George Washington University Students for Justice in Palestine Deny Defacing Hillel Building
A Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter at George Washington University is denying that it defaced the campus’ Hillel building.
According to The GW Hatchet, a campus newspaper, the group is facing probation for causing an estimated $1,200-$4,500 in damages by using “wheatpaste,” an adhesive created when starch or wheat flour is mixed with water, to plaster anti-Israel posters on benches around the building’s perimeter during a protest of an event GW Hillel held with former Israeli intelligence official Doron Tenne on October 11.
“I did not destroy, deface, damage or tamper with anyone’s property,” GW SJP president Lance Lokas said at a disciplinary hearing on Friday, according to a statement released by Palestine Legal, a pro-Palestinian nonprofit. “Neither I nor anyone in SJP wheatpasted on Hillel property.”
“In addition, the fact that I, an Arab student, am being individually accused of the allegations made against me when there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that I am personally responsible for this charge is a clear and blatant example of racist profiling and discrimination,” Lokas continued.
Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) has also said that the charges brought against SJP are “false and based solely on a hatred of SJP’s just political message, showing overt discrimination on the part of the administration.”
During the hearing GW Hillel Executive director Adena Kirstein testified that SJP did damage the building.
“The heavy-duty paste you used to glue signs to our benches that day made them very difficult to remove. In doing so, the benches were scratched and damaged,” she said, reading from a statement shared with The Algemeiner. “Lest anyone think the physical nature of the damage is minor, we’ve received estimates to polish or reclad the benches that range from $1,200 to $4,500 for the bench in question. The security benches were repurposed as a space to sit and connect, and now I walk by them every day, look at the damage, and feel a mix of anger and sadness.”
SJP has secured legal counsel from Palestine Legal in an effort to ward off any possible disciplinary measures that may result from George Washington University’s investigation. Palestine Legal previously accused the university of mistreating Palestinian students in 2021 over its suspending several “trauma support ” programs during Israel’s war with Hamas.
Anti-Zionism is becoming one of the “core elements of collegiate life” in America, according to the Anti-Defamation League Center (ADL) on Extremism’s annual report on anti-Israel activism on college campuses. In response to its findings, the group is expanding online resources for reporting antisemitism and supporting its victims.