Wednesday, March 22nd | 29 Adar 5783

February 9, 2023 2:52 pm

‘Crossed the Line’: Jewish Group Calls for Suspension of Pro-Palestinian Group over ‘Intifada’ Chant During Protest


avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Pro-Palestinian protestors at University of Michigan. Photo: Brendan Gutenschwager/Twitter

A pro-Israel campus group has issued a letter calling for the suspension of a pro-Palestinian club at University of Michigan over its staging a demonstration in which members chanted “Only one solution: Intifada.”

The incident took place on Jan. 12 when Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) protested a speech Vice President Kamala Harris gave at the university about climate change. SAFE accused the Vice President of supporting “genocide” for supporting Israel.

“While we fully respect academic freedom and the freedom of speech, we believe the type of rhetoric SAFE is using has crossed the line to an unprotected speech category of hate speech and incitement, and as such must be addressed by the university,” said the letter from Students Supporting Israel (SSI). “At a time when words hold a powerful tremendous influence and the Jewish community is ranked the number one targeted community in the country for hate crimes in relation to its population, violent chants can, and have, easily escalated into violence…against Zionist and Jewish students on campus.”

The letter was also signed by Combat Antisemitism, Jewish National Fund USA, Israeli American Council, StopAntisemitism, Zachor Legal Institute, and Zionist Organization of America.

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SSI is asking the University of Michigan to revoke SAFE’s status as a recognized student club as well as to deny it access to school funding and campus facilities. In addition to those punitive measures, SSI urged the university to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism, which describes certain forms of anti-Israel rhetoric as advancing antisemitic canards and conspiracies.

SAFE’s choice of chants prompted outrage and widespread media coverage, with Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt calling them “a direct call to violence” warranting a university investigation to determine whether they were a “violation of Jewish students’ rights under Title VI.”

Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) also condemned the incident, describing it as a “thinly veiled attempt to push Jewish students out of campus life.”

“This also serves as a stark example of why it’s so important to utilize the IHRA definition of antisemitism when investigating acts of bigotry like this one,” Sherman added.

SAFE has courted controversy on campus before. In October, during observance of the Jewish New Year, it erected an “apartheid wall” on campus and led an anti-Israel protest in front of it.

Some University of Michigan students approached the protestors and urged them to become fully apprised of the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, The Michigan Daily, a campus newspaper, reported at the time. Standing atop a nearby structure, they made a “thumbs-down” gesture when they perceived the protestors’ remarks as offensive or lacking nuance.

Follow reporter Dion J. Pierre at @DionJPierre.

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