It is disturbing but unsurprising that as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapters continue to lead the way in championing the Palestinian cause on college campuses and indeed across the nation, yet another SJP – in this case, at New York University – is accused of antisemitism for its defense of Palestinian rights. In this case, as with all false claims of antisemitism, the International Jewish anti-Zionist Network stands with NYU SJP in rejecting such charges.
The facts speak for themselves, and show a consistent pattern of pro-Israel supporters exploiting and misusing the history of anti-Jewish persecution in an attempt to stop criticism of Israel, and to attack Palestinians organizing for their rights, as well as those who support them in that work.
On the morning of April 24, NYU SJP distributed eviction notices to over 2000 students “at large” living in two student residence halls. The notices ordered them to leave their dorm rooms, noting that they would be demolished within three days. At the bottom of the fliers was a clear advisory, stating, “This is not a real eviction notice.” Such fliers are a widely-used tactic, meant to raise awareness of the home demolitions that the Israeli Occupying Forces carry out constantly in the occupied West Bank –189 homes in 2012 alone.
The response rehearsed a typical pattern. A lone member of the NYU campus pro-Israel lobby organization, LionPac, accused NYU SJP of “choosing to target Jewish students.” She then noted that “SJP’s actions come so close to Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day),” and described SJP’s attempt to raise awareness of the destructive nature of Israeli colonialism as a “blatant act of fear mongering and religious targeting.” The right-wing press picked up the accusation, referring to “targeting” and intimidation of Jewish students.
Of course, as NYU SJP insists, the accusation of targeting Jewish students is an outright and outrageous lie. Behind the rhetoric, however, is something more dangerous yet. The discourse of “fear mongering” and “targeting,” paired with the reference to the Nazi genocide of the European Jews, is a clear attempt to recall that still-powerful memory as well as the very real history of anti-Jewish persecution to silence criticism of the current ethnic cleansing of Palestine by the State of Israel.
We reject the suggestion that attempts to bring to light the reality of Israeli actions are antisemitic in any way. Furthermore, we take strong issue with the use of the historical crimes of colonizing European states to cover up those of Israel in the here-and-now.
The Holocaust does not belong to the Zionist movement and the long history of anti-Jewish racism does not belong to the Zionist movement. To invoke those brutal crimes to conceal Israeli brutality serves only to cheapen the memory of past suffering in the service of prolonging it in the present. To accuse the principled students of NYU-SJP of antisemitism or targeting Jewish students is offensive. To slur them as bigots for opposing racism, colonialism, and, crucially, the role of the US government in supporting Israeli policies is both inaccurate and unacceptable.
We stand behind and with NYU-SJP in their important campaigns to educate their university and the public about the Palestinian plight.