Students for Justice in Palestine: Hostility over Justice

Taylor Levy
September 19, 2022

With over 200 campus chapters, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) aims to empower Palestinians and allies to advocate for the self-determination and liberation of Palestine.

SJP chapters target Jewish and Zionist students on campus. The intention of isolating Jewish students on campus occurs both online and in-person by vilifying Jews who have a connection to their homeland.

An apartheid wall display by SJP at the University of California, Santa Barbara has a cartoon suggesting Israel and America use the term antisemitism to silence Palestinian voices.

SJPs use components of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement by advocating for their school’s withdrawal from Israeli entities, including the government. Both organizations hope pressuring the Israeli government will lead to reformation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Although some may argue BDS isn’t antisemitic, the organization’s guise of advancing human rights allows statements from the founders and subsequently from SJPs to be overlooked. BDS’ founders have long desired for the Jewish state to be demolished. 

SJP’s ideology progresses into antisemitic incidents. On April 23, an SJP protest at Rutgers University drove by Alpha Epsilon Pi, a Jewish fraternity house, calling the residents “baby killers” and “terrorists.” 

Hatem Bazian, the founder of SJP, has made antisemitic claims. In the 1990s, Bazian accused Jewish students who ran the student newspaper at San Francisco State University of being spies. Bazian also spoke at an SJP protest where he suggested that Jews run universities. Bazian called for an intifada in the US. Advocating for an intifada on American soil is supporting the death of thousands. 

Despite this, SJPs have glorified the intifadas, which killed over 6,000 Israelis and Palestinians. SJP DePaul University and SJP UC Davis have amplified the lives of terrorists through posts commemorating Ghassan Kanafani. Kanafani was a co-founder of the terrorist organization Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and was involved with the organization at the time of the Lod Airport Massacre in 1972.

While tabling on campus, Seattle University SJP included a paper that highlighted Kanafani, Leila Khaled and Khalida Jarrar – all members of the PFLP. Khaled was responsible for hijackings of airplanes in 1969 and 1970. Jarrar was arrested for her involvement with the terrorist organization during a 2019 attack which left one dead.

Seattle University SJP tabling on campus with materials that promote members of the PFLP. 

It is not only terrorist voices that SJPs uplift; they also frequently tokenize fringe Jewish groups, most notably the Neturei Karta. With around 5000 members, the Neturei Karta is an ultra-orthodox sect of Judaism formed in Jerusalem in 1938. They are anti-Zionists; they believe Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel can only be restored when the Messiah comes. Neturei Karta blames Jews for the Holocaust and works with terrorist organizations, including Hezbollah.

SJP chapters frequently share Instagram posts praising Neturei Karta for their anti-Israel views. 

Brooklyn College SJP protesting Israel Independence Day celebrations on campus. In the background, members of Neturei Karta hold up anti-Israel signs. 

SJPs antisemitism is occasionally condemned by university administrators. The administration at Tufts University has repeatedly condemned their university’s SJP chapter. When antisemitism is condemned, SJP places the legitimacy of the claim under the microscope while the administration takes no further action. 

The SJP chapter at the University of California, San Diago (UCSD) planned to bring Taher Hertzallah to campus. Hertzallah made excuses for terrorist regimes such as Hamas and called for violence against Israeli Jews. UCSD’s administration condemned the choice of speaker and antisemitic vandalization that appeared on campus around the same time. SJP rebutted with a statement condemning the administration, asking the administration to retract its statement.

Through the glamorization of terrorists and the vilification of Jewish students’ identity, SJP chapters foster a hostile campus environment for Jews. A Brandeis University study found an SJP presence on campus is a strong indicator of a hostile climate towards Jews and Israel. SJP places double standards, delegitimization and demonization on Israel and subsequently Jewish students. 

The Palestinian people deserve justice and equality, but their statehood and identity should not come at the expense of Jewish students and the Jewish state. While SJPs mission is in good faith, the way in which it is promoted on campus has created an aggressive and antisemitic environment that shouldn’t be upheld by universities.

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