As Northwestern University Student Group Hosts Palestinian Terrorist, School’s President Attends Vigil Honoring Her Victims
Ahead of a Northwestern University student group’s hosting of a convicted Palestinian terrorist for an on-campus event on Monday, the school’s president attended a vigil organized to honor her victims.
The silent, candlelit vigil came together after Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) announced an event, titled “When You Come for Rasmea, You Come for All of Us,” hailing former Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine member Rasmea Odeh, who confessed in 1970 to planting the bombs in two Jerusalem explosions the year before. The first attack, at a supermarket, killed two Hebrew University students and wounded nine others; the second targeted the British Consulate.
“Some 150 students, faculty, administrators, and members of the Northwestern community showed up to participate in” mourning Odeh’s victims in the hours before SJP’s program, according to Northwestern Hillel’s executive director, Michael Simon, who added that he was “especially gratified” that university President Morty Schapiro took part.
Hillel, J Street U Northwestern and Wildcats for Israel were all involved in organizing the effort.
In a Wildcats for Israel statement released on Facebook on Monday, the group wrote, “While we respect Students for Justice in Palestine’s right to host programming that presents narratives critical of Israel, bringing a convicted terrorist to our campus is morally disturbing and crosses the line of rational discourse.”
Hillel similarly stated that they were “advocates for the right to free speech and open discourse, especially given the current climate on college campuses across the country,” but that hosting Odeh was “an affront to the sanctity of life.”
Both Wildcats for Israel and Hillel concluded their comments with the line: “Some choose to honor Rasmea; we choose to mourn her victims.”
Mara Cohen, a student vice president of religious life for Hillel, said that regardless of what she thinks about Odeh, “unless there is an immediate danger to the situation, I think student groups should have the right to choose who speaks.”
Alan Cubbage, vice president for university relations, told The Algemeiner, “Student groups at Northwestern regularly invite speakers whose views are controversial. These invitations by student groups should not be interpreted as meaning that the university endorses those speakers or their views.”
Cubbage added, “Northwestern believes strongly the best way to deal with this type of situation is to bring other speakers who have opposing views and for members of the Northwestern community to voice their opinions, not with censorship.”
SJP’s event was held as part of its Israeli Apartheid Week programming and on “Nakba Day” (commemorating Palestinians’ version of the events surrounding the Jewish state’s 1948 founding, with “Nakba” meaning “catastrophe” in Arabic). The programming also featured University of Illinois-Chicago associate professor Nadine Naber, a supporter of the academic boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, and a long-time Odeh advocate.
Northwestern’s campus newspaper reported that about 50 students attended the Odeh event.
Odeh was honored by Jewish Voice for Peace at its national conference in April, which took place soon after Odeh accepted a plea deal settling a years-long immigration fraud case. She had been accused of concealing her terror convictions on her US naturalization papers and will soon be deported from the country as part of that deal.
SJP did not immediately respond to The Algemeiner‘s request for comment.