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February 24, 2016 3:00 pm

Major Jewish Organization Demands CUNY Investigate Anti-Israel Student Group’s ‘Hateful, Divisive, Antisemitic’ Activities

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian and Andrew Pessin

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November SJP demonstration at Hunter College. Photo: StandWithUs/screenshot.

November SJP demonstration at Hunter College. Photo: StandWithUs/screenshot.

Jewish students face a hostile and intimidating climate across the campuses of The City University of New York (CUNY), according to a letter that a pro-Israel advocacy group wrote to CUNY this week and shared with The Algemeiner.

The 14-page letter, penned by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), documented incidents at four of the 23 CUNY campuses, attributing them and the pervading anti-Jewish atmosphere to local chapters of the national group, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).

In the letter, the ZOA urged that SJP be “fully investigated,” and if found to be in violation of campus rules, have its permission to operate on any of CUNY’s campuses rescinded. The ZOA also made several recommendations, including that CUNY (1) publicly condemn the group and “its hateful, divisive, and antisemitic actions;” (2) publicly state that “there will be zero tolerance for antisemitism at CUNY;” and (3) “educate the CUNY community about the many forms that antisemitism takes today.”

The ZOA concluded: “By threatening Jews with violence, harassing and intimidating Jewish students, engaging in name-calling, and marginalizing and excluding Jewish students, the SJP’s conduct is antisemitic… Such bigotry would never be tolerated by CUNY if it were being directed against another ethnic, racial or other targeted group.”

Among the incidents documented in the letter were:

  • At Hunter College, in November of 2015, SJP turned a rally for free public college tuition into an event attacking “Israel, ‘Zionists,’ and Jews.”  As reported by The Algemeiner, dozens of demonstrators chanted “Long live the intifada” — the term used for the violent Palestinian uprisings against Israeli Jews — while shouting at Jewish students and calling them “racists,” “white supremacists” and “Nazis.”
  • At Brooklyn College, in October of 2015, SJP members chalked messages on public sidewalks such as “Resistance is justified when people are occupied.” The letter explained that “’Resistance’ is code for terrorism and violence against innocent Jews.” SJP also called for a “Third Intifada” on its Facebook page. The Algemeiner reported last week that  students interrupted a faculty meeting at Brooklyn College and demanded “Zionists off campus!” They also called the faculty chair of the meeting, who was wearing a yarmulke, a “Zionist pig!”
  • At the College of Staten Island, in November of 2015, SJP had a rally calling for an intifada and demonstrators accused “Zionists” of controlling CUNY and being responsible for high tuition.

In addition to its recommendations, the ZOA’s letter reminded CUNY of its federal obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to remedy “a hostile antisemitic campus environment,” and of the US Department of Education’s recent insistence that institutions of higher education be “environments in which students are free from discrimination and harassment based on their race, religion, or national origin.”

One current CUNY student, Baruch College business major Joshua Buniak, told The Algemeiner: “I strongly believe that any hateful group, affiliated with anyone-regardless of race, age, gender, religion, or orientation, doesn’t have any place at any university… It’s horrible that these events happened, and even worse is that nobody has done anything about it.”

A former CUNY Queens College student told The Algemeiner, “I’m outraged because…  I think there is a double standard to hateful and racist comments when it comes to Jews. First it takes the face of anti-Israel and anti-Zionist remarks, but that’s clearly just a mask. Because it’s antisemitism in its rawest form… It shouldn’t just be the ZOA. I think it should be the Hillels on campus that should respond [as well]. I think… basically every active Jewish group who has any relation to CUNY or to any Jewish life at CUNY should respond.”

By Wednesday afternoon, an online petition demanding that CUNY shut down its SJP chapters had obtained over 5,300 signatures.

The Algemeiner’s request for comment from CUNY’s chancellor was not answered as of press time.

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