Northeastern University criticized for sanctioning Students for Justice in Palestine

ActivismIsrael/PalestineUS Politics
on 18 Comments
NESJP
(Photo via Northeastern University SJP Facebook)

Boston’s Northeastern University has come under criticism for imposing sanctions on a student group that briefly protested a talk given by Israeli soldiers on campus.

The Boston Globe’s Yvonne Abraham details the story in a column that laments the sanctions as one more example of how college campuses have become infused with a “culture of enforced politeness that is downright depressing.”

Abraham reports that in April, the school’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) group staged a walkout of a presentation by Israeli soldiers. The students taped protest signs to their chest, called them war criminals and briefly chanted slogans. It was all over in a minute, Abraham writes.

For this action, the SJP group has been put on probation, and if they partake in any future “transgressions,” they will be suspended indefinitely. The group has also been told to draft a “civility statement” because of their protest. Here’s more from Abraham:

Northeastern says the group was sanctioned purely because it failed to get a permit for its demonstration, which the school requires at least seven days in advance. The students say the university has targeted them for their views.

“The university is concerned about its image,” says Tori Porell, an SJP leader. “Some people are trying to smear them as anti-Semitic, so they’re attempting to stop anything seen as controversial.”

University officials knew about the protest beforehand, and e-mailed SJP to urge “respect and decorum,” directing them not to bring in signs, and to “discourage vocal disruption.” The students believed the small signs on their chests complied with that directive, and say they did not encourage chanting. They say the e-mail was tacit permission to proceed, even without a formal permit.

SJP says that in 2010, pro-Israel students disrupted a talk given by Norman Finkelstein, but were not sanctioned. And those students were also not required to come up with a “civility statement.”

“All of it operates to squelch speech in a place that ought to be teaching students about the role of dissent and vigorous debate in a free society,” the American Civil Liberties Union’s Sarah Wunsch told The Boston Globe. Abraham agrees:

If the pro-Palestinian group is really being sanctioned purely for failing to follow procedural rules, it’s time to take another look at those rules. 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.

Northeastern University student Porell told the Globe that the university is sensitive to charges of anti-Semitism. The sanctions on SJP have been imposed after Northeastern has come under attack from anti-Muslim activist Charles Jacobs, the founder of the Zionist group The David Project. A group he founded produced a video in 2012–similar to The David Project’s unsuccessful effort targeting Columbia Professor Joseph Massad–charging that the Northeastern Middle East curriculum was anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.

The situation at Northeastern has emerged as other student activists are dealing with administrative scrutiny. Christopher Massana, a writer at the Florida Atlantic University’s student magazine, recently reported that members of the SJP group there were being investigated for potentially violating student conduct codes. The investigation was launched after they protested a talk given by an Israeli soldier who participated in the 2008-09 assault on Gaza. After disrupting the talk, the activists were told to leave by the police, and they complied.

In 2010, the Muslim Student Union at the University of California, Irvine was suspended by the school administration after members of the group repeatedly disrupted a talk given by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren. A coalition of civil rights groups decried the suspension as “unparalleled in their severity.” The coalition added: “Student protestors have a long history of disrupting speeches, but we have not seen this type of severe sanction against other groups. The disparate treatment sends the message that UCI selectively censures particular political views, and this is unacceptable.”

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

Other posts by .


Posted In:

18 Responses

  1. Rusty Pipes
    June 13, 2013, 3:46 pm

    Given that theirs was not the first protest, nor the first disruption of a speaker by a student group in the long history of Northeastern, SJP awaits the administration’s production of civility statements by prior groups that have engaged in such conduct. The civility statement from the group that disrupted Norman Finkelstein’s 2010 talk would be an adequate template for SJP to understand the format of what the administration requires.

  2. Blaine Coleman
    June 13, 2013, 4:20 pm

    The administration would be even more horrified by the same students marching into their student government meeting, then signing up to speak, and then demanding a resolution for Northeastern to boycott every product from Israel — to the maximum extent allowed by law.

    No power on Earth could stop the students from doing just that.

    Week after week.

    And we haven’t even discussed pushing for boycott resolutions in city councils, all summer long.

    There are many ways to show defiance against the racist, violent state of “Israel” (http://dearbornboycottsisrael.blogspot.com/ ). A good loud demand for boycott is probably the surest way to change the atmosphere on campus.

  3. Les
    June 13, 2013, 5:17 pm

    When is the last time, if ever, a student group has been sanctioned for anti-Muslim and/or anti-Arab actions?

    • Woody Tanaka
      June 14, 2013, 8:03 am

      How many Muslims or Arabs have taken power in US Universities?? The University administrations are lousy with these fifth columnists supporting this alien state.

    • Woody Tanaka
      June 14, 2013, 8:08 am

      “The group has also been told to draft a “civility statement””

      How Stalinist. And it’s rather ironic that the school demands this of people protesting the israeli terror force Stormtroopers who murdered Gazan civilians.

  4. DICKERSON3870
    June 13, 2013, 5:41 pm

    RE: “Northeastern University student Porell told the Globe that the university is sensitive to charges of anti-Semitism. The sanctions on SJP have been imposed after Northeastern has come under attack from anti-Muslim activist Charles Jacobs, the founder of the Zionist group The David Project.” ~ Alex Kane

    SEE: “The Trial of Israel’s Campus Critics”, by David Theo Goldberg & Saree Makdisi, Tikkun Magazine, September/October 2009

    [EXCERPT] . . . It is an extraordinary fact that no fewer than thirty-three distinct organizations – including AIPAC, the Zionist Organization of America, the American Jewish Congress, and the Jewish National Fund – are gathered together today as members or affiliates of the Israel on Campus Coalition. The coalition is an overwhelmingly powerful presence on American college campuses for which there is simply no equivalent on the Palestinian or Arab side. Its self-proclaimed mission is not merely to monitor our colleges and universities. That, after all, is the commitment of Campus Watch, which was started by pro-Israel activists in 2002. It is, rather (and in its own words), to generate “a pro-active, pro-Israel agenda on campus.”
    There is, accordingly, disproportionate and unbalanced intervention on campuses across the country by a coalition of well-funded organizations, who have no time for — and even less interest in — the niceties of intellectual exchange and academic process. Insinuation, accusation, and defamation have become the weapons of first resort to respond to argument and criticism directed at Israeli policies. As far as these outside pressure groups (and their campus representatives) are concerned, the intellectual and academic price that the scholarly community pays as a result of this kind of intervention amounts to little more than collateral damage. . .

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – http://www.tikkun.org/article.php/sept_oct_09_goldberg_makdisi

    • hophmi
      June 14, 2013, 12:45 pm

      “The coalition is an overwhelmingly powerful presence on American college campuses for which there is simply no equivalent on the Palestinian or Arab side”

      This is one of those we’re-jealous-of-your-organization complaints so we’re going to play victim.

      I’m not sure what these guys think the Israel on Campus Coalition is, but I see no evidence that it is an overwhelmingly powerful presence on campuses.

      All the coalition does is coordinate the literature of the partner organizations. Organizations sign up to partner with it. It sends kids on campus literature to hand out, trains them to advocate on campus, and gives grants for pro-Israel programming. The article makes it sound like there are reps from 33 organizations on campus at once. When I read a criticism like there’s no Arab or Palestinian equivalent (which I don’t think is really true, since there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of pro-Palestinian literature on campus, pro-Palestinian activists on campus, and money from left-wing and Muslim orgs for programming), my question is: why the hell not? Is someone stopping Muslim and left-wing orgs with representation on campus from doing this? Why the complaining? You don’t have email? There’s no money? What is it? I’m dying to know.

      • Hostage
        June 15, 2013, 1:51 am

        This is one of those we’re-jealous-of-your-organization complaints so we’re going to play victim.

        No as I pointed out, it’s a case of a university providing a federally subsidized pulpit so that a foreign government can conduct public propaganda. The victims aren’t pretending, this is exactly the kind of intimidation that is illegal and discussed in the “Dear Colleague” letter published by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

  5. DICKERSON3870
    June 13, 2013, 6:15 pm

    RE: “In 2010, the Muslim Student Union at the University of California, Irvine was suspended by the school administration after members of the group repeatedly disrupted a talk given by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren. A coalition of civil rights groups decried the suspension as ‘unparalleled in their severity’.” ~ Alex Kane

    MY COMMENT: In essence, the ADL has outsourced its “enforcement” (and perhaps its spying as well) to college administrators by using the influence of their donors in a manner very similar to the way that political donors are used by AIPAC to keep politicians in line.
    FOR INSTANCE: “Jewish Donors Warn Obama on Israel”, By Laura Meckler, Wall Street Journal, 5/19/11
    LINK – http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703509104576331661918527154.html

    ALSO SEE: “The Strange History of the Anti-Defamation League:
    ADL Spies”
    , by Jeffrey Blankfort, Counterpunch, 6/12/13

    [EXCERPTS] . . . What is definitely in order is a reminder that this year also marks the 20th anniversary of the exposure of a nation-wide spying operation run by the ADL that went back at least five decades.
    In January, 1993, San Francisco newspapers reported that the city’s police department had raided the ADL’s Northern California office and discovered it was keeping files on more than 600 largely liberal civic organizations and over 10,000 individuals whose interests and activities included but also went far beyond those of the Arab-American community.

    After examining the sequestered files, San Francisco police inspector Ron Roth, estimated that 75% of the information had been illegally obtained and by November, District Attorney Arlo Smith appeared to be on the verge of indicting the ADL for numerous violations of state and city codes. . .
    . . . In California, the ADL’s secret spying and file keeping was mainly the provenance of Roy Bullock, a beefy San Francisco weight-lifter, who went by the code name, “Cal,” and reported to the ADL’s chief spymaster in New York, the now deceased Irwin Suall.
    To keep the relationship out of public as well as government eyes, Bullock was paid through a cut-out in Beverly Hills, Bruce Hochman, a lawyer and member of the ADL’s board, also now deceased.
    As late as July 19, 1992, Suall had described Bullock as “our Number One fact finder” whose assignments included, in addition to his duties in California, attending and monitoring conferences and conventions of Arab-Americans across the country. . .
    . . . At the time, Bullock was receiving close to $25,000 a year for monitoring what he and the ADL considered “antidemocratic” organizations and individuals and he had been doing it for 40 years. . .

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/06/12/adl-spies/

    • hophmi
      June 14, 2013, 12:47 pm

      Well, again. There is protest, and there is disruption. When a speech is disrupted to the point that it cannot be given, it is effectively an act of societal censorship, and in most states, the manner of the protest can amount to disorderly conduct. Most activists with self-respect are happy to bear the consequences of such conduct.

  6. TwoRedDogs
    June 13, 2013, 11:06 pm

    The POTUS can be interrupted, but not a pro-Israel speaker.

  7. Citizen
    June 14, 2013, 2:37 am

    Follow the big donor money trail.

  8. Ecru
    June 14, 2013, 4:23 am

    And the now typical charge of anti-semitism from the hasbarites on the comments board.

  9. seafoid
    June 14, 2013, 4:57 am

    The bots require intellectual obedience. The bots have money. The universities need money but they educate people to think .

    It’s fascinating.

  10. Hostage
    June 14, 2013, 6:09 am

    Northeastern University criticized for sanctioning Students for Justice in Palestine

    Activities which intimidate and harass Palestinian students are prohibited under Title VI.

    Why don’t we see any criticism from the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights? This is a clear example of a university violating the Title VI guidelines that Zionists preach so much about. Administrators have no business hosting members of the IDF who are engaged in a public propaganda campaign to drum-up support for their wars from a federally-subsidized pulpit.

    They sure as hell have no business spouting off sanctimonious bullshit about “civility”, when the IDF is waging a war of aggression against the family members of the student body using blockades, home demolitions, illegal deportations, torture, arbitrary imprisonment, and murder.

    • hophmi
      June 14, 2013, 12:24 pm

      “Administrators have no business hosting members of the IDF who are engaged in a public propaganda campaign to drum-up support for their wars from a federally-subsidized pulpit.”

      Your position advocating censorship of pro-Israel speakers on campus is well-known here. The soldiers were hosted by a student group on campus, just as Norman Finkelstein was in 2011.

      As I said before, FILE YOUR COMPLAINT. In order for OCR to consider taking action, a complaint must filed. You can fill out a form, can’t you?

      “They sure as hell have no business spouting off sanctimonious bullshit about ‘civility'”

      Actually, they can say whatever they want, since this is a free country. I know you’re not a big First Amendment fan, but that’s the way it works.

      • Hostage
        June 15, 2013, 2:21 am

        Your position advocating censorship of pro-Israel speakers on campus is well-known here. The soldiers were hosted by a student group on campus, just as Norman Finkelstein was in 2011.

        You are fond of misrepresenting my position. Members of the IDF are not students or covered by any diplomatic exemptions. They are agents of a foreign state. I’m opposed to our state governments or their instrumentalities hosting foreigners who are only present on campus to conduct public propaganda campaigns, period.

        The last time we discussed this, I pointed out that the omnibus federal budget act prohibits using appropriated funds for publicity or public propaganda campaigns and noted that a Legal Advisor at Ken Marcus’ Brandies Center and one of the Brooklyn Trustees had threatened to file a Title VI lawsuit on that and other grounds:

        “We’re not talking about academic freedom,” said Wiesenfeld. “What this is is propaganda and propaganda is verboten in universities.”

        http://mondoweiss.net/2013/02/threaten-brooklyn-activists.html

      • talknic
        June 15, 2013, 2:50 am

        @ hophmi “Actually, they can say whatever they want, since this is a free country.”

        They’re US citizens? The First amendment is ” afforded to citizens ”

        [[the current rule is that “the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action. http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/advocacy_of_illegal_action%5D%5D

        “…that’s the way it works

        See above

Leave a Reply