The following is an excerpt from an article published in the New York Times on August 3, 2016. To view the full article, click here.
Students and the Middle East Conflict
By Linda Wertheimer
What some see as a celebration of culture through food, others see as a political statement, and an offensive one at that. Just slip an Israeli flag on a toothpick.
To the Tufts chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, last fall’s Taste of Israel was appropriation, pure and simple.
“I don’t think the Palestinian students on this campus would see it as ‘cultural’ if they were to walk in and see flags of Israel all over the food their grandmother used to cook before she was evicted from her village,” said Nic Serhan, an S.J.P. member who is part Arab, part African-American.
As students sampled pomegranate seeds, hummus, falafel and pita, Mr. Serhan and fellow protesters strode into the event carrying signs reading “Taste of Israeli Occupation,” “Don’t dip into apartheid” and “Fresh from stolen Palestinian land.” Then they passed out chocolates with anti-Israel sentiments on the wrappers and asked: “Do you want the real truth about Israel?”
“It is not the place of the president, the chancellor or the former chancellor to tsk-tsk the students because they don’t like the style of debate,” said Liz Jackson, a lawyer with Palestine Legal, which formed in 2012 to work with activists.
Lawyers who advise S.J.P. members facing disciplinary charges say that First Amendment rights are routinely ignored when Israel is the subject, and that universities are trying to intimidate members into silence.
Northeastern University’s chapter was suspended for the remainder of the school year after its members slipped 600 strongly worded mock eviction notices under dorm room doors to mirror the eviction of Palestinians. The notices reminded some of the expulsion of Jews during the Holocaust. And after various incidents at the City University of New York, including the disruption of a faculty meeting at Brooklyn College, several state lawmakers began an effort to get S.J.P. chapters expelled, even though a broad coalition of activists had caused the disruption. They did not succeed. But in February, the Zionist Organization of America sent a letter to CUNY asking for a public condemnation of S.J.P. for promoting anti-Semitism and creating a “hostile campus environment” for Jewish students on at least four CUNY campuses.