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January 19, 2017 8:28 am

Campus Watchdogs Laud Fordham University’s Decision to Ban Notoriously Anti-Israel Student Group

avatar by Lea Speyer

Fordham University campus. Photo: Fordham University.

Fordham University campus. Photo: Fordham University.

Watchdogs lauded the recent decision by a New York academic institution to prevent a notoriously anti-Israel group from organizing on its campus.

AMCHA Initiative co-founder Tammi Rossman-Benjamin and others told The Algemeiner on Wednesday that Fordham University’s preemptive measure indicates that its administrators grasp “the hateful precedent” that Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) has set elsewhere.

“Most officials at other schools do not understand what our research has clearly revealed: that the presence of an SJP or a like-minded chapter committed to opposing the existence of the Jewish state has a particularly serious impact on Jewish students,” she said. “Nor do they end up doing anything about the harmful behavior when it is exhibited.”

Aviva Slomich, international campus director for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), called it both “reasonable and commendable that Fordham is not permitting SJP to spread its hatred there.”

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“SJP and its affiliates promote extreme anti-Israel propagandaharass students and faculty members — Jewish and non-Jewish — who are known to support Israel; and are responsible for the rise of antisemitism,” she said. “How can such a group be allowed to have a presence on campus?”

Antisemitism expert Kenneth Marcus — president and general counsel at the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, who has closely monitored SJP activity — told The Algemeiner that the student group has “increasingly been pushing the envelope when it comes to violations of campus policy.”

Marcus expressed hope that other universities will have the “strength and resolve” to follow Fordham’s example and treat SJP like a “hate organization.” Though even such groups have rights, he said, “They must adhere to institutional rules just like everybody else.”

Aron Hier, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s (SWC) campus outreach arm, called Fordham’s ban a “seminal decision” that “underscores the interplay between Title VI [of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin] and the First Amendment.”

“The SWC looks forward to a full adjudication of the matter, in order to ensure the safety of the Jewish members of the campus community at Fordham,” he said.

The private Jesuit university’s decision to ban SJP was condemned by anti-Israel organizations such as Palestine Legal, which announced it would challenge the university for “violating” free speech rights and Title VI.

According to a leaked email from Fordham Dean of Students Keith Eldredge — who made the final decision to deny student requests to form an SJP chapter — the university:

[C]annot support an organization whose sole purpose is advocating political goals of a specific group, and against a specific country, when these goals clearly conflict with and run contrary to the mission and values of the university.

There is perhaps no more complex issue than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and it is a topic that often leads to polarization rather than dialogue. The purpose of the organization as stated in the proposed club constitution points toward that polarization. Specifically, the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel presents a barrier to open dialogue and mutual learning and understanding.

As The Algemeiner has previously reported, a 2016 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.”

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