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December 15, 2016 2:07 pm

Claremont Colleges Students Paint Mural Promoting Love, Peace in Response to Art Display Implying Erasure of Israel

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The Claremont Progressive Israel Alliance mural. Photo: CPIA/Facebook.

The Claremont Progressive Israel Alliance mural. Photo: CPIA/Facebook.

Students at California’s Claremont Colleges responded to a campus mural calling for Israel to be replaced by a Palestinian state with a public art display of their own endorsing a “peace and love” approach to the Middle East conflict. 

The Claremont Progressive Israel Alliance (CPIA) were prompted to take matters into their own hands on Sunday after the school’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter produced the anti-Israel painting. 

SJP’s artwork featured a Palestinian flag superimposed onto a map of Israel, imagery commonly used to suggest the dissolution of the Jewish state. Alongside the map was a depiction of a clenched fist and the phrase “Right 2 Resist.” The caption, CPIA said in a joint statement with the Claremont Colleges Hillel Student Board, “implies support for the violence that has claimed the lives of thousands of innocent Israeli civilians.”

CPIA and the Hillel student board said the anti-Zionist imagery caused “discomfort and fear” among Jewish and non-Jewish students, and that “in targeting Jews and denying Israel’s right to exist, SJP reflects ideas steeped in age old antisemitism.”

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“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains a complex, nuanced international affair, and we will not be forced into painting sweeping generalizations of any one side. With love for the Jewish homeland, we remain committed to a peaceful two-state solution, and respect for all peoples in the Middle East,” the groups wrote.

Responding to Claremont Hillel and CPIA, the college’s SJP claimed that it stands for “justice and liberation for all oppressed peoples in Palestine and worldwide,” and justified resistance against “Zionist colonization and ongoing ethnic cleansing…mass incarceration, systemic torture, apartheid laws, home demolitions, and violent displacement.”

“Narratives that portray the conflict as ‘balanced,’ or suggest that ‘peace’ can exist within the context of ongoing war crimes, colonial occupation, and literal genocide, fail to acknowledge existing oppressive power structures,” Claremont SJP wrote. “Only through standing in solidarity with the fight for Palestinian liberation can we be part of the struggle for genuine justice and peace.”

Rushing to Claremont SJP’s defense was the school’s chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), which said, “as Jewish students…that support Palestinian liberation,” we “fully support and stand behind Claremont SJP and the powerful mural they painted…in honor of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.”  

JVP also attacked CPIA’s mural as “designed under the terms of the occupier” and “hardly just,” and condemned CPIA and Hillel’s joint statement as “deeply insulting” because “criticizing Israel is not antisemitism.”

SJP chapters have been the source of numerous controversies across US campuses in recent years. As was reported by The Algemeiner, a recent Brandeis study found that “one of the strongest predictors of perceiving a hostile climate towards Israel and Jews is the presence of an active SJP group on campus.”

The organization’s ties with JVP, an antisemitism expert told The Algemeiner in November, are used to “block false charges of antisemitism.” The “smaller group” of Jewish students is used and manipulated to “give the impression of legitimacy to their movement,” the expert added. 

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