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December 22, 2020 4:38 pm

Notorious Anti-Zionist Student Group SJP Fails in Legal Effort to Overturn Ban at Fordham University

avatar by Algemeiner Staff

Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus. Photo: Jonathan71 via Wikimedia Commons.

The anti-Zionist student organization Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) received another legal blow on Tuesday in the group’s five-year battle for recognition by the campus authorities at Fordham University in New York.

A ruling by the Supreme Court of New York’s appellate division rejected an appeal submitted by SJP last month that attempted to overturn Fordham’s decision to ban the group — which advocates the elimination of the State of Israel — from its campus.

The ruling defended Fordham’s “conclusion that the proposed club (SJP), which would have been affiliated with a national organization reported to have engaged in disruptive and coercive actions on other campuses, would work against, rather than enhance, respondent’s commitment to open dialogue and mutual learning and understanding, was not ‘without sound basis in reason’ or ‘taken without regard to the facts.'”

SJP was originally denied recognition in 2015, when Keith Eldredge — dean of students at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus — announced his reluctance to permit a student organization “whose sole purpose is advocating political goals of a specific group, and against a specific country, when these goals clearly conflict with and run contrary to the mission and values of the University.”

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Eldredge added that “[S]pecifically, the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel presents a barrier to open dialogue and mutual learning and understanding.”

Pro-Israel groups and Jewish advocacy organizations widely hailed Fordham’s decision at the time.

A protracted legal battle saw Fordham’s original decision overturned by a court order in August 2019. Fordham appealed court order in January 2020 , claiming that the university’s decision to ban SJP was based on the premise that a chapter of the group on campus was not in the “best interests” of Fordham’s students, according to Bob Howe, assistant vice president for communications.

As The Algemeiner has previously reported, a 2016 Brandeis University study found that “one of the strongest predictors of perceiving a hostile climate towards Israel and Jews is the presence of an active SJP group on campus.”

Ziporah Reich — director of litigation at The Lawfare Project — commented on Tuesday, “Students for Justice in Palestine, which is the leading organizer of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement on campus, has a history of engaging in verbal and physical harassment of Jewish students on campus. In a very important decision, the Appellate Division stated that Fordham University was well within its legal rights to prevent the group from forming on campus based on its conclusion that the organization was reported to have engaged in ‘disruptive and coercive action on other campuses.’ The court also made it clear that, Fordham’s belief that the group would work against, rather than enhance its commitment to open dialogue and mutual learning and understanding was not ‘without sound basis in reason.'”

Yael Lerman — director the StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department — stated, “We congratulate and commend Fordham University for standing up to a hate group to protect its students from divisiveness and antisemitism on campus.”

“Today’s court ruling sets a precedent for private universities, showing that they have a right to reject hatred and discrimination from fomenting on campus,” noted Carly Gammill, director of the StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism.

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