Palestinian rights activists on American college campuses have become the target of posters that attempt to smear them as supporters of violence, with a new round of posters calling out students and teachers by name.
“Do you want to show your support for HAMAS TERRORISTS whose stated goal is the elimination of the Jewish state?” one poster asks. Then, posing as the national Palestinian rights group, says “Join us! Students for Justice in Palestine.” The poster drives home its point with a cartoon of a man wearing a kaffiyeh, pointing at the viewer like Uncle Sam.
The posters are the work of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a pro-Israel group that has a history of attempting to intimidate Palestinian activists, especially those in academia. Some of the smears use terms like “Hamas BDS,” smashing together the name of the Palestinian political party and the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign, which seeks to protest Israel economically and earned the ire of anti-Palestinian groups like Horowitz’s and others.
The posters also come amid rising Islamophobia and attacks on Muslims, both physical and verbal, tied to the rise of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has made suspicion of Muslims a centerpiece of his campaign. Horowitz isn’t doing anything to help, Palestinian activists say.
“Horowitz, a driver of the anti-Muslim movement in the U.S., has taken credit for this and previous campaigns attacking students and faculty. While Horowitz is viewed as an extremist, his tactics are in line with broader efforts by mainstream pro-Israel advocacy organizations and U.S. government officials to suppress speech in support of Palestinian rights,” Palestine Legal said in a statement. “The Horowitz posters fall in line with a pattern of widespread intimidation and censorship of students and faculty in the U.S. who speak out for Palestinian rights, a pattern that Palestine Legal has documented.”
According to Palestine Legal, the schools where the posters have appeared are the following: Brooklyn College (CUNY), San Diego State University, San Francisco State University, Tufts University, University of California Berkeley, University of California Irvine, University of California Los Angeles, University of Chicago, University of Tennessee Knoxville, and Vassar College.
The identities of the individual distributors of the posters remain unknown, but the images, including the hashtag #JewHate list the names of different Palestinian rights activists.
Electronic Intifada reported that San Francisco State University had released a lukewarm response to the incident, which some feel qualifies as a hate crime.
“We do not endorse the message, and consistent with principles of free speech, we believe that the most powerful response to speech that divides or degrades people is more speech which promotes inclusion, advances human dignity, and encourages mutually respectful actions and communications,” SFSU communications officer Elizabeth Smith told the site.
SFSU president Leslie Wong decried the posters as a “bullying” tactic, but did not name Horowitz’s organization.
“Well-funded groups are trying to undermine us because they know if the discussion happens more and more people are more likely to join the world community in supporting Palestine,” SFSU professor Rabab Abdulhadi, named in the poster, told EI.