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December 9, 2014 5:43 pm


avatar by Jerold Auerbach

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Students for Justice in Palestine.

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) is an oxymoronic synonym for SSI: “Students for Slandering Israel.” A tacit collaborator with BDS, the international movement that reviles Israel and calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against the Jewish state, SJP was established at Berkeley (where else?) in 2001. Within a year its activities led to a university ban prohibiting on-campus protests.

A decade later at Brandeis, SJP protesters interrupted a speech by Knesset member Avi Dichter to accuse him – and implicitly Israel – of torture and crimes against humanity. Earlier this year, the Northeastern University chapter of SJP was suspended for a year after its members were charged with “intimidation” of students.

In preparation for its October annual conference SJP presented an agenda for its role “in the struggle for the liberation of Palestine.” Highlighting its focus on “the ongoing colonization and occupation of indigenous lands and peoples,” it promised to explore “how settler colonialism is racialized and gendered and disproportionately affects women and children. We will also look into the increased violence against Palestinian women and women refugees and migrants in Israel.”

SJP assertively promised to provide “the necessary knowledge and tools to counter efforts by Zionist organizations to normalize and whitewash the Israeli occupation as a means of undermining student groups organizing on campus around Palestinian rights.” More generously, it pledged to “focus on continuing to combat all forms of Judeophobia/anti-Semitism and conflation of Zionism with Judaism.”

The latest SJP chapter to make news, as far away as Israel where Ha’aretz broke the story, is located at Wellesley College, which has a history of anti-Semitism as old as the institution. Wellesley SJP identifies itself as “a group of students dedicated to raising awareness about the dire situation in Palestine.” Its favorite recent tactic has been posting signs on campus asking “What Does Zionism Mean To You?” Among the written responses: “genocide,” “apartheid,” and “murder.”

The faculty leader of Wellesley SJP is Sima Shakhsari, an assistant professor of women’s and gender studies who has endorsed a boycott by anthropologists of Israeli academic institutions. Her clarity of thought may be gleaned from her statement on the College website describing her current research: “[My] book provides an analysis of Weblogistan as a site of cybergovernmentality where simultaneously national and neo-liberal gendered subjectivities are produced through online and offline heteronormative disciplining and normalizing techniques.”

Professor Shakhsari’s research, she informs readers, “is connected to the larger discursive context of the freedom movements in the Middle East and democratization projects in Iran, [and] examines the way that Iranian transgender refugees are nationalized/denationalized, sexed, gendered, and raced in multiple re-reterritorializations as they transition across national boundaries, online and offline ‘frontiers,’ sexual norms, religious discourses, and geopolitical terrains during the “war on terror.”

Her Wellesley student acolytes have (preposterously) accused their classmates of “trying to shut down discussion of Israel/Palestine.” Wellesley SJP claimed that its campus posters merely “created an open discussion” for a “respectful” glimpse of “the diversity of our community.” It even quoted a Jewish SJP member who praised the organization for creating “a comfortable space for me, as a Jewish student who stands for Palestinian human rights.” With a final rhetorical burst of self-righteousness, it asserted: “Comments that portray Wellesley SJP . . . and its anti-Israel criticisms as ‘menacing threats to safety and security’ are anti-Arab and reinforce a racialized image of the Other.”

Wellesley SJP members are evidently diligent students who have learned circumlocution from their mentor Professor Shakhsari. Indeed, their rhetorical tropes sound like they were borrowed from someone with an ingrained fondness for such academic gobbledygook as “heteronormative disciplining,” “cybergovernmentality” and ‘reterritorializations.” But it gets worse. Professor Shakhsari’s classroom lacerations of Israel, combined with her grade retaliation for students who do not parrot her bias, have already become known to College authorities. Whether they will respond appropriately at reappointment and promotion time remains to be seen.

Wellesley SJP is shocked (shocked!) to be blamed for poisoning the campus atmosphere with anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. But they know how to play “gotcha,” claiming “It is the small minority of Palestinian and Arab students on our campus who often feel most marginalized as the result of the policing of discourse.”

As a wise, perhaps even heteronormative, sage once said: “If the shoe fits, wear it.”

Jerold S. Auerbach is Professor Emeritus of History at Wellesley College, where he taught between 1970-2010.

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  • tom tuey

    Palestine=isil…..who are no more in their humanity
    than thugs, rapists, depraved and sadistic who give
    an outlet to the mentally deranged…there is NO
    rhymn or reason for their existence….the Quran is
    A LIE! Written by a drunkard hiding in a cave….
    Pitiful…that it is held out as a type of example by
    which to live….and maiming, raping, brutalizing
    children, deheadings….these are tenets of the
    Qaran…..NO…..those who practice these behaviors
    are team members of the evil one and are severely
    deluded……those who live by the sword will die
    by the sword……those who shed mans blood by
    man will his blood be shed…..pitiful

  • Richard Katz

    sheeshh!!(And they call his a liberal education)

  • Robert Davis

    Of course sjp is total scum and vileny to its deepest form but it teaches us one important thing : THERE IS NO ROOM IN WESTERN PALESTINE FOR 2 NATIONS. When will Jews and Israel understand this? Do you want to go fromone war to another and if so for HOW LONG? would it not be muchmuch easier to expel arabs? In 3 days the matter would be OVER and those antisemites will have NO HOPE toreplace jews with arabs in Palestine adn stop looking for new ways to support those terrorists. Likewise the media will have no more any hope either and will stop their propaganda and let our counter propaganda be heard. THIS IS THE ONLY SOLUTION TO THIS PROBLEM all other proposals are meant to keep Israel under fire for ever.

  • Lauren Goldman

    SJP has always been a mouthpiece for ‘palestinians’. Much as the Jewish Voice for Peace.

  • steven L

    The fanatics always claim that they are being marginalized and demonized. They claim victimhood. This is the way CAIR has done it for many years. So the kids copy. No imagination!!!
    What about adding J street to the collection?

  • judithg

    unless they are smacked in the faces so hard their mouths bleed and their teeth shake, they won’t stop. think it over.

    • emwc

      This article is plain wrong on almost every point you make, and you are too blind to see it. It is so wrong and convoluted, that it is not worth sorting through to correct. It is as though you took every piece of gossip that you could find to support your demonizing and unproductive article, and twisted it further. The people you seek to target do not incite, but speak from academic literature. You were a history professor– you should know this. But, it is hard to believe that someone who is supposedly smart enough to get a phd and teach at Wellesley could spin an article like this.

      It is people like you who incite fanatics… just look at the lovely responses this post has elicited so far.

      • Daniel Bilar

        I taught at Wellesley for two years, and I can confirm that this is the tip of the ice berg of anti-semitic attacks and agitation. When I witnessed what was there, I reviewed 6000+ pages of documents, some going back to the 1930s, most of them from the past 15 years. If people knew what goes on at Wellesley’s prim and proper facade, tolerated and partly abetted by the leadership and professors, they would be more than incensed. A large part of the problem is the sha-shtill Jewish professors, and the lack of moral leadership at the top.

        The student who wrote the comment above is par for the course – the professorial academic cowards at WC do not argue directly, they send their incited, underprepared college students into discursive battle who of course know far too little to actually argue, and whose only recourse is that some academic venue saw something fit to print – ergo must be true (this argument was also made with the ‘research’ that Tony Martin peddled when I was there).

        To the student: I am sorry your professor, and Wellesley College failed you.