Israel advocates at Northeastern University are showing full-throated support for the school’s suspension of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) over mock eviction notices. A letter published by Huskies for Israel, a campus pro-Israel group, applauded “the university for taking a stand in holding students accountable for their actions, and creating an environment that sustains open dialogue.”
As Max Blumenthal reported here last week, Northeastern’s administration made the move to suspend SJP for a year because the group’s members distributed clearly marked fake notices meant to simulate what Palestinians face when Israel prepares to demolish homes. Northeastern says the students violated university policies by leafleting without permission. Members of SJP say that many students flyer without permission–but don’t receive the same penalty.
The suspension of SJP marks the high point in a long-running campaign by Israel lobby groups in Boston targeting SJP and Northeastern professors who speak up for Palestinian rights. One major donor to Northeastern is Robert Shillman, who is also a big backer of the Zionist Organization of America–a group that has called for punishing Palestine solidarity activists and claimed that Jewish students at Northeastern feel threatened. As Blumenthal reports, anti-Muslim activist Charles Jacobs, along with the pro-Israel Scholars For Peace in the Middle East (SPME), have spearheaded the anti-SJP campaign. In a statement released yesterday, Jacobs and SPME President Richard Cravatts lauded the administration’s decision.
“In a series of three videos, the [Jacobs-founded group Americans For Peace and Tolerance] documented its investigation into Islamic extremism, anti-Semitism, and anti-Zionism at Northeastern University,” the statement reads. “For the first time since these videos were released, NEU has taken some serious steps to deal with this insidious behavior.”
Now, those groups’ student allies are likewise supporting the administration’s moves.
Three current and former leaders of Huskies For Israel posted a letter addressed to the “Northeastern Community” on their Facebook page last week. “SJP’s recent methods of engagement…are based on intimidation tactics, publicity stunts and walk-outs which do not leave space for open discussion or reasoned debate,” wrote Max Klapholz, Samara Per and Noah Goldstein. Klapholz and Per are identified as the current co-presidents of the group, while Goldstein is a past president of the group. Facebook messages requesting comment sent to the Huskies For Israel page and Klapholz were not returned.
Klapholz is a 2013 Hasbara Fellow, a project of Aish HaTorah, a group that spreads revanchist Israeli propaganda and supports radical Israeli settlements. Co-founded with the Israeli government in 2001, Hasbara Fellowships take Jewish American students to Israel and fund and train pro-Israel activists on campus. As Tom Pessah, an Israeli activist for Palestinian rights, wrote here, the “organization tells its members that the occupation is nothing more than a ‘myth,’ and disseminates hardcore Islamophobic materials, like the films Obsession and Third Jihad (which were produced in millions of copies by an offshoot of Aish International).
Goldstein has received training from another group, The David Project, which was started by Charles Jacobs and is one of the main Israel lobby groups that focuses on campus activism. As Ali Abunimah documents in his new book The Battle For Justice in Palestine, The David Project’s strategy has called for combatting “anti-Israelism”–a “specific form of bigotry”–by building coalitions with leading student groups on campus and targeting professors by claiming their pro-Palestinians views constitute “academic malpractice.”
Northeastern’s Hillel has also shown support for the suspension of Students for Justice in Palestine.
Meanwhile, a coalition of activists are mobilizing in support of the chapter. Two members of Northeastern University’s Students for Justice in Palestine–both women of color– are facing disciplinary charges today because of the distribution of mock eviction notices. Hundreds of people are set to rally at Northeastern this morning to voice support for free speech on campus.