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Student & community groups condemn racist harassment campaign against Palestinian rights advocates at Emory University

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Throughout the week of 4/1/2019, Emory Students for Justice in Palestine joined students on campuses throughout the world to commemorate the ongoing abuses of human rights in Palestine, including the large-scale massacres of protesters at the Gaza border, with educational events, flyers, and protests. ESJP is proud to have organized well-attended events during Israel Apartheid Week dealing with the history of Palestine and confronting racial injustice in our community.

We, the undersigned, are saddened, but not surprised, that right-wing extremist groups are smearing student activists over their engagement of this difficult issue. Mimicking bogus accusations at at least five other universities, opponents of Students for Justice in Palestine falsely claim that the student activists targeted Jewish students, even as Jewish student organizations confirmed that this was false, as it was at other campuses. However, these bogus smears are being echoed by irresponsible local news outlets and right-wing blogs.

The students bravely raised attention to the ongoing and illegal Israeli policy of demolishing Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank to build settlements by posting “eviction” notices — clearly marked as fake — on a number of dorm room doors at Emory. Responses have been overwhelmingly positive, as students empathized with Palestinians who face the anxiety and deep uncertainty that comes with receiving real eviction notices. ESJP indiscriminately placed this demonstration tool on the doors of those living at accessible Emory residential locations, such as the Emory Clairmont Campus, Woodruff Residential Center, and Emory Point.

But, as part of a concerted campaign taking place on campuses throughout the country, alt-right blogs, anti-Muslim hate sites, and pro-Israel lobbying groups have sought to crush discussion of these vital issues. They have:

The University, rather than also lending support to its student activists over the harassment they are facing, instead provided extra psychological support to students who were “offended” by activism, lending credibility to frivolous attacks. The lack of similar support towards the student organizers of ESJP is particularly appalling, given the recorded amount of threats, cyber-bullying, and mocking that these concerned student activists have endured over the past week.

The disturbing harassment is particularly severe for students of color, who make up most of Emory’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. Several of these students, who did not want to be named out of fear, addressed the harassment in private:

  • “I am concerned about my safety,” said one student activist of color.
  • “It reminds me of the kind of repressive, COINTELPRO tactics used against Black community organizers like Angela Davis,” remarked a black student in SJP.
  • Another student stated, “In my experience here on this campus, I have come to realize that any form of resistance to the occupation — no matter how civil — is always somehow unwarranted, ‘annoying’, or demonized.”
  • “The University was pretty silent when it came to offering support to Muslim students after the New Zealand Massacre. I find it odd that flyers with facts prompted them to release a statement, but a massacre didn’t,” added a Muslim student.

Other members of SJP were confused that groups like Hillel and the Zionist Organization of America were more upset about SJP raising awareness around these human rights abuses than the abuses themselves.

Smearing racial justice advocates as “anti-Semites” is an increasingly visible trend. From freshmen members of Congress who challenge US foreign policy to the heads of the Women’s March and the Movement For Black Lives, progressive and left-wing community groups are increasingly being told that progressive values and activism are an affront to the Jewish community. We reject the notion that challenges to US foreign policy and advocacy for justice in the Middle East are a form of discrimination against our friends in the Jewish community. Students for Justice in Palestine is centered on freedom, justice, and equality for the Palestinian people, who have been living without basic rights under Israeli military occupation and colonialism since 1948.

We call on Emory University to cease validating the bigoted smear campaign and to discipline students and other Emory community members that are complicit in the ongoing harassment. We further call on all community members to avoid endorsing or co-sponsoring events and activities with Emory Hillel, the Zionist Organization of America, EIPAC, Emory Eagles for Israel, Emory Chabad or others complicit in this activity until they rescind and curtail their ongoing harassment campaign.

You, your student or community organization can sign this statement here:


Emory Students for Justice in Palestine

Open Letter

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5 Responses

  1. JWalters on April 5, 2019, 9:57 pm

    My deep thanks to all those involved with Emory Students for Justice in Palestine for their dedicated work to end bigotry on this planet, no matter how profitable that bigotry may be, whether in sweetheart land deals with stolen land, or weapons sales into manufactured wars.

    In stark contrast, the cowardly president of Emory University should be deeply ashamed of the administration’s efforts to sabotage freedom of inquiry and analysis, since these are at the very core of a university’s mission. The benefits of a new building will be eclipsed by the cultural rot from sacrificing morality for money.

    • RoHa on April 5, 2019, 10:54 pm

      “sacrificing morality for money.”

      If you are going to sacrifice your morality, you might as well make a bit of cash from it.

      • JWalters on April 6, 2019, 8:21 pm

        The usual reason.

  2. Misterioso on April 6, 2019, 11:44 am

    Worth noting:

    “Progressive Jews at Princeton Call to Boycott ‘Israel Shabbat'” by Aiden Pink, The Forward, April 5/19

    “Rafi Lehmann attends Shabbat services every single week at Princeton University’s Center for Jewish Life, the elite university’s affiliate of the Jewish student organization Hillel. But this Friday, he won’t be eating challah in the dining hall – he’ll be protesting outside it.

    “That’s because Lehmann and the club he helps lead, the Alliance of Jewish Progressives, are calling for a boycott of the CJL’s dinner. Why? They say the upcoming ‘Israel Shabbat’ themed dinner, organized by the club Tigers for Israel, is not inclusive of Jewish students like them who oppose Israeli policies.

    “His group’s petition encouraging Jewish and non-Jewish students to boycott the Shabbat dinner because it ‘fails to reckon with the nuances of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict [and] is deeply hurtful and exclusionary’ has been signed by more than 100 students in the 24 hours since it was first published. Around 5,400 undergraduate students attend Princeton, including 500 Jews, according to the Forward College Guide.

    “Shabbat at CJL ‘is a beautiful coming together every Friday, it’s a sacred space,’ Lehmann, a junior, told the Forward. ‘And we see Tigers for Israel coopting that space, and CJL allowing it, as a violation of the sacredness of that space.’

    “But that’s not how the CJL sees it. ‘We appreciate and respect that members of our community have a wide range of opinions regarding the Israeli government’s policies or actions in regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,’ executive director Rabbi Julie Roth emailed the Forward. ‘The CJL is not taking a communal stance on these policies in its decision to host Israel Shabbat, and we encourage everyone to attend Israel Shabbat and to engage in respectful dialogue with their peers about Israel.’

    “(Tigers for Israel president Noa Zarur asked for questions to be referred to the CJL.)”

    “Lehmann says the Alliance of Jewish Progressives have about 15 active members – they have a weekly text study program, and partner with left-wing Jewish organizations like Bend the Arc and IfNotNow. Like IfNotNow, the alliance doesn’t have an official stance on the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, or whether there should be a one- or two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    “Roth said they often get 200-300 people for Shabbat dinner, many of them themed events, including Pride Shabbat, Greek Shabbat and Soul Food Shabbat. And she stressed that they host Israel-related programs from a variety of political perspectives, including partnering with left-leaning clubs like J Street U and even the Alliance of Jewish Progressives themselves.

    “The issue with ‘Israel Shabbat,’ Lehmann said, is that making the entire dinner a celebration of Israel, organized by a proudly pro-Israel group, alienates Jews with opposing views and makes them reticent to enter the campus’s hub of Jewish life.

    “Representatives did have conversations about possible compromises. The CJL’s proposals, including adding discussion groups to the dinner or allowing the progressive club to hold a separate event in the building at the same time, were turned down. ‘I realize that a lot of Hillels around the country wouldn’t be so accommodating’ in offering that space, Lehman said. ‘But the issue is that ultimately, we don’t see ourselves as an ‘alternative’ voice.’

    “The alliance’s counter-offer was having Israel Shabbat in the second-biggest event area and a ‘neutral’ dinner in the main dining room. ‘We said, if you don’t accept this option, we’re going to have to protest the event,’ Lehmann recounted. It wasn’t accepted, and so protest they will.

    “The AJP is still figuring out what their counter-program, called Not Our Shabbat, will actually look like. Lehmann said he’ll likely protest outside the Hillel building and try to educate entering attendees about the parts of Israeli policies they’re not likely to discuss at the dinner. But he made clear that he would not be protesting during the religious services before the meal – in fact, he might still attend them himself.

    “Several Israel-related disagreements have cropped up at Princeton in the past few years.

    “A prestigious ‘eating club’ next-door to Hillel became embroiled in months-long debate over a proposal to hang a banner reading ‘Human Rights for Palestine.’

    “And a scheduled November 2017 appearance at CJL by Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely was cancelled after progressive Jewish students complained that Hotovely’s history of anti-Arab invective violated Hillel’s standards for Israel-related events – which, ironically, were largely crafted to keep out BDS supporters, not Israeli politicians.

    “Lehmann said he wasn’t opposed to CJL, just this particular event. ‘We’re totally in support of a great Israel Shabbat, a great Israeli-Palestinian Shabbat,’ he said. ‘We’re starting to make plans for next year that will address many of these questions.'”

    Aiden Pink is the deputy news editor for the Forward

  3. Atlantaiconoclast on April 9, 2019, 5:01 pm I read this article in a local Jewish journal. Check out one of the comments:

    From Marcia Karon – “Why does Emory accept terrorists as students? Are they really students? What are they studying? There is no such thing as a Palestinian people and the Arabs living in Israel have more rights than Arabs anywhere else in the Middle East. Why don’t they protest about freeing Gaza from Hamas?”

    If anyone wants to respond to her nasty comment, please visit the link above.

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