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February 17, 2022 12:13 pm

UChicago Condemns ‘Anti-Palestinian Bias’ After SJP Urges Boycott of ‘Sh*tty Zionist Classes’

avatar by Rachel O'Donoghue


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

If one needed any further evidence of the widespread antisemitism and anti-Israel hostility on college campuses in the United States, you would only have to look at the University of Chicago (UChicago)’s response to a recent Instagram post by the UChicago Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter.

The January 27 multi-slide upload — witlessly titled, “Don’t take sh*tty Zionist classes” — is perhaps not the most ringing endorsement of the educational standards at a college where fees trend upwards of $50,000. The post warns the student body that said courses “serve as vehicles to spread Zionist propaganda.”

Calling on students to show their support for the “Palestinian movement by boycotting classes on Israel or those taught by Israeli fellows,” SJP claims that attending such lessons is tantamount to “participating in a propaganda campaign that creates complicity in the continuation of Israel’s occupation of Palestine.”

It continues:

Many courses which proclaim to be about aspects of ‘Israeli culture’ make no mention of Palestine or Palestinians, preferring the term ‘Arab minority’ at most. There is no mention of the fact that Israel is an apartheid state. Israel’s history is framed as a conflict between two equals in an effort to legitimize its existence to uninformed students. None of the course descriptions acknowledge the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing which reached its peak in 1948 but continues to this day, and that served as the foundation for the establishment of the Israeli state. Instead they use the deceitful and propagandistic term ‘1948 Arab-Israeli war’.

The mendacious assertion that “ethnic cleansing” reached its peak in 1948 and continues to the present day is, of course, nonsense. As HonestReporting has evidenced, the population growth of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip tells an entirely different story.

Moreover, the reference to Israel’s birth year and the “Nakba” (the Arabic word for “catastrophe”) suggests that SJP believes the very existence of the Jewish state is a crime, and that its creation was the original sin.


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It deserves to be noted, too, that SJP’s claim that the name of the Arab-Israeli war is “deceitful and propagandistic” is simply meritless, given this is how the conflict is described by many media outlets, including those with a history of criticizing Israel (see here and here).

One must wonder what name could be more suitable than the accurate description of a war that involved a fledgling Israel trying to fend off annihilation by invading forces commanded by neighboring Arab states.

Disturbingly, SJP also includes the names of individual teachers and their courses that students should target for boycott action, which are the Israel Institute’s visiting professor Meital Pinto and her class “Multiculturalism in Israel”; and Stephanie Kraver’s “Narrating Israel and Palestine through Literature and Film.”

Aside from the demonstrable lies in the SJP post, such as the apartheid libel, which HonestReporting has debunked at length, the singling out of individual academics for boycott represents a new nadir because it — intentionally or not — invites harassment.

Yet, when Fox News reached out to the university for a comment on the incident, a spokesperson incongruously shoehorned a condemnation of “anti-Palestinian bias” into the statement:

The University of Chicago is committed to support the wellbeing of all members of our community, to welcome people of all backgrounds, and to provide an environment for faculty and students to engage freely and openly on a wide range of issues. These values compel our steadfast opposition to discrimination, including rejection of antisemitism, anti-Palestinian bias, and other forms of bias that are incompatible with our commitment to diversity and inclusion.” [emphasis added]

US-based Israel education charity StandWithUs described the statement as “inadequate and bizarre” in a letter to faculty heads that was signed by three members of the organization.

“The only issue here is one of flagrant antisemitism. … Instead of directly confronting the present antisemitism that is in fact at issue, your moral equivalency minimizes it and is completely unwarranted given the facts at hand,” the letter explains.

This inability to denounce SJP’s incendiary post appears to be part of a pattern by the University of Chicago to deliberately avoid addressing antisemitism when such incidents occur on campus.

In May 2021, for example, the UChicago chapter of SJP was embroiled in another controversy when it negotiated with the incoming Undergraduate Student Senate to issue a joint announcement proclaiming, “From the river to the sea USG supports a Palestine that is free.”

This anti-Israel rallying cry is eliminationist, as it rejects any form of Jewish self-determination on any lands between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. It is a sinister call-to-arms that is frequently used by terrorist groups such as Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

However, amid a backlash from Jewish and Zionist student groups, the university’s chancellor, Robert Zimmer, and provost, Ka Yee Lee, responded by saying the school does “not have an institutional position on international conflicts, in keeping with our longstanding practice against taking positions on social or political issues outside the University’s core mission.”

The statement continued:

We are deeply disturbed by recent cases of anti-Semitism that have taken place in our country and across the world. These acts are deplorable and antithetical to our values, including our deep commitment to open and free inquiry, and our welcoming of people of all backgrounds.  These values compel our steadfast opposition to discrimination in its many potential forms, including rejection of anti-Semitism, anti-Palestinian bias, and other forms of bias that are also incompatible with our commitment to diversity and inclusion. [Emphasis added]

As with the most recent incident, the university’s leadership was unable to denounce the fact that SJP is deliberately trying to create a campus environment that is hostile to certain segments of the student population.

It is illuminating to compare the statement addressing this incident to one that was issued in June 2020 regarding another form of racism. In this 660-word message, Zimmer and Lee demonstrated they are capable of addressing the central issue and manage to avoid going off on a tangent about other forms of racism.

SJP’s threatening Instagram post is bad enough, but the university’s response is even worse: it risks being a green light to antisemitism — which, in turn, will serve only to deepen a climate anti-Israel bigotry on campus.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

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