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:
- intimidated students with frivolous legal actions;
- engaged in aggressive cyber-bullying;
- sent death threats and threats of violence;
- destroyed and removed advocacy materials/flyers;
- disrupted events;
- stalked individual students, including documenting them at their places of work;
- mocked, laughed, and sang about the deaths of civilians during a commemoration;
- and even called police officers on black students who were involved in leafleting for events.
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: http://tinyurl.com/supportESJP
Emory Students for Justice in Palestine