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March 29, 2016 6:53 pm

Quiet Campus Watchdog Group Releases Report on ‘Antisemitic, Anti-Israel Activity’ at U of South Florida

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SJP students blocking Birthright table at U South Florida. Photo: Twitter

SJP students blocking Birthright table at U South Florida. Photo: Twitter

A group that quietly documents antisemitic and anti-Israel activity on campuses released a new report on Monday, The Algemeiner has learned.

Canary Mission released its findings on the University of South Florida (USF).

“Every word in the report is accurate,” Sylvie Feinsmith, the program director at USF Hillel, told The Algemeiner. “And in fact it’s only the tip of the iceberg of what’s gone on here.”

Canary Mission’s attention was drawn to USF, according to the report, because “divestment resolutions … are a warning sign for us that the safety of Jewish and pro-Israel students and faculty is under threat,” and they had learned in January that a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolution was being presented to USF’s student government by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).

Although that January resolution was vetoed by the student body’s president and vice president because, according to USF’s student newspaper, they believed such resolutions serve “only to divide the student body and to disparage students with opposing viewpoints,” SJP subsequently repackaged the resolution and succeeded in having it passed in February without the signatures of the executive branch leaders.

According to Canary Mission, that successful BDS resolution was the culmination of several years of forceful anti-Israel and antisemitic activity by USF’s chapter of SJP. The report cites a number of examples, including SJP’s 2013 sponsoring of an Israel-Palestine game show in which participants had to answer questions about “types of poisons Israeli settlers put in Palestinian water supplies,” and about roads that “only Jews can use.”

Other examples include a 2014 Facebook graphic comparing Jews to Nazis; a 2014 speech featuring a Hamas fundraiser described as a “motivational speaker;” and the disruption of two pro-Israel campus talks last month, with shouts of “murderers” and “child-killers.” At one of the events, police were required to escort the speakers out of the building.

Feinsmith added, “Last fall, SJP members surrounded and blocked access to a table I was staffing advertising Hillel’s Birthright trips to Israel. Students are free to protest, but blocking access is against the rules. It took several minutes before I could get them to move away, but then they came over as individuals and began hounding me with aggressive questions.”

Feinsmith also said that the logo of USF’s SJP chapter is an image of the entire state of Israel wrapped in a Palestinian flag. “They are not interested in promoting dialogue, coexistence and tolerance, like other student cultural groups,” she told The Algemeiner. “The whole goal of their campus activity is to help destroy the state of Israel.”

Canary Mission’s report also included in-depth profiles of 23 USF students, alumni and faculty involved in these and similar activities. These include individuals who boast of having hurled rocks at Israeli soldiers, promote campaigns in support of a convicted terrorist, refer to members of Hamas as “freedom fighters” and claim that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has “killed more children than Hitler.”

USF administrators responded to The Algemeiner‘s request for comment with this statement:

Students with concerns related to harassment or discrimination should contact our Office of Diversity, Inclusion & Equal Opportunity DIEO and students with concerns related to violations of the Student Code of Conduct should contact our Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. Specific concerns brought to either of these two offices will be thoroughly reviewed and addressed accordingly.  These processes also take into consideration whether the alleged activity is free speech protected by the First Amendment.

Canary Mission was founded in 2015 “to document the people and groups that are promoting hatred of the USA, Israel and Jews on college campuses in North America.” It maintains a high degree of secrecy about its members and operations. In the past month, it has released similar reports about Vassar College and Columbia University.

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