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Barnard removes SJP banner calling on students to ‘Stand for Justice, Stand for Palestine’

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On March 10th, Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine hung a banner on Barnard Hall. The banner was placed after members of C­SJP went through the required bureaucratic channels and processes in order to give voice and presence to our week­long events as part of Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), a global period of action and awareness­raising that has been occurring throughout the world for the past ten years. This morning we awoke to find that our banner – which simply read “Stand for Justice, Stand for Palestine,” and featured the logo of our group (the silhouette of historic Palestine) – has been taken down by the administration of Barnard College after they caved to pressure from other groups. Barnard administration offered no explanation, and no warning that they planned to remove our banner.

Official Statement Regarding Barnard Administration’s SJP Banner Removal

C-SJP IAW banner: Stand for Justice Stand for Palestine removed from Barnard Hall, Barnard College, Columbia University NY, March 10, 2014 (Photo: Columbia-SJP)

Columbia SJP is a student group at this university—no different from any other group—and has equal access to the same platforms and resources that are made available to all students. Barnard College students went through the necessary banner placement review process, which included clearly stating the banner’s message in advance. Had our request been rejected, it would have been an act of censorship and an infringement on our freedom of expression as a student group at this university. The fact that our banner has been taken down now is a direct violation of our freedom of expression. The removal of our banner this morning has left members of Columbia SJP, Palestinian students on campus and other students that are often marginalized and silenced, feeling that Barnard College does not follow its own anti­-discrimination policies. We are alarmed to know that ‘Palestine’ and ‘justice’ are not acceptable in Barnard’s educational space and that certain voices are discriminated against by the College.

We do not equate the State of Israel with all Jewish people, and we staunchly believe that making such a conflation is anti-­Semitic itself. Not only does the population of Israel include many non-­Jews, but increasingly Jews across the world (and in SJPs) affirm that the state of Israel’s discriminatory policies do not speak for them. Oppressive and violent policies of any regime, particularly one as closely and lucratively supported by the US as the Israeli regime of military occupation, should be criticized freely without censorship or backlash. As a group with members from multiple ethnic and religious backgrounds, what we are speaking of and calling for is justice and equality for all peoples. Students for Justice in Palestine is a diverse anti-­racist group; our national movement’s platform states that we are against all forms of discrimination, which includes anti­-Semitism. However, on this campus we are unable to even utter the word ‘Palestine’ without being called anti­-Semitic. This kind of accusation only works to silence our voices and to silence our respectful engagement with our community. It tells Palestinian students on campus that their university discriminates against the presence of the name of their country in its public space.

We have seen President Deborah Spar’s recent statement, which attempts to explain Barnard’s actions:

“We are removing the banner from Barnard Hall at this time and will be re­examining our policy for student banners going forward […] Barnard has been and will remain committed to free speech and student groups will still have the ability to flyer and promote their events throughout campus, but until we have had time as a community to discuss the banner placements on Barnard Hall and better define a policy we will not be hanging student banners on Barnard Hall.”

Lionpac has stated that they “believe that the banner space is not appropriate for any political message, by any student group,” and that “the banner was not taken down in order to suppress a particular political viewpoint.”

These explanations are not consistent with Barnard’s previous record. It is disturbing that it has not been Barnard’s policy to remove political messages in the past and that it elects to remove only this particular political message, and changes rules only in response to this banner. This behavior suggests that there is, in fact, a suppression of our voice.

Our banner aimed to publicize the events and conversations we are having this week as a student group, and we are outraged that our attempt to engage in meaningful and productive conversation about justice and solidarity with Palestine was faced with such backlash. Claiming that the existence of this banner is unacceptable is tantamount to declaring that Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine as a group should not exist, since the content in question is nothing that is not already part of our name and in our logo, as we have already stated. This does not stray so far from saying we should not be able to book Low Plaza or that we should not be able to organize events. This attack denies our voices and space as students on this campus, and we will not stand by as this happens.

It is our hope that Barnard College understands the great importance of protecting students’ freedom of expression. For years our group has contributed to the richness of this campus, provoking critical thought and conversation. We insist that Barnard Administration hear our voices and return the banner to its place. We also ask for a meeting with the administration in order to discuss the repercussions of this act of silencing on our community.

Email [email protected] to show your support or to endorsement this statement.

Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine
About Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine

Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine is a Columbia student group organizing around human rights and justice for Palestinians. We follow the Palestinian Civil Society call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel. To get involved, contact us at: columbiasjp @ gmail.com.

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20 Responses

  1. March 12, 2014, 11:31 am

    Israel and her supporters sure do hate the idea of free speech.

    Makes one think that deep down they may know they are wrong

    • seafoid
      seafoid
      March 12, 2014, 1:19 pm

      You’ve got the words to change a nation
      but you’re biting your tongue
      You’ve spent a life time stuck in silence
      afraid you’ll say something wrong
      If no one ever hears it how we gonna learn your song
      So come on, come on
      Come on, come on
      You’ve got a heart as loud as lions
      So why let your voice be tamed
      Maybe we’re a little different
      there’s no need to be ashamed
      You’ve got the light to fight the shadows
      so stop hiding it away
      Come on, Come on, Come on

  2. Scott
    Scott
    March 12, 2014, 11:35 am

    Tragic and bizarre. Barnard’s most famous dean is Virginia Gildersleeve, a women’s rights pioneer. After she retired from Barnard, she was active in American Friends of the Middle East, which advocated a right of return for the refugees ethnically cleansed by the Nakba. I hope Barnard SJP knows about Gildersleeve, a legendary figure at the college, and makes use of her reputation and insights.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia_Gildersleeve

    • seafoid
      seafoid
      March 12, 2014, 1:20 pm

      Zionism is a real tragedy.
      The iterations continue but the settings are all wrong.

      • W.Jones
        W.Jones
        March 13, 2014, 6:51 am

        Hey Seafoid.

        Did you see the trailer for the new movie showing that Hillel is cosponsoring called “The JStreet Challenge”?

  3. Hemlockroid
    Hemlockroid
    March 12, 2014, 12:18 pm

    Conscripting the religious Jew while rockets fall.

  4. LeaNder
    LeaNder
    March 12, 2014, 12:20 pm

    Well, that banner is semi-selfdefeating, if you ask me. Although, I know you don’t. ;)

    • Hostage
      Hostage
      March 12, 2014, 7:52 pm

      Well, that banner is semi-selfdefeating, if you ask me. Although, I know you don’t. ;)

      It does raise a relevant legal question as to whether or not other groups have been allowed to hang banners on that same facility?, i.e.:

      Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, by force or threat of force willfully injures, intimidates or interferes with, or attempts to injure, intimidate or interfere with— . . . any person because of his race, color, religion or national origin and because he is or has been— . . . participating in or enjoying any benefit, service, privilege, program, facility or activity provided or administered by any State or subdivision thereof;
      18 U.S.C. § 245(b)(2)(B)
      (5) any citizen because he is or has been, or in order to intimidate such citizen or any other citizen from lawfully aiding or encouraging other persons to participate, without discrimination on account of race, color, religion or national origin, in any of the benefits or activities described in subparagraphs (1)(A) through (1)(E) or subparagraphs (2)(A) through (2)(F), or participating lawfully in speech or peaceful assembly opposing any denial of the opportunity to so participate— shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; . . .

      — 18 U.S. Code § 245 – Federally protected activities http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/245

      Here’s another

      Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable.

      — 42 U.S. Code § 1983 – Civil action for deprivation of rights link to law.cornell.edu

  5. amigo
    amigo
    March 12, 2014, 12:41 pm

    These actions will only serve to strengthen resolve against Israel,s murderous actions.

    They and their proxies can remove all the signs they want but they will go back up in greater numbers elsewhere.Freedom of speech is not so easily prevented.

  6. American
    American
    March 12, 2014, 1:03 pm

    Do they allow other human right or political type banners?….would seem to be the question.
    However there is no question about the rousting of Arab students by the police and the “re education’ training requirement for them.
    Fascist.
    This was done at that college in Florida also if I remember correctly.

  7. pabelmont
    pabelmont
    March 12, 2014, 2:16 pm

    “We do not equate the State of Israel with all Jewish people, and we staunchly believe that making such a conflation is anti-­Semitic itself.”

    Well, that apart, what if Israel DID have the support of all Jewish people, what then? (Peter and the Wolf: What if a wolf DID come out of the forest, what then?) Israel’s crimes and bad behavior would still be worth complaining about. A complaint about a crime is not anti-semitic just because the accused is a Jew. (Or because the accused claims to represent all Jews.)

    Back to Barnard. What would Millie McIntosh have done and said?

  8. German Lefty
    German Lefty
    March 12, 2014, 4:04 pm

    A banner in support of Palestinian rights is a nice idea. However, the slogan “Stand for Justice, Stand for Palestine” is not an informative message. Also, it sounds like a command. People don’t like being told what to do or what to think. That’s spoon-feeding. In my opinion, it would be better to have a banner that lists a few facts about the crimes that Israel committed or still commits against Palestinians, e.g. Nakba, settlement expansion, death toll (http://www.ifamericansknew.org/ http://visualizingpalestine.org/). When you provide people with such facts, they will themselves come to the conclusion that it’s necessary to support Palestinian rights.
    Furthermore, I find the demand to “Stand for Palestine” somewhat misleading. The focus should be on Palestinian RIGHTS, not on Palestinian STATEHOOD. The name of the state is irrelevant. What matters is that all people in that state have equal rights. I think that “Stand for Palestinian rights” would be more to the point. Additionally, you could list the rights that Palestinians demand, e.g. right of return for Palestinian refugees, equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel.

    • peeesss
      peeesss
      March 13, 2014, 1:51 am

      German Lefty, You take things much to literally. I don’t see the banner speaking , necessarily, for Palestinian Statehood but for Justice for Palestinians. That would include , of course, right of return, equal rights for Palestinian, Christians and Muslims in Israel{Israeli citizens}, freedom for the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. There is only so much one can put on a banner. I believe the people who sponsored this banner are fully committed to justice for Palestinians in every way.

      • German Lefty
        German Lefty
        March 13, 2014, 4:15 pm

        You take things much too literally.
        LOL. You sound like my mother. She always complains about this, too.

        I believe the people who sponsored this banner are fully committed to justice for Palestinians in every way.
        Of course, they are. I have never claimed otherwise. It’s just that I think that the slogan is badly chosen. When I was still indifferent to the conflict, this slogan would not have aroused my interest, for the stated reasons. If SJP wants to turn Zionists into anti-Zionists, then “Hamas green” is not the best choice of colour. To Zionists, Hamas is an anti-Semitic terrorist group. So, the banner is rather deterring.

      • peeesss
        peeesss
        March 14, 2014, 1:53 pm

        German Lefty: The color “Green” is a major component of the National flag of Palestine. I don’t understand why you call it :Hamas green”. Maps of Palestine shown in numerous articles, books, flyers and on Mondoweiss reflect the color Green.

      • German Lefty
        German Lefty
        March 15, 2014, 3:01 pm

        The color “Green” is a major component of the National flag of Palestine.
        Yes, I know. However, the Hamas flag is green, too.
        I was just trying to put myself in the shoes of a Zionist. A Zionist might interpret the colour negatively and associate it with an “anti-Semitic terrorist group”.

  9. Rational Zionist
    Rational Zionist
    March 14, 2014, 8:55 am

    How come the picture of the ‘perceived’ Palestine includes Gaza, the Golan Heights and all off pre-67 portion of Israel? Brings up the question (again) as to the ultimate goal of the Palestinians.

    • German Lefty
      German Lefty
      March 15, 2014, 3:21 pm

      @ “Rational” Zionist
      How come the picture of the ‘perceived’ Palestine includes Gaza, the Golan Heights and all off pre-67 portion of Israel?
      It’s a map of historic Palestine, the homeland of the Palestinian people. Of course, this includes the land that was stolen by the Zionists and turned into a Jewish supremacist state. The Golan Heights are NOT in the picture. See here:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Golan_Heights_Map.PNG
      Besides, there are no RATIONAL Zionists. Every rational person supports justice for Palestinians. And Zionism is inherently unjust to Palestinians.

      • Rational Zionist
        Rational Zionist
        March 15, 2014, 4:45 pm

        Justice.
        Great concept.
        Let’s get rid of all governments and all hold hands and sign Kumbaya.
        The root for all of this was the division if land after WW one. Since Israel isn’t going away. What’s your suggestion?
        I don’t see the US giving back land to native Americans. I don’t see Australia, Canada, Mexico, Brazil or any country giving back land to any indigenous people. I don’t see Europe willingly repopulating areas with ethnic minorities which were screwed out of their homes.
        So. German Lefty. What’s your idea?
        Here’s one rational thought for you.
        Worry about Germany. Stay out of things that don’t concern you.

        When you make amends for that Germany has done wrong in history, then please come fix the rest of the world.

  10. peeesss
    peeesss
    March 14, 2014, 8:58 pm

    :”Rational” Zionist: The Golan is occupied Syrian land. I don’t see it on the map in question as you seem to. However Israeli politicians say the Golan is an integral part of Israel. Annexed , I believe. Does this disturb you. Gaza is and has always been Palestinian land. As Shira Robinson writes all Israel should be considered a ” settler” “colonial” State. .The land of Palestine consists of 2 people in one State. Equal rights for all. Is that rational to you. Maybe even just.

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