SJP at Stony Brook University Vows to ‘Eradicate’ Zionism, Oppose Hillel Following Criticism From Jewish, Muslim and Christian Groups
A student group at Stony Brook University in New York compared Zionists to “Nazis, white nationalists, and KKK members” on Wednesday, following an outcry over its targeting of a Jewish club on campus.
Stony Brook’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter first came under scrutiny after one of its members, Rakia Syed, told The Statesman student newspaper in April that SJP wants “Hillel off this campus.”
“What we want is a proper Jewish organization that allows Jews to express their faith, have sabbath — everything like that, that are not Zionists, that doesn’t support Israel,” Syed said.
The comment drew criticism from Stony Brook University Interfaith Center, which denounced SJP’s comment in a letter co-signed by Hillel and various student clubs, including the Catholic Campus Ministry, Protestant Campus Ministry, Islamic Society, and Muslim Student Association (MSA).
“Such a statement is not only offensive but in direct opposition to the basic principles of respect and diversity that are the cornerstone of our University community,” the letter read. “This is not about the political cause of Students for Justice in Palestine, but about their attempt to undermine the identity of Jewish students and dictate to them how to observe their faith and express their cultural and national identity as they see fit.”
SJP responded to the criticism by describing Zionism — the movement for Jewish national self-determination — as “a disgusting political ideology.”
“We, as members of SJP, know the difference between Zionism and Judaism,” the group wrote on social media. “Judaism is a beautiful religion, and we value our Jewish allies, like Jewish Voice for Peace.” Hillel, in contrast, “is a Zionist organization,” it added.
“We will always stand against any Zionist group, and to eradicate this practice, just like any other form of racism, we will fight against it,” SJP promised. “If MSA held programs in favor of ISIS, we would be the first ones to protest them.”
“[If] there were Nazis, white nationalists, and KKK members on campus, would their identity have to be accepted and respected? Absolutely not,” the student club continued. “Then why would we respect the views of Zionists?”
SJP said it was “disheartening to see both Islamic Society and MSA cosigning on this message,” and then took aim at Sanaa Nadim, Stony Brook’s Muslim chaplain.
“You have reached a heinous level of betrayal to the Palestinian people by working with and aiding Zionists on their endeavors,” the group charged. “For 3 years we have been on this campus, you have not only helped Hillel normalize their Zionist agenda, but also suppressed your own Muslim students from speaking out against the state which has killed our Palestinian brothers and sisters.”
“You have continually harassed our members and slandered our organization with claims of terrorism,” SJP claimed. “We will work tirelessly to ensure that Stony Brook University’s MSA has a chaplain that properly represents the Palestinian liberation movement.”
Nadim — who was acknowledged by President Barack Obama in 2012 as “one of the first Muslim chaplains at an American college” and “a voice for interfaith dialogue” — rejected these accusations.
“There’s so many things that I have done to support the Palestinian people and bring their plight and bring their story to light,” she told The Statesman, noting fundraising work she did on behalf of Palestinian refugees. “But all my life I have always learned that hate is never a component of peace and never creates a platform for a productive solution.”
SJP “should use the good energy and the opportunities that we have on campus to create a unified climate that can work on bringing the attention to a resolution for an independent Palestine,” she continued. “We as a people cannot create an agenda of hate or alienation, dictating to our fellow colleagues on campus what to believe in and how they should go about observing their religious convictions.”