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January 31, 2022 4:06 pm
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Anti-Zionist Students at UChicago Urge Boycott of Classes on Israel, Israeli Fellows

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Cobb Hall at the University of Chicago. Photo: Dion J. Pierre

An anti-Zionist student group at the University of Chicago implored students last week to boycott courses about Israel and Israeli academic fellows.

“Don’t take sh*tty Zionist classes,” UChicago Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) said in an Instagram post last Wednesday. “Support the Palestinian movement for liberation by boycotting classes on Israel or those taught by Israeli fellows. By attending these classes, you are participating in a propaganda campaign that creates complicity in the continuation of Israel’s occupation of Palestine.”

The group accused university courses that aim to educate students about Israel of “controlling the narrative” to erase Palestinians, and presenting the Israel-Palestine conflict “as a conflict between two equals in an effort to legitimize its existence.”

“They use the deceitful and propagandistic term ‘1948 Arab Israeli War,'” SJP continued. “These classes often rely on Orientalist narratives, pinkwashing, and liberal washing in an attempt to legitimize Israel as a paragon of Western liberal values. Controlling the narrative is incredibly important to settler-colonial states.”

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The multi-slide post specifically targeted three courses for a boycott — Israel Institute visiting professor Meital Pinto’s “Multiculturalism in Israel” and “Gender Relations in Israel,” and Stephanie Kraver’s “Narrating Israel and Palestine through Literature and Film.”

UChicago SJP did not immediately respond to an Algemeiner request for comment.

The student group has previously attracted controversy for its inflammatory rhetoric about Israel and Zionism, the movement supporting the Jewish people’s right to self-determination. In May, the group negotiated with the incoming Undergraduate Student Senate to issue a joint statement that said, “From the river to the sea USG supports a Palestine that is free.” The slogan, commonly used by Palestinian nationalists, calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, in place of Israel.

While Jewish and Zionist student groups, including UChicago Hillel and UChicago JStreet, later endorsed a resolution to retract the statement, it did not pass and voting totals for the measure were never made public.

“It blatantly calls for the forced displacement of Jews from their homeland, and for the wholesale destruction of the world’s only Jewish state,” UChicago Hillel said of the May statement. “Its implications are clear: Jewish citizens living in the area from the river to the sea — including the State of Israel — should cease to exist.”

The episode prompted UChicago Chancellor Robert Zimmer and Provost Ka Yee Lee to say that the university “does not have an institutional position on international conflicts.”

“Neither Student Government nor any other student group speaks for the university or for all students on any issue,” they said.

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