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November 9, 2018 3:53 pm

31 Student Groups Urge UCLA to Cancel SJP Conference, Citing Its ‘History of Violence on California Campuses’

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Protesters disrupt an event held by Students Supporting Israel at the University of California, Los Angeles, May 17, 2018. Photo: Screenshot.

Thirty-one student groups have called on the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to nix an upcoming national conference by Students for Justice in Palestine — described as a “hate group” with a “history of violence on California campuses.”

In a letter organized by the advocacy group CAMERA on Campus, the Israel-focused clubs described SJP — a leading proponent of anti-Zionist activism on North American university campuses — as a “violent organization … which fuels campus anti-Semitism and which seeks the elimination of the world’s only Jewish-majority country.”

They pointed to the disruption of an indigenous peoples event held by Students Supporting Israel (SSI) at UCLA this past May, when members of SJP and members of the off-campus Revolutionary Communist Party tore down Armenian and Israeli flags, threw SSI materials onto the ground, and used bullhorns to chant slogans calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state in place of Israel.

Two months later, a member of SJP at Stanford University threatened to “physically fight zionists on campus” — a threat he amended hours later by replacing “physically” with “intellectually.” The student later apologized to anyone who was “triggered” by his language and stepped down from his job as a resident assistant.

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“According to FBI statistics, Jews are the primary target of religious hate crimes in the United States,” the student groups wrote. They also cited research by the AMCHA Initiative — a nonprofit that aims to combat antisemitism on college campuses — which found that campuses that have active anti-Israel groups like SJP are more likely to have antisemitic incidents than campuses that don’t.

“The two phenomena are connected,” the students argued. “SJP is therefore a threat to the physical safety of the Jewish community,” and violates UCLA’s Principles of Community, which rejects harmful conduct including discrimination on the basis of personal characteristics such as ethnicity, religious beliefs, political preference, and national origin, they continued.

The students pointed to antisemitic statements shared by Robert Bowers, who killed 11 Jewish worshipers at a Pittsburgh synagogue last month, before urging UCLA to “take the anti-Semitic rhetoric of SJP members seriously.”

“Robert Bowers wrote on social media that ‘Jews are the children of Satan,'” they wrote. “Samer Alhato, one of the many anti-Semites set to speak or attend the conference tweeted, ‘Anyone been to Jerusalem? I hated seeing a bunch of Jews there but other than that it’s a beautiful city.'”

A representative for UCLA did not immediately answer requests for comment, but the school told NBC News earlier this week that they will not cancel the conference, which is set to take place from November 16-18.

“As you may have heard, some members of the Jewish community have been sharply critical of upcoming conference, demanding that UCLA move to cancel it,” spokesperson Tod Tamberg said in a statement. “As a public university, UCLA is legally bound to comply with the First Amendment, which protects everyone’s right to express their views, even those that are offensive and hateful or that the university opposes.”

The school had last month threatened to potentially cancel the conference if SJP did not remove the UCLA name “and/or artistic renditions” of the school’s mascot, the Bruin Bear, from the conference logo. The request stemmed from concerns that SJP sought to imply an association with UCLA, and that the bear — depicted flying a Palestinian kite —  may be interpreted “as an intention to endorse violence against Israel,” as kites, balloons, and other devices have been used in Palestinian arson-attacks on Israeli communities in recent months, the school explained.

SJP eventually agreed to remove the UCLA name from the logo, but said the school’s “racist and gross mischaracterization of our design ignores the fact that kite-flying is a common pastime in Gaza, and has long been a symbol of freedom for Palestinians.”

Earlier this week, the Los Angeles City Council voted to endorse a resolution calling on UCLA to cancel the SJP conference over concerns that it would “promote anti-Semitism.”

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