP to see the complaints, which included baseless allegations of support for terrorism and antisemitism and played on anti-Muslim stereotypes. One complaint, for example, alleged, “SJP is a hate group on UCSC campus . . . their hate tactics have escalated to mock violence, they are wearing military uniforms, sporting fake weapons, wearing scarves as masks around their faces to imitate terrorists like Islamic Jihadis. And they present a real present danger and security threat on campus.” SJP leaders told Palestine Legal that campus administrators questioned SJP about the event, clarified the applicable policies, and then stated at the close of the meeting that they would dismiss the complaints.
Several weeks later, UCSC Hillel announced that it had hired the first staff person in Northern California dedicated solely to responding to BDS and criticism of Israel. The UCSC Hillel executive director, Jim Atkins, declared that the new hire would be “the one to call when there’s a [mock] checkpoint that blocks access to the library.”
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Professor terminated for Gaza tweets”
Incident Date: August-September 2014 to present
Location: Urbana-Champaign, IL
In August 2014, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) terminated Professor Steven Salaita from a tenured faculty position following pressure from donors who did not like some of his personal tweets criticizing Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2014. Over the course of the preceding ten months, Professor Salaita had accepted a tenured position at UIUC in the American Indian Studies program, resigned from his tenured position at Virginia Tech, and undertaken significant effort and expense to prepare for his family’s move. Meanwhile, the university had scheduled Salaita to teach two courses, assigned him an office and an email address, and invited him to a faculty event on campus.
During the summer of 2014, media outlets supportive of Israel published some of Salaita’s tweets that criticized Israel’s actions in Gaza. Administrators initially defended Salaita’s right to free expression, stating that “faculty have a wide range of scholarly and political views, and we recognize the freedom-of-speech rights of all of our employees.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) wrote to UIUC, calling Salaita a “baseless anti-Semite” and claiming that hiring him presented “a real danger to the entire campus community, especially to its Jewish students.” The Champaign-Urbana Jewish Federation emailed its supporters to tell them that they took “this issue quite seriously and are addressing this matter to the best of our abilities,” and the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago reportedly prepared and circulated a document regarding Salaita’s “views.”
Records obtained under Illinois’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) indicate that Wise, who did not contact Professor Salaita or the program that hired him prior to making her decision, went out of her way to meet with major donors to discuss the matter, including a venture capitalist who serves on the boards of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and the University of Illinois Hillel Foundation. Several donors threatened to withdraw financial support from the university, including a self-described “multiple 6 figure donor.”
Two weeks before the start of the semester, the chancellor wrote Salaita to inform him that she would not recommend his appointment to the Board of Trustees. The employment contract made the appointment subject to the board’s approval, which would not take place until weeks after Salaita began teaching. As critics of the termination noted, the board’s approval has always been a rubber stamp, as shared governance ensures that faculty, not the board, make hiring and firing decisions.
Chancellor Wise later attributed the decision to terminate Salaita’s appointment to his lack of “civility”: “What we cannot and will not tolerate at the University of Illinois are personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them.”
Experts responded that the First Amendment protects even vulgar speech. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) also made clear in a statement opposing Salaita’s termination that the principles of academic freedom protect every academic’s right to engage in “extramural activity as a citizen” without fear of reprisal as a faculty member.
CCR, Palestine Legal and other civil rights advocates argued in letters to the chancellor and the board that UIUC’s action not only ignored the university’s obligation to protect the academic freedom of its faculty, but also threatened to chill academic speech on matters of public concern across the country, especially on the Israel-Palestine issue. A letter from dozens of law faculty reinforced this, stating: “The constitutional problem underlying the withdrawal of an offer of employment to Professor Salaita on account of his opinions on the Middle East affects not only him individually, but all current and prospective faculty at the University of Illinois insofar as it will have the predictable and inevitable effect of chilling speech—both inside and outside the classroom—by other academics.”
Outrage from the academic community at UIUC’s disregard for faculty free speech rights led more than 5,000 academics to boycott the university, more than sixteen UIUC departments to vote no confidence in the administration, and a number of prominent academic organizations to condemn the university’s actions.
Chancellor Wise sent Salaita’s appointment to the board, explicitly not recommending him for approval, and the board rejected his appointment by a vote of 8 to 1 on September 11, 2014. Civil rights attorney James Montgomery, the lone dissenter, analogized Salaita’s speech to his own, describing himself as “almost as vocal as Dr. Salaita” when he engaged in civil rights protests at UIUC in the 1950s. Apparently the board had never before rejected the appointment of a tenured professor.
In December 2014, the university’s Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure (CAFT) issued a report concluding that Salaita’s termination violated Salaita’s due process rights and academic freedom principles. It recommended that a body of qualified academic experts reconsider his candidacy and that the university take financial responsibility for its actions. The university rejected CAFT’s recommendation.
CCR and local co-counsel represent Salaita in a federal lawsuit filed against the university on January 29, 2015, seeking his reinstatement and alleging violations of his constitutional rights, breach of contract, and other tort claims. Salaita also filed an Illinois Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the university, seeking emails from university officials regarding his firing. In June 2015, the AAUP voted to formally censure UIUC. On August 6, 2015, a federal judge rejected UIUC’s efforts to dismiss the federal lawsuit, finding that Salaita’s tweets “implicate every ‘central concern’ of the First Amendment” and that “if the Court accepted the University’s argument [that Professor Salaita didn’t have a contract], the entire American academic hiring process as it now operates would cease to exist.”
University of Michigan
False accusations of antisemitism follow divestment campaign
Incident Date: March 2014
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
In March 2014, Israel advocates falsely accused University of Michigan (UM) students campaigning for UM to divest from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of using antisemitic slurs and making pro-Israel students feel uncomfortable.
Although hundreds of students turned out in support of divestment, the Central Student Government (CSG) voted to indefinitely table the divestment resolution, sponsored by Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) and endorsed by thirty-seven different student groups. In response, dozens of students staged a weeklong sit-in demanding that the CSG vote on the resolution.
Students on both sides of the debate and student government representatives reported receiving threats and hateful messages via email and social media, which lead to the filing of several complaints through the university’s bias complaint procedures. A resolution proponent noted that SAFE members “had to deal with a lot of hate, a lot of racism, a lot of threats.”
The right-wing Washington Free Beacon targeted a student leader of SAFE, Yazan Kherallah, referencing an old picture on Kherallah’s Facebook profile showing him with a keffiyeh scarf wrapped around his face, holding a knife next to a pineapple, with a message saying “It’s on.” The article quoted an “expert”—Kenneth Marcus of the Brandeis Center, who has spearheaded the Title VI tactic targeting Palestine activism on campuses—stating that in the context of alleged threats to opponents of the divestment resolution, the picture was “overtly threatening.” In particular, he claimed that the pineapple likely represented an antisemitic symbol and that “it appears to be a gesture of warning or a threat towards Zionists.”
In response, Kherallah denied these claims and maintained that he had posted the photo and comment to his Facebook page long before the divestment debate started. The pineapple, he said, referenced an intramural basketball game against his friends’ team (called Ananas, or “pineapple” in Arabic), and that “the photo was intended to make fun of racial stereotypes of Arabs as violent and extreme.” He added, “When your identity is repeatedly demonized in public, all you can do is laugh it off. . . . How ironic that a photo that was intended as a satire of violent stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims is taken out of context to spread the same anti-Arab and Islamophobic characterizations it sought to ridicule.” Kherallah noted the false accusations against other SAFE students meant “to distract from our real message—that complicity in Israel’s human rights violations has to stop—and paint us as motivated by anti-Semitism.” Kherallah also stated that, as a result of the Free Beacon article, his “Twitter account has been flooded with hateful and racist messages” and that the baseless accusations “will negatively affect me for the rest of my life.” He explained that “many opponents of the resolution . . . chose to oppose us by calling our movement ‘violent’ and ‘hateful’ instead of debating us on the actual merits.”
During the divestment campaign, students active in Israel advocacy on campus reported feeling “uncomfortable” and claimed that the divestment debate turned campus into a hostile environment. Students also falsely alleged that individual SAFE students directed ethnic slurs at them, which Israel advocacy groups and right-wing pro-Israel media outlets repeated and attributed to the “the hateful anti-Israel BDS movement.” The accused SAFE students roundly denied these allegations, stating that they did not even understand the meaning of the slur they were accused of using, “k_ke.”
University administrators met with the SAFE students engaged in the weeklong sit-in and with campus Hillel members. An administrator stated that she was “a little surprised that people have been talking about this as a violent movement; it’s just not the case. It has been just what you would expect from smart U of M students that are passionate about an important issue.” A week after the sit-in began, the CSG reversed its indefinite tabling of the resolution and voted against it 25–9, with five abstentions, after a six-hour overnight debate.
University of New Mexico
SJP protestors assaulted at anti-Islam event
Incident Date: February 2012
Location: Albuquerque, NM
In February 2012 at the University of New Mexico (UNM), audience members at an Israel Alliance and StandWithUs event featuring anti-Islam speaker Nonie Darwish physically assaulted SJP students protesting the talk. Audience members attacked several of the protestors, pushing and scratching them, pulling their hair, and even throwing one student to the ground. As the students tried to leave the room, audience members blocked the doors and yelled at them. Witnesses told Palestine Legal that one student protestor suffered a concussion and others sustained minor injuries. The main assailant faced two counts of misdemeanor battery and was ordered to perform twenty-four hours of community service.
UNM investigated the student protestors for potential conduct violations, ultimately charging one student with disruption. The Global Frontier Justice Center, an Israel advocacy organization connected to the Shurat HaDin, wrote a letter to UNM’s president arguing that disrupting lectures constituted a criminal offense under New Mexico law and that the university’s failure to stop disruptions could amount to a civil rights violation. One of the student protestors told Palestine Legal that several weeks after the assault, one of the StandWithUs assailants came to her workplace and spat on her.
University of Pennsylvania
Groups Condemn BDS Conference
Incident Date: 2012
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Israel advocacy groups accused a student-organized conference on BDS at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) in February 2012 of antisemitism, and a professor publicly called PennBDS “a hateful genocidal organization.”
Groups such as J Street, Penn’s Hillel chapter, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, as well as the Israeli consulate of Philadelphia, issued statements condemning the conference. Hillel of Greater Philadelphia sent a message to Penn Hillel assuring students, parents, and others that they were “urging university officials to ensure the conference does not receive school funding or create a hostile environment for pro-Israel students.” A statement by more than thirty local and national groups and individuals claimed that the conference had “the sole purpose of pursuing a delegitimization campaign against Israel” and that it would “create deep divisions among students and promote an atmosphere of intolerance on campus.” Harvard law professor and staunch Israel advocate Alan Dershowitz claimed that advocates of boycotts “have blood on their hands.” Donors threatened to withhold support. On December 23, 2011, Penn president Amy Gutmann issued a statement declaring that the university “does not support sanctions or boycotts against Israel,” but recognizing the right to freedom of expression.
Two days before the conference, Penn professor and former Israeli soldier Ruben Gur published a guest column calling PennBDS “a hateful genocidal organization” and likening Jewish organizers of the conference to “Capos [sic] in [Nazi] extermination camps.” Shortly thereafter, President Gutmann, along with David L. Cohen, chairman of Penn’s board of trustees and a former vice-chair of the board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, published an article in the Daily Pennsylvanian reiterating Penn’s “adamant opposition” and fundamental disagreement to BDS, but recognizing PennBDS members’ right to express their views. Gutmann nonetheless resisted requests to condemn Gur’s inflammatory language, which made student organizers fear for their safety. In response to Gur’s column, university police called an emergency meeting, ultimately requiring that PennBDS increase security for the event and pay the associated costs.
Conference organizers wrote to President Gutmann and presented to the University Council, a body that addresses university activities and recommends policies, stating that they did not feel safe on campus after tenured professors singled them out for their participation and after receiving threatening mail, including a death threat. President Gutmann responded by emphasizing the university’s commitment to protect speech, but failed to address the threats to the students’ safety. A university public safety official responded that Public Safety would protect Muslim groups, conflating the Palestine advocacy group PennBDS with campus Muslim groups.
After the conference, Penn students reported that pro-Israel activists continued to intimidate them. One former Israeli soldier repeatedly approached a mock wall they erected, screamed and cursed at the student organizers, and called a Palestinian female student a “whore” and “bitch” in Arabic. Another student also yelled at student organizers near the wall, throwing their papers at them and filming them for an extended period.
University of South Florida
Student government nullifies BDS referendum
Incident Date: 2013
Location: Tampa, FL
In the spring of 2013, the student body president at the University of South Florida (USF) nullified a referendum on BDS after coming under heavy pressure from university officials who made erroneous claims that the referendum violated the law.
The referendum asked students two questions: “(1) Would you support the USF student government in adhering to the principles of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere? (2) Would you support boycotting, divesting, and sanctioning corporations affiliated with human rights violations by replacing them with ethical alternatives at University of South Florida?” A majority of students answered both questions in the affirmative, but the second question fell 19 votes short of the necessary threshold for passage. After the vote, the student body president sent a campus-wide e-mail declaring the referendum “null and void,” falsely asserting that the referendum “conflicts with” or is “inconsistent” with local and state laws.
The nullification decision came after repeated interventions by the university’s associate general counsel, who disputed the legality of the referendum. The student body president acknowledged in his email that he decided to nullify the referendum after “many intense discussions with Legal Counsel and University Officials.”
Emails from university officials to student government leaders obtained via a public records request reveal that a university official, acting in response to advice from university counsel, pressured student government officials to remove the referendum from the ballot altogether on the grounds that student governments cannot take political positions. Student government officials protested, noting that the supposed prohibition on “political” questions conflicted with the student government constitution, which guaranteed students the “right to call for a university-wide initiative/referendum.” The students further pointed out that the student body constitution did not exempt “political” topics and that students had passed numerous nonbinding political resolutions the previous year.
Nonetheless, the general counsel’s office advised student government officials that the referendum violated sections of Florida state law governing how government agencies enter service contracts. During a subsequent meeting with Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and its attorneys, Associate General Counsel Adamchak referred the students to university purchasing regulations, which she also claimed barred the referendum. In another meeting with students, the legal counsel compared SJP and its divestment referendum to the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), asking, “What if the KKK proposed a referendum on whether black people should not be allowed at the university?”
These claims, though, misrepresent the law. A nonbinding straw poll of student political opinion constitutes political speech, which a public university cannot censor under the First Amendment. Moreover, the cited Florida laws and anti-corruption statutes in the state electoral context do not apply to student referenda. Finally, the purchasing regulations aim to eliminate practices that undermine legitimate competition and do not apply to the university’s right to adopt purchasing policies called for by students based on ethical considerations.
SJP appealed the student body president’s decision to nullify the referendum to the student supreme court, but the court denied a hearing on the grounds that the referendum would “violate State law and university policy.” When pressed to justify their decision, student government officials directed SJP to USF’s general counsel.
In early 2014, USF’s SJP circulated a petition asking the University of South Florida Foundation to provide additional information about its investments and divest from companies profiting from Israel’s occupation. SJP gathered more than 10,000 signatures, making it the largest student petition in Florida history. The executive director of Hillel for the Suncoast described the petition as an effort “to de-legitimize the state of Israel through falsehoods, half-truths and blatant lies. . . . Somebody needs to call them out for what they are. This has gone beyond political discourse. This is anti-Semitism.” Students presented the petition to the CEO, chairman and general counsel of the foundation; however, the foundation’s board of trustees unanimously voted to reject the petition.
University of Toledo
Student government restricts debate of divestment
Incident Date: February 2015
Location: Toledo, OH
In February 2015, the University of Toledo’s student government restricted students from attending a debate on a divestment bill introduced by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). The bill called for divestment from companies profiting from Israel’s occupation. In the days leading up to the February 17 student senate hearing and vote on the resolution, the university’s student government announced that it would bar the public from attending the hearing in violation of Ohio’s Open Meetings Act, restrict the number of SJP members who could attend the hearing, and force those SJP members who could attend to sit in a separate room for part of it. The student judicial council ultimately blocked student senators from voting on the resolution, which it deemed “discriminatory.”
In an email to SJP, Jewish Federation of Greater Toledo (JFT) chief executive officer Joel Marcovitch, and JFT Hillel director Elizabeth Lane, the student body president explained that the student government had elected to restrict attendance of members of cultural, religious, and social justice groups at the hearing to prevent violent protest, disruption, “and putting stress on an already contentious issue.” He further noted that they had taken these “non-negotiable” steps to prevent losing control and avoid the “risk” of “filling the room with students unaccountable for their behavior.”
Students told Palestine Legal, though, that student senators had held a special, private hearing with JFT before the February 17 hearing, and that pressure from JFT, which student government leaders copied on communications to SJP, had brought about these restrictive measures.
Palestine Legal and CCR sent a letter to University of Toledo president Nagi Naganathan, urging the university to comply with its obligations under the First Amendment and Ohio’s Open Meetings Act. The letter advised the University of Toledo that the scrutiny and limitation of SJP’s expressive conduct violated free speech rights and that actions taken by a student government at a public college could be attributed to the university. Jewish Voice for Peace and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation also issued statements decrying the attempt to stifle open discourse on the issue and debunking claims of antisemitism.
After access to the hearing had been restricted and a vote on the resolution had been blocked, SJP decided to reintroduce its divestment resolution. On March 3 the student government held an open hearing, this time allowing students from various communities and groups supporting divestment to participate. The student senate voted 21–4 in favor of divestment.
Chaplain forced to resign over criticism of Israel
Incident Date: August–September 2014
Location: New Haven, CT
In September 2014, Reverend Bruce Shipman, a chaplain of the Episcopal Church at Yale, resigned after coming under attack for penning a three-sentence letter to the editor in the New York Times criticizing Israel’s bombardment of Gaza. The letter, responding to an op-ed about rising antisemitism in Europe, stated that “the best antidote to anti-Semitism would be for Israel’s patrons abroad to press the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for final-status resolution to the Palestinian question.”
Within two hours of the letter’s publication, Shipman received “an avalanche of hate mail calling [him] every name imaginable, and an anti-Semite.” He was forced to resign from his position two weeks later amid a maelstrom of criticism leveled at the university itself, as well as the church board. Top Yale administrators came under pressure from donors and alumni to fire Rev. Shipman over his “anti-Semitic” speech.
Shipman has firmly rejected claims that the church asked him to resign for other reasons, stating that church officials had previously instructed him to never raise the issue of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians among his Episcopal colleagues. In a Huffington Post article, Shipman expressed concern
that others will be intimidated by my experience and thus fear raising the issue of the relationship between the United States and Israel, and the fact that apartheid conditions obtain for Palestinians in the West Bank and far worse in Gaza. . . . These are issues that demand public discourse without the fear of being labeled with the “A” word. Where better to address these issues than the campus of a great university? I do object to being labeled and having my character attacked. . . . Those are the methods of Joseph McCarthy.
 American Studies Association, “Council Resolution on Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions,” December 4, 2013, http://www.theasa.net/american_studies_association_resolution_on_academic_boycott_of_israel.
 Elizabeth Redden, “A First for the Israel Boycott?” Inside Higher Ed, April 24, 2013, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/04/24/asian-american-studies-association-endorses-boycott-israeli-universities. Several academic associations have since passed or considered similar resolutions (David Palumbo-Liu, “Breaking Taboos, BDS Gains Ground Among Academics,” Nation, January 7, 2015, http://www.thenation.com/article/breaking-taboos-bds-gains-ground-among-academics/). Following the ASA vote in December 2013, the elected council of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association unanimously opted to support the academic boycott of Israel (Inside Higher Ed, “Native American Studies Group Joins Israel Boycott,” December 18, 2013, https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2013/12/18/native-american-studies-group-joins-israel-boycott). The National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies passed a resolution in support of the boycott in April 2015. (US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, “National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies Endorses Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions,” http://www.usacbi.org/2015/04/national-association-of-chicana-and-chicano-studies-endorses-boycott-of-israeli-academic-institutions/).
 American Studies Association, “What Does the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions Mean for the ASA?” n.d., http://www.theasa.net/what_does_the_academic_boycott_mean_for_the_asa/.
 Peter Schmidt, “Backlash against Israel Boycott Throws Academic Association on Defensive,” New York Times, January 5, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/06/us/backlash-against-israel-boycott-throws-academic-association-on-defensive.html?_r=0; Anti-Defamation League New England, et al., “Action Alert: American Academic Group Boycotts Peace, Hope and Israel,” December 19, 2013, http://newengland.adl.org/news/action-alert-american-academic-group-boycotts-peace-hope-and-israel-a-shameful-step-by-the-american-studies-association-demands-condemnation-and-action/; StandWithUs, “Action Alert: Anti-Israel Academic Boycotts,” December 24, 2013, http://www.standwithus.com/academicboycott/ and https://www.standwithus.com/mail/?eid=334.
 For example: Otto Seeman, email to ASA, January 17, 2014, “Hey faggot, go back to Mexico,” http://bdsloveletters.com/2014/01/17/otto-seeman/; James Arbus, email to ASA, December 23, 2013, “Tell that wetback [ASA president Curtis Marez] to take his fucking ass back to Mexico where he belongs,” http://bdsloveletters.com/2014/01/17/james-arbus/; email from firstname.lastname@example.org to ASA, December 16, 2013, on file with Palestine Legal, “I really wish I could have strapped one of you to the front of my vehicle as I attacked the Iraq forces in Desert Storm. Then you could have had the opportunity to really meet one of your heroes. Perhaps such an opportunity will come for you in the future. In the mean time I have to settle on getting my representative in Congress to ensure your Tax Exempt status is revoked.”
 Elizabeth Redden, “Boycott Battles,” Inside Higher Ed, January 2, 2014, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/01/02/presidents-denounce-academic-boycott-israel-some-campuses-faculty-and-presidents.
 William Jacobson, “List of Universities Rejecting Academic Boycott of Israel (Update—250!),” Legal Insurrection, December 22, 2013, http://legalinsurrection.com/2013/12/list-of-universities-rejecting-academic-boycott-of-israel/.
 William A. Jacobson, “Anti-Israel Academic Boycott Group’s Tax-Exempt Status Challenged,” Legal Insurrection, January 6, 2014, http://legalinsurrection.com/2014/01/anti-israel-academic-boycott-groups-tax-exempt-status-challenged.
 Shurat HaDin, letter to Elizabeth Duggan, “American Studies Association’s Participation in Unlawful Boycott of Israeli Institutions and Academics,” January 9, 2014, on file with the authors.
 Center for Constitutional Rights, letter to Shurat HaDin, January 21, 2014, http://www.ccrjustice.org/files/CCR%20Response%20to%20Shurat%20HaDin%20Letter_01%2021%2014_Final.pdf.
 Charlotte Silver, “Anti-Gay Christian Group Threatens to Sue Hotel for Hosting Scholars Who Endorse Israel Boycott,” Electronic Intifada, October 20, 2014, http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/charlotte-silver/anti-gay-christian-group-threatens-sue-hotel-hosting-scholars-who-endorse.
 Palestine Legal, “ASA Targeted, Again,” October 20, 2014, http://palestinelegal.org/news/2014/10/20/right-wing-pro-israel-legal-bullies-target-the-asa-again.
 ACLJ, letter to Westin Hotel, Oct. 13, 2014, http://media.aclj.org/pdf/westin-bonaventure-letter.pdf
 American Studies Association, “ASA Responds to False Allegations of Possible Discrimination at 2014 Conference,” October 21, 2014, http://www.theasa.net/from_the_editors/item/asa_responds_to_false_accusations_of_discrimination_at_upcoming_conference/.
 Ariel Kaminer, “Assembly Withdraws Bill to Limit Anti-Israel Boycotts,” New York Times, February 4, 2014, ** http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/05/nyregion/assembly-withdraws-bill-to-limit-anti-israel-boycotts.html?_r=0.
 New York Times editorial, “A Chill on Speech,” February 3, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/04/opinion/a-chill-on-speech.html?smid=tw-share&_r=1.
 New York Civil Liberties Union, “Legislative Memo: In Relation to Withholding State Funds from Public Universities that Support Academic Associations that Are Engaging in Boycotts,” legislative memo, February 3, 2014, http://www.nyclu.org/content/relation-withholding-state-funds-public-universities-support-academic-associations-are-engag.
 Center for Constitutional Rights, letter to New York State Assembly members, January 30, 2014, http://ccrjustice.org/files/1%2030%2014%20%20CCR%20NLG%20NYC%20Letter%20to%20NY%20Assembly%20Members%20FINAL.pdf.
 Palestine Legal, letter to New York State Assembly members, February 13, 2014, http://palestinelegalsupport.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Columbia-Faculty-Boycott-Letter-with-Signatures-Round-2-Combined.pdf.
 American Association of University Professors, “Statement on Anti-Boycott Legislation,” February 4, 2014, http://aaup.org/sites/default/files/files/AAUPstatementboycottlegislation.pdf.
 Brooklyn College PSC, “New York State Boycott Bill Attacks Academic Freedom; Threatens CUNY Funding,” February 1, 2014, http://pscbc.blogspot.com/2014/02/new-york-state-boycott-bill-attacks.html.
 Casey Seiler, “NYSUT, Others Oppose Don’t-Boycott-Israel Bills,” Times-Union, February 3, 2014, http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/205134/nysut-others-oppose-assemblys-dont-boycott-israel-bill.
 Palestine Legal, “Anti-Boycott Bill Delayed in NY State Assembly,” press release, February 4, 2014, http://palestinelegal.org/news/2014/02/04/anti-boycott-bill-delayed-in-the-new-york-state-assembly-after-strong-show-of-opposition.
 Palestine Legal, “IL Senate Consider Anti-BDS Bill,” press release, March 4, 2014, http://palestinelegal.org/news/2014/03/04/bill-prohibiting-academic-boycotts-at-public-universities-is-under-illinois-state-senate-consideration.
 Center for Constitutional Rights, “Letter: CCR Appeals to Illinois State Senate Higher Education Committee to Oppose Anti-Boycott Bill,” press release, March 4, 2014, http://ccrjustice.org/Letter-CCR-Appeals-to-Illinois-State-Senate-Oppose-Anti-Boycott-Bill.
 American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, letter to members of the Senate Higher Education Committee, March 4, 2014, http://palestinelegalsupport.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/ACLU-IL_LetterToHECreSB-3017.pdf.
 Palestine Legal, “Action Needed: IL Anti-Boycott Bill,” press release, March 19, 2014, http://palestinelegal.org/news/2014/03/19/urgent-action-needed-wednesday-march-19-2014-as-illinois-legislature-reassigns-anti-boycott-bill-to-new-committee; Palestine Legal, “Victory: Update on Illinois Anti-Boycott Resolution,” press release, April 11, 2014, http://palestinelegal.org/news/2014/04/11/victory-update-on-illinois-anti-boycott-resolution.
 The Illinois Coalition to Protect Academic Freedom and Free Speech formed in response to the anti-boycott legislation in the Illinois Senate. The coalition includes CCR and Palestine Legal, along with the following local and national groups: CAIR-Chicago, Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago, American Studies Association, Committee for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine, Palestine Solidarity Group-Chicago, Arab-Jewish Partnership for Peace and Justice in the Middle East, Committee Against Political Repression, Friends of Sabeel: North America, United States Palestinian Community Network, American Friends Service Committee-Chicago, Just Foreign Policy, Defending Dissent Foundation, American Muslims for Palestine, UIC Graduate Employees Organization, IFT-AFT Local 6297, and other individuals. Palestine Legal, “IMMEDIATE ACTION NEEDED Attack on Academic Freedom Gains New Momentum in Illinois General Assembly,” press release, March 31, 2014, http://palestinelegal.org/news/2014/03/31/immediate-action-needed-attack-on-academic-freedom-gains-new-momentum-in-illinois-general-assembly.
 Palestine Legal, “CCR Opposes IL Anti-Boycott Resolution,” press release, April 1, 2014, http://palestinelegal.org/news/2014/04/01/ccr-submits-statement-to-il-senate-judiciary-committee-on-anti-boycott-resolution-joins-aclu-il-in-opposition.
 Palestine Legal, “Victory: Update on Illinois Anti-Boycott Resolution.”
 Washington Post editorial, “Maryland Bill that Would Bar Participation in Boycott of Israel Goes Too Far,” March 8, 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/maryland-bill-that-would-bar-participation-in-boycott-of-israel-goes-too-far/2014/03/08/5bc247f6-a5a0-11e3-84d4-e59b1709222c_story.html.
 Jewish Voice for Peace, “Bill Defunding Universities With Ties to Israel Boycotters Dies in Committee,” Common Dreams, April 8, 2014, http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2014/04/08/bill-defunding-universities-ties-israel-boycotters-dies-committee; Conference Committee on Senate Bill 170, “Report of the Conference Committee on Senate Bill 170,” General Assembly of Maryland, April 3, 2014, http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/Pubs/BudgetFiscal/2014rs-budget-docs-operating-cc-report.pdf.
 Palestine Legal, “Rights Groups Oppose MD Anti-Boycott Bills,” press release, March 4, 2014, http://palestinelegal.org/news/2014/03/04/letter-rights-groups-appeal-to-the-maryland-senate-and-house-to-oppose-anti-boycott-bills.
 Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “AJC, ADL Opposing Maryland Anti-Boycott Measure,” March 9, 2014, http://www.jta.org/2014/03/09/news-opinion/united-states/national-jewish-groups-oppose-maryland-anti-boycott-law; Suzanne Pollak and Heather Norris, * “Jewish Organizations Face Off,” Baltimore Jewish Times*, February 27, 2014, http://jewishtimes.com/19723/jewish-organizations-face-off/.
 Bill Chambers, “Broad Coalition Stops Anti-Boycott Bill in Illinois,” Chicago Monitor, April 11, 2014, http://chicagomonitor.com/2014/04/broad-coalition-defeats-anti-boycott-bill-in-illinois/.
 Center for Constitutional Rights and Jewish Voice for Peace, “Senate Resolution 894—‘Anti-Boycott Resolution,’ letter, April 11, 2014, on file with Palestine Legal.
 Palestine Legal, “CCR, NLG and CAIR-USA Ask House Education Committee to Oppose Anti-Boycott Bill,” press release, February 12, 2014, http://palestinelegal.org/news/2014/02/12/ccr-nlg-and-cair-usa-ask-house-education-committee-to-oppose-anti-boycott-bill.
 AMCHA Initiative, “Serious Concerns about Abuse of CSU Resources and Name,” February 13, 2012, http://amchainitiative.org/pappe_at_csu; Nora Barrows-Friedman, “Zionist Group Fails to Disrupt Ilan Pappe’s Tour at California State Universities,” Electronic Intifada, February 18, 2012, http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/nora/zionist-group-fails-disrupt-ilan-pappes-tour-california-state-universities. AMCHA relied in its letter on CSU trustee resolutions stating that outside speakers should not be brought for propaganda purposes, but failed to note that these same resolutions also contain the principle that the “institutional control of campus facilities must not be used as a device of censorship (i.e., of precluding a speaker because of disagreement with the views s/he proposes to present).” CSU Board of Trustees, “Outside Speakers and Events on Campus,” July 20, 2005, www.csufresno.edu/aps/documents/apm/625OutsideSpeakersEventsPolicy07_2005.pdf.
 AMCHA Initiative, “Serious Concerns.”
 Henry Hellenbrand, Jeffrey D. Armstrong, and John D. Welty, open letter, February 16, 2012, quoted in Cecilie Surasky, “State University Hosts Israeli Historian Ilan Pappe—Says No to McCarthyite Campaign,” Muzzlewatch, February 18, 2012, http://www.muzzlewatch.com/2012/02/18/state-university-hosts-israeli-historian-ilan-pappe-says-no-to-mccarthyite-campaign.
 Gabriel Schivone and Nora Barrows-Friedman, “Israeli Professor Working in US Calls Palestinian Student a ‘cockroach,’” Electronic Intifada, March 19, 2013, http://electronicintifada.net/content/israeli-professor-working-us-calls-palestinian-student-cockroach/12296. Palestine Legal and CCR, et al., letter to the Claremont Colleges, “Claremont Colleges’ Responsibility to Protect Student Speech and Remedy the Harms of Racial Bias,” March 28, 2013, http://ccrjustice.org/sites/default/files/assets/5C%27s%20Responsibility%20to%20Protect%20Speech%20%20Remedy%20Racial%20Bias-3-28%20%281%29.pdf.
 The term “cockroach” has a history of dehumanizing usages, including during the Rwandan genocide, when Hutus were incited to mass-murder ethnic Tutsis by media that referred to them as “cockroaches” (Human Rights Watch, “Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda,” March 1999, https://www.hrw.org/reports/1999/rwanda/Geno1-3-10.htm; “Kangura No. 40, Editorial: A Cockroach (Inyenzi) Cannot Bring Forth a Butterfly,” Rwanda File, n.d. http://www.rwandafile.com/Kangura/k40r.html, and in the Palestinian context, where, for example, IDF chief of staff Rafael Eitan famously said, “When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged roaches in a bottle” (BBC News, “Former Israeli Army Chief Drowns,” November 23, 2004, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/middle_east/4034765.stm. The professor in this case maintained that he did not use the term as a racial slur and did not know the student was Palestinian (Brad Richardson and Colin Spence, “Professor Raviv Talks Bias, Pitzer, and Cockroaches,” Claremont Independent, April 22, 2013, http://claremontindependent.com/professor-raviv-talks-bias-pitzer-and-cockroaches/.
 Palestine Legal interview with SJP representative (name withheld), March 2013; Nora Barrows-Friedman, “Israeli Professor Working in US Calls Palestinian Student a “Cockroach,” Electronic Intifada, March 19, 2013, https://electronicintifada.net/content/israeli-professor-working-us-calls-palestinian-student-cockroach/12296.
 Lori Lowenthal Marcus, “Cockroach Curses and Jew Hunting in California Colleges,” Jewish Press, May 10, 2013, http://www.jewishpress.com/news/cockroach-curses-and-jew-hunting-in-california-colleges/2013/05/10/.
 Palestine Legal and CCR, et al., letter to the Claremont Colleges.
 Mary Spellman, CMC Dean of Students, memorandum to Pamela Gann, CMC President, “Summary of Review Regarding Incident at the Claremont Students for Justice in Palestine Event on Claremont McKenna College Campus on Monday, March 4, 2013,” April 19, 2013, http://www.claremontportside.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Report-to-President-Gann-re-SJP-Event.pdf.
 Palestine Legal, letter to Pamela Gann, May 1, 2013, on file with Palestine Legal.
 Mary Spellman, CMC Dean of Students, memorandum to Pamela Gann, CMC President.
 Palestine Legal, letter to Pamela Gann, May 1, 2013.
 Daniel Segal, “Professor Segal on SJP Incident: An Open Letter to CMC Faculty,” April 25, 2013, http://www.claremontportside.com/prof-segal-on-sjp-incident-an-open-letter-to-cmc-faculty.
 Pamela Gann, letter to student informing student that grievance is dismissed, April 30, 2013, on file with Palestine Legal.
 Center for Constitutional Rights, letter to Claremont Colleges in Southern California regarding the Claremont Colleges’ responsibility to protect student speech and remedy the harms of racial bias, March 28, 2013, http://ccrjustice.org/letter-claremont-colleges-southern-california-regarding-repression-of-palestinian-human-rights-advoc.
 CMC Forum, “Pitzer Students Organize ‘Candlelight Vigil’ for Death of Student Rights,” April 11, 2013, http://cmcforum.com/news/04112013-pitzer-students-organize-candlelight-vigil-for-death-of-student-rights.
 Notes on file with Palestine Legal.
 Palestine Legal interview with SJP representative (name withheld), March 20, 2015; Palestine Legal, letter to Pitzer College president Laura Trombley, March 30, 2015, http://palestinelegalsupport.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Letter-to-Pitzer-President-Trombley-Re-SJP-Speech-Rights-3-30-15-redacted.pdf.
 Palestine Legal interview with SJP representative (name withheld), March 20, 2015; Palestine Legal, letter to Trombley.
 Brian Carlisle, email to Students for Justice in Palestine representative Noah Latkin, March 27, 2015, on file with Palestine Legal.
 SJP representative, email to Palestine Legal, March 28, 2015, on file with Palestine Legal; Palestine Legal, letter to Trombley.
 Carlisle, email to Latkin.
 Pitzer Students for Justice in Palestine, “Pitzer SJP to display mock Apartheid Wall despite administration attempts to censor free speech,” Mondoweiss, March 31, 2015, http://mondoweiss.net/2015/03/apartheid-administration-attempts.
 Palestine Solidarity Legal Support Letter to Pitzer College President Laura Trombley, March 30, 2015, http://palestinelegal.org/news/2015/03/30/letter-psls-urges-pitzer-college-to-protect-rights-of-students-to-display-mock-separation-wall.
 American Muslims for Palestine, “Tell Pitzer College: Censorship Is Not Progressive!” http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/51044/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=16116; Jewish Voice for Peace, “Tell Pitzer College President: Stop Censoring Your Students!” March 31, 2015, http://org.salsalabs.com/o/301/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=17535.
 Nora Barrows-Friedman, “Defying College’s Threats, California Students Build Mock Israeli Wall,” Electronic Intifada, April 2, 2015, http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/nora-barrows-friedman/defying-colleges-threats-california-students-build-mock-israeli-wall.
 Email from SJP representative (name withheld) to Palestine Legal, April 29, 2015.
 Sammy Roth, “Federal Investigation Launched Following ‘Steering’ Complaint,” Columbia Spectator, October 4, 2011, http://columbiaspectator.com/2011/10/04/federal-investigation-launched-following-steering-complaint; Kenneth L. Marcus, “OCR Opens Investigation Against Columbia,” September 28, 2011, http://www.jewishresearch.org/quad_09_11/09-11/OCR_Opens_Investigation_against_Columbia.htm.
 Office for Civil Rights, letter to Debora Spar re Case No. 02-11-2193, January 11, 2012, available at http://www.scribd.com/doc/78200717/OCR-Letter; also Sammy Roth, “Investigation Finds No Discrimination at Barnard,” Columbia Spectator (January 13, 2012), http://columbiaspectator.com/2012/01/13/investigation-finds-no-discrimination-barnard.
 Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine, “Barnard Removes SJP Banner Calling on Students to ‘Stand for Justice, Stand for Palestine,’” press release, March 12, 2014, http://columbiasjp.org/2014/03/11/official-statement-regarding-barnard-administrations-sjp-banner-removal/.
 Center for Constitutional Rights, “Removal of C-SJP Banner,” letter, March 13, 2014, http://www.ccrjustice.org/sites/default/files/assets/files/CCR_Letter-to-Barnard-president-re-banner-removal_3-13-14.pdf; CCR, “Removal of Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine Banner,” letter, March 25, 2014, http://ccrjustice.org/sites/default/files/assets/files/CCR%20Response%20to%20Barnard%.
 Seffi Kogen, Facebook post, March 10, 2014, https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10201723162144419&set=a.1551171582835.2075581.1341480016&type=1&theater.
 Samantha Cooney and Christian Zhang, “Students for Justice in Palestine Banner Removal Sparks Debate on Free Speech, Display Policy,” Columbia Spectator, March 11, 2014, http://columbiaspectator.com/news/2014/03/11/students-justice-palestine-banner-removal-sparks-debate-free-speech-display-policy.
 Center for Constitutional Rights, letter to Debora Spar, March 25, 2014, http://ccrjustice.org/files/CCR%20Response%20to%20Barnard%20re%20Banner%20Removal_3.25.14.pdf.
 Barnard College, “Barnard to reexamine banner policy,” press release, March 11, 2014, http://barnard.edu/news/barnard-reexamine-banner-policy.
 Center for Constitutional Rights, “Removal of C-SJP Banner”; CCR, “Removal of Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine Banner,” letter, March 25, 2014, http://ccrjustice.org/sites/default/files/assets/files/CCR%20Response%20to%20Barnard%20re%20Banner%20Removal_3.25.14.pdf.
 Yasemin Akcaguner, “Groups Join SJP to Speak Out against Barnard Banner Removal,” Columbia Spectator, March 15, 2014, http://columbiaspectator.com/news/2014/03/15/groups-join-sjp-speak-out-against-barnard-banner-removal; Samantha Cooney, “Student Governing Board Issues Two Statements Regarding SJP Banner,” Columbia Spectator, March 13, 2014, http://columbiaspectator.com/2014/03/13/student-governing-board-issues-two-statements-regarding-sjp-banner.
 Sophia Hotung, “Barnard Designates Banner Space After Last Year’s Students for Justice in Palestine Banner Debate,” Columbia Spectator, April 9, 2015, http://columbiaspectator.com/spectrum/2015/04/09/barnard-designates-banner-space-after-last-years-students-justice-palestine.
 Columbia SJP, “Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine Receives a Bomb Threat During Annual Israeli Apartheid Week,” press release, March 26, 2015, http://columbiasjp.org/2015/03/26/columbia-students-for-justice-in-palestine-receives-a-bomb-threat-during-annual-israeli-apartheid-week.
 Office of the President, Columbia University, email to Shamus Khan, April 14, 2015, on file with Palestine Legal.
 Morton Klein and Susan Tuchman, letter to Lila Abu-Lughod, May 27, 2015, https://ccrjustice.org/sites/default/files/attach/2015/06/letter%20to%20Middle%20East%20Institute%20at%20Columbia%20U.%205-27-15_1.pdf.
 Katherine Franke, “Readings on Citizenship and Nationality in Israel/Palestine Structures of Identity, Difference and Democracy,” curriculum, n.d., http://web.law.columbia.edu/open-university-project/curricula/citizenshipnationalityisrael-palestine.
 Klein and Tuchman, letter to Lila Abu-Lughod. For information on the HEA, see Maria LaHood and Radhika Sainath, “Zionist Organization Fails to Censor Columbia University Workshop on Israel/Palestine,” Huffington Post, June 22, 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/the-center-for-constitutional-rights/zionist-organization-fail_b_7639874.html.
 Max Blumenthal, “The Former Terror Suspect Leading the Attack on the Brooklyn College BDS Panel, Nation, February 6, 2013, http://www.thenation.com/article/172699/former-terror-suspect-leading-attack-brooklyn-college-bds-panel#; Institute for Middle East Understanding, “New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind,” February 7, 2013, http://imeu.org/article/new-york-state-assemblyman-dov-hikind.
 Lisa W. Foderaro, “Brooklyn College Revokes Instructor’s Appointment to Teach Mideast Politics,” New York Times, January 27, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/28/nyregion/28prof.html?_r=1; Dan Berrett, “Political Purge or Quality Control?” Inside Higher Ed, January 28, 2011,