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April 5, 2018 3:39 pm

Pro-Palestinian Students Criticized for Launching Campaign ‘Demonizing Israel’ on Passover, When Jewish Students Are Away From Campus

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A display erected by Penn Students for Justice in Palestine during its “Israeli Apartheid Week” campaign. Photo: Penn SJP.

An anti-Zionist student group at the University of Pennsylvania has come under fire for launching a campaign “falsely demonizing Israel” during the holiday of Passover, when many Jewish students are away from campus.

Ariela Stein, a sophomore and fellow with the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, took aim at Penn Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) for holding its annual “Israeli Apartheid Week” — which seeks to build support for the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel — between April 4th and 7th.

The holiday of Passover started on March 30th and will end on April 7th, meaning many Jewish students were “unable to mobilize an effective response due to religious obligations,” Stein wrote in an editorial published Wednesday in The Daily Pennsylvanian student newspaper.

SJP’s campaign includes a display protesting Israel’s West Bank security barrier, which the Israeli government says was erected to stop suicide bombings and other Palestinian terrorist attacks, but Palestinians claim encroaches on land they seek for a future state. Other events include a film screening and a memorial for victims of the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist terrorist organization that controls the Gaza Strip.

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The memorial also includes a section commemorating rioters killed during recent Hamas-backed riots by the Gaza-Israel border, more than half of whom have been identified as members of terror groups, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The protesters’ affiliations were not mentioned by SJP.

Stein pointed out that other SJP chapters have likewise launched initiatives that would traditionally evoke a critical response from the Jewish community during Jewish holidays, including at Tufts University, when the student senate passed a BDS resolution on the eve of Passover last year.

“This excluded pro-Israel voices who could not attend the session in order to get home in time for their Passover seders,” she noted.

Students at the University of Michigan-Flint adopted a divestment resolution targeting Israel last week, shortly before Passover.

The Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) advocacy group warned in a report published in September that anti-Zionist students introduced initiatives supportive of BDS throughout the previous academic year “on Jewish holidays and other days of religious significance.”

“At Pitzer College and [the University of Wisconsin-Madison], Israel’s detractors initiated BDS-related votes during the week of Passover, when many students were already home for the holiday,” the ICC wrote. “Similarly, a considerable number of ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ events — including programs at the University of Minnesota, Harvard University, and [the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign] — overlapped with Passover celebrations, enabling activists to avoid confrontations over their extreme and often hateful activities.”

“At the University of Michigan, anti-Israel students erected a mock ‘Israeli apartheid wall’ during Rosh Hashanah,” the report continued. “In a particularly offensive incident at [the University of California, Santa Barbara], SJP announced a BDS campaign on Holocaust Remembrance Day, upsetting Jewish students and drawing harsh criticism from campus groups.”

Such attempts — which ICC agued “represent brazen attempts to silence Jewish voices and obstruct dialogue in the wider student community” — were also documented by The Algemeiner in December 2016.

The BDS campaign seeks to isolate Israel until it accedes to a number of Palestinian demands. Supporters say their activism seeks to pressure Israel to comply with international law, while opponents argue it seeks to destroy the Jewish nation-state. BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti has in the past acknowledged that by supporting the Palestinian “right of return,” the movement seeks to “end Israel’s existence as a Jewish state.”

Penn SJP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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