Jewish Student Leader Demands City College of New York Administration Take Action Against SJP After Disruption of Event With Top Israeli Diplomat
A Jewish student leader at the City College of New York (CCNY) has called on school administrators to take disciplinary action against anti-Israel protesters after an event last Thursday featuring a prominent Israeli government official “devolved into shouting and screaming.”
Yossi Hertz — the co-founder of the college’s chapter of Students Supporting Israel (SSI), which co-sponsored the program with CCNY’s Chabad, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) on Campus and the Zionist Organization of America — told The Algemeiner on Monday that members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) were responsible for ongoing disruptions during a question-and-answer period with Consul General of Israel in New York Dani Dayan, which followed a lecture by the diplomat on the Jewish state’s international relations.
In footage of the event, Dayan is seen being repeatedly heckled and interrupted while replying to questions from the audience — including responding to charges that Israel has murdered children in Gaza — before dozens of individuals break into chants of “free, free Palestine,” with one holding a Palestinian flag, toward the end of the program. Students from both sides were drawn into heated exchanges, some of which Hertz said threatened to escalate into violence.
Hertz alleged that the school’s student government president, Safat Chowdhury, was personally involved in the disruptions, an act which he said “violates the president’s office.”
He is now demanding that SJP be reprimanded and that Chowdhury — recently voted into office in an election that, according to CCNY Campus Magazine, included multiple reports of voter fraud — be removed from his position.
“The next morning [after the event], we met with the vice president of student affairs [Juana Reina] to file an official complaint that an event with a foreign dignitary, that had been planned according to everything on the books, was deliberately disrupted by members of SJP,” Hertz said. “They yelled antisemitic slurs and made disturbing references to the Holocaust. When we got to the office of student affairs, we heard that SJP had gone the night before and claimed they had been silenced [by us].”
Hertz vigorously rejected that charge, and said that “if CCNY would live up to its own standards of safeguarding an open forum of ideas on campus, known as the Henderson Rules, it is common sense that there should be consequences for SJP and [Chowdhury].”
Neither SJP nor Chowdhury responded to The Algemeiner‘s requests for comment.
The administration has scheduled a meeting with SSI, SJP and CCNY Interim President Vincent Boudreau for later this week, with the hope of “encouraging open dialogue,” according to a university official.
But Hertz said, “I have no idea what we’ll be doing or what the point is in sitting down with a group that completely delegitimizes you, a group that doesn’t want to have a free exchange of ideas.”
He also claimed CCNY’s SJP “has a policy of anti-normalization, like SJPs across the country — so it won’t deal with us under normal circumstances, but pretends to when the administration is watching.” Hertz said SJP members have repeatedly turned down SSI overtures “to sit down for coffee and talk about these issues.”
A university official said the administration — which has an ongoing investigation into the night’s events — was “not aware” of an SJP anti-normalization policy.
In a letter sent out to the campus community on Friday, posted on Facebook by SSI, Boudreau wrote that universities must “thread a narrow line between providing a forum for academic freedom and shutting down actual hate speech.”
Boudreau went on to provide an example of on-campus Islamophobic hate speech and noted that Dayan was “a well-known advocate of expanding Israeli settlements in the contested territories, a position that generates great opposition and anger among some in our community,” before stating that the “extremely heated argument[s]” that arose from Dayan’s appearance “were unruly and ugly.” He added that complaints of both “anti-Semitism and anti-Palestinian speech acts” have been raised, and that he was now “trying to decide what was in bounds and what was not.”
Gilad Skolnick, CAMERA’s director of campus programming, called on the administration to identify SJP as a “hate group that is dedicated to the destruction of Israel, that [has] regularly spoken out in defense of terrorists and defended terrorism.”
“If the administration truly cares about creating an atmosphere that is tolerant and welcoming to pro-Israel thought and students, they would sanction this group,” Skolnick said. “This is not a free speech issue, this is an issue of making sure Jewish students are comfortable on campus. If an event was disrupted by a KKK-affiliated group, the reaction would surely be different.”
Dayan told The Algemeiner: “Last week’s incident was just one example of Jewish students on campus being exposed to harassment and intimidation by BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] thugs. College administrations are not doing enough to ensure a student can safely exercise his or her right to assert their Jewish identity, including their love for the Jewish national homeland.”
“It is my intention to redouble the efforts of the consulate to raise this problem with senior academic leadership and to empower pro-Israel students on campus to stand up for their rights,” Dayan continued.
This was the second SSI chapter to have an event disrupted by anti-Israel protesters — again, allegedly, by SJP members — last week, with University of California-Irvine students calling campus police to escort them safely from a program featuring IDF reservists, after tens of protesters filled the room and the corridor to the main exit.
Ilan Sinelnikov, founder of the national SSI movement, said the organization is considering strategies to respond to disruptions of its programming.
Watch footage of the event and disruption below, reportedly posted on Snapchat by a member of SJP: