Student Group Harassed, Defamed and Threatened with Lawsuit Over Conference

Student Group Harassed, Defamed and Threatened with Lawsuit Over Conference

In October 2018, just ahead of the annual National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) conference, UCLA sent NSJP a letter claiming that a bear logo used by the group violated the school’s trademark. The university’s threat was sent to NSJP amid a barrage of efforts by pro-Israel actors to shut down the conference at UCLA.

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Rasmea Odeh: Community Leader Prosecuted

Rasmea Odeh: Community Leader Prosecuted

In October 2013, the Department of Homeland Security arrested Rasmea Odeh, a pillar of the Palestinian community in Chicago, and charged her with ‘unlawful procurement of naturalization’ for omitting mention of her arrest and conviction by an Israeli military court on her citizenship application.

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University of Chicago: Students Harassed on Campus and Online

CREDIT:  LUIZ GADELHA JR.

In the Fall 2015, Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace members at the University of Chicago faced harassment on campus and online. Much of the harassment targeted students based on their perceived sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity, including:

  • On October 14, as part of the International Day of Action on University Campuses for Palestine, SJP put up posters at the University of Chicago in recognition of recent Palestinian victims of Israeli violence. Many posters were torn down or vandalized with Islamophobic and anti-Arab messages, including “stop venerating terror” and “TERRORIST.”
  • On October 19, offensive posters using the SJP and University of Chicago logos were posted on campus. The posters replaced “Students for Justice in Palestine” with “Stabbing Jews for Peace.” SJP reported both incidents to Associate Dean Inabinet via email on Oct 20.
  • On October 22, a fake Facebook user named “Rachel Corrie” posted harassing and intimidating comments about an SJP member on SJP’s Facebook page. The posts included homophobic, disparaging comments about the student’s sexual orientation, and threatened to expose sexually explicit photos of the student. One comment, for example, threatened to post flyers on campus with “graphic nude photos of [redacted] he’s been sharing on [gay mobile phone app] grindr.” Another comment stated, “I think most queers would agree that power bottom [redacted] needs to stop pinkwashing palestinian brutality against palestinian homosexuals, oh and stabbing jews too.” Members of SJP reported these Facebook posts to the Associate Dean Inabinet via email on October 22.
  • On November 2 and 3, a University of Chicago student who identifies as non-binary and queer, received threatening transphobic and homophobic Facebook messages from the same “Rachel Corrie” referenced above, including “when are you going to get your boobies taken off?” and “i’m going to have lots of fun with you and your family.” The student is a member of Jewish Voice for Peace – UChicago and had posted publicly on Facebook in support of Palestinian human rights. The student reported these messages to the Administration via e-mail on November 3.
  • On November 6, a Facebook user created a fake account using the name and photo of an SJP member. The fake account made several offensive, harassing, and intimidating comments on SJP Chicago’s Facebook page. The comments included disparaging statements about the student’s sexual orientation, and attributed to the student statements that could be construed as support for terrorism and anti-Semitism. In one post, for example, the fake profile commented, “I would love to join, but I’m more interested in murdering some jews, er… I mean zionists.” Another comment stated, “…How can I get arrested, I want to fulfill a prison rape fantasy, dying for some big black cock.” The student reported these Facebook comments to Dean of Students Michele Rasmussen via e-mail on November 6.
  • On November 14, a Facebook user created a fake account using the name and profile photograph of a Palestinian student at the University of Chicago, who is also a member of SJP. The imposter account left a series of harassing, threatening, sexual, and misogynistic comments on SJP’s Facebook page, including “you don’t have to rape me, i’ll make you touch my genitals.” The Palestinian student reported these comments to Dean of Students Michele Rasmussen and other administrators via email on November 16.

Each time students reported incidents to administrators, the responses expressed sympathy and referred the student(s) to Title IX coordinator. These responses were insufficient.

On November 19, Palestine Legal sent a letter to the University. The letter called on the University to investigate who was behind the harassment and issue a public statement affirming the right to speak out in support of Palestine. The University responded to Palestine Legal’s letter, stating that they had investigated and were unable to identify the sources of online harassment. But the University failed to address the students’ other demands, including publicly affirming and protecting the rights of students to speak out in favor of Palestinian human rights.

Nearly a year later, in October 2016, a number of defamatory, hateful posters made by the David Horowitz Freedom Center were found around campus targeting students due to their support for Palestinian rights. That year, students were also profiled on blacklisting site Canary Mission. Palestine Legal again sent a legal letter to administrators documenting the incidents and demanding that the university take immediate action to support the targeted students.

Palestine Legal continued to work with University of Chicago students throughout 2016 and 2017 to build pressure on the university to take action. In the summer of 2017, the University announced it was considering action to support students targeted by Horowitz and Canary Mission.

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Ohio University: Student President Receives Death Threats

Ohio University Student Senate President Received Death Threats After Pro-BDS video

Credit: athens news

Credit: athens news

In August 2014, Ohio University president Roderick McDavis took the “ice bucket challenge,” a campaign to raise money for research on 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. McDavis asked student senate president Megan Marzec to take the challenge.  

Marzec responded by making 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 soon received thousands of hate messages, including death and rape threats. The University informed Marzec that President McDavis had also received death threats, and Marzec was advised to go into protective housing, to not walk alone and to accept a police escort.

On September 4, two days after Marzec posted the video, President McDavis issued a statement distancing the university from Marzec’s message and emphasized 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 pro-Israel groups, called for Marzec’s resignation, and four students with Bobcats for Israel were arrested by campus police after they interrupted a student senate hearing and called for Marzec’s resignation.  In February 2015, all four students were charged with fourth degree misdemeanor four disturbing a lawful meeting after they refused to plead guilty to lesser charges.  

Dozens of OU faculty signed a statement supporting Marzec and raising concerns that OU’s invocation of “civility” “too often . . . functions to silence dissent and debate on issues of current concern.” Palestine Legal wrote to Ohio University administrators, advising them of their obligation to protect Marzec and others who speak out for Palestinian rights against groups that claim anti-Semitism and call for punishment of free speech activities. 

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