IUPUI must stand with Haneen and SJP, too

Today, Palestine Legal wrote to the Chancellor of Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) demanding that the University take immediate action to ensure that members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) are able to speak out about Palestinian human rights without fear of violence and intimidation.

Over the past week, members of SJP at IUPUI have been the target of an alarming and defamatory campaign of harassment and intimidation by anonymous individuals. An SJP leader, Haneen, the primary target of the campaign, has received harassing phone calls and emails, and has been the subject of blog posts and at least one online video falsely claiming she and SJP support violence and terrorism. The posts have indicated that law enforcement authorities have been asked to investigate Haneen, and they falsely assert that she is a “major potential threat to the national security,” a “would-be attacker,” and raised alarm over her “open support for terrorism.” These attacks are based solely on her apparent religion, national origin, and speech critical of Israel and supportive of Palestinian freedom.  Posts also criticized Haneen’s involvement with Black Lives Matter activists, claiming that they too “are prone to acts of violence.

Palestine Legal’s letter to IUPUI Chancellor Nasser Paydar reminded the University of their legal obligations under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ensure that Palestinian students and Palestine solidarity activists enjoy the right to speak out in favor of Palestinian freedom without discrimination based on the viewpoint they express, and that students are protected from harassment, intimidation, and discrimination based on their race, color, or national origin.

Palestine Legal believes that the IUPUI administration’s response so far has been inadequate. “Failure to take specific and appropriate action to condemn these incidents and to ensure the well being of targeted students constitutes complicity with a political climate that is increasingly hostile – and dangerous – for Muslims, Palestinians, and those who speak out in favor of Palestinian human rights,” said Palestine Legal staff attorney Rahul Saksena.

While Chancellor Paydar sent on Thursday a campus-wide email reiterating the University’s commitment to free expression and the exchange of ideas, he has failed to address the specific incidents targeting members of SJP. A group of 75 faculty, staff and students of IUPUI have rallied to support Haneen and SJP, writing a letter to Chancellor Paydar, and demanding further action to protect the student. 

These incidents are part of a larger pattern of harassment and intimidation of advocates for Palestinian rights on Indiana campuses, where professors have also been the subject of recent attacks, and on campuses across the country, including, most recently, at the University of California, Riverside.  

Palestine Legal’s letter can be found here.