On January 31, less than a week after President Trump issued an executive order known as the “Muslim ban,” Students for Justice in Palestine at NYU (NYU SJP) received a threatening email targeting its Arab and Muslim members, members of Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ solidarity groups, and immigrants. The message reads:
“ATTENTION MUSLIMS, ARABS AND OTHER ‘ANTI-ZIONIST’ CAMPUS TROLLS: Your names, image, friends list, postings, family member id’s and other personal info. will be submitted — in conjunction with other collected data sets — and sent to the following Federal Agencies…”
The email also threatens to “crush” SJP chapters and supporters of BDS at the California State University system, Rutgers University, the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and Vassar College, concluding with:
“By the Sword of David, we will smash your collective skulls together online, and shatter your futures to pieces. And, Muzz/Arabs; It’ll be a Family Affair for you. That is a promise you may wish to meditate upon before ruining your family’s lives.”
NYU-SJP, along with several other NYU groups, including the Black Student Union, the Muslim Student Association and LUCHA at NYU, are calling on NYU to condemn these threats and declare NYU a sanctuary campus. Palestine Legal received a similar email threatening violence against Muslim women and students trying to start an SJP at Fordham University on January 17,:
“...IT'S TRUMP TIME - AND AN AGGRESSIVE NEW ERA...HOLD ONTO YOUR HIJABS BECAUSE WE'RE ON SJP LIKE A FLEET OF IDF DRONES OVER GAZA. HEAR THAT HORNETLIKE SOUND FROM UP ABOVE ? ? ? ? ?
AM YISRAEL CHAI! HAIL TRUMP!”
The email was sent on the same day that Fordham’s ban on SJP was publicized by Palestine Legal.
These incidents are emblematic of an alarming rise in racist, xenophobic, sexist and homophobic incidents emerging after Trump’s election stoked hatred against marginalized groups.
Incidents at both schools also provide clear examples of the well-documented and widespread suppression of Palestinian rights advocacy across the country. In September 2016, Palestine Legal staff attorney Radhika Sainath testified at a New York City Council hearing on an anti-BDS resolution about rape threats NYU SJP received after Governor Cuomo signed an executive order creating a blacklist of organizations supporting BDS. “[I]n speaking with human rights activists, it’s become clear that condemnation from officials – including legislation and resolutions by elected officials – can have a terrible chilling effect on protected speech, and often leads to harassment, bullying and even the kind of rape and death threats faced by the students at NYU and elsewhere,” Sainath said.
Palestine Legal has advised students and professors supporting Palestinian rights in the Cal State University system, Rutgers, UCLA and Vassar. From January 2014 to December 2016, Palestine Legal responded 650 incidents of suppression, the vast majority targeting students and scholars.