On the morning of April 24th, 2014, Jewish students that live in the Palladium residence hall of New York University (NYU) awoke to quite a shock. Slinking quietly through the night, members of NYU’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) had distributed mock eviction notices to students in this dorm (which is known across campus as one with a high concentration of Jewish residents, and is the only NYU dorm with a Shabbat elevator), listing distorted facts and with the stated purpose of “ draw[ing] attention to the reality that Palestinians confront on a regular basis.”
One Jewish resident of Palladium and Steinhardt Sophomore, speaking anonymously told me, “Being very straightforward, this made me feel targeted and unsafe in my own dorm room and I know others feel exactly the same as myself. I understand free speech rights but if this was targeted solely to Jewish students then this appears to be of a more threatening nature rather than informative.” This move by NYU’s chapter of SJP comes on the heels of a similar campaign run by SJP at Northeastern earlier this year, which in addition to their “years of anti-Semitic vandalism, glorification of terrorist groups and calls for the destruction of Israel” resulted in a one-year suspension of their organization (Ilya Feoktistov, March 2014). Students for Justice in Palestine, which claims to work towards “bringing attention to the plight of the Palestinian people,” is a radical group founded at UC Berkeley in 2001 with financial ties to the internationally recognized terrorist group Hamas.
Academic dialogue and the freedom to share ideas is one thing, but this move by NYU’s SJP shows nothing but cowardice and anti-semitic fearmongering. By choosing to target Jewish students (or at the very least, a dorm brimming with Jewish students) instead of engaging with them, NYU’s SJP has made it clear that they do not seek dialogue or peace with Israel; indeed, an article published by SJP members in Washington Square News earlier this year called the peace process a sham, and SJP member Kumars Salehi’s remarks in a discussion between Salehi and myself featured on Washington Square News’ Op Ed Live expressed similar sentiments.
The flyer itself also disguises the real truth with inflammatory and misleading one-liners. The flyer says that demolitions of Palestinian structures are carried out “for no other reason than their ethnicity.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. As cited in a 2010 report by the National Bureau of Economic Research, “In response to the wave of violence of the second Intifada that began in October 2000, the IDF informally renewed punitive house demolitions. The first house demolished during the second Intifada belonged to a Palestinian suicide bomber who killed 21 Israelis when he blew himself up in a discotheque in Tel Aviv…In punitive house demolitions, the IDF demolishes or seals houses that were home to Palestinians suspected of, detained in connection with, or convicted of involvement in violent acts against Israelis, regardless of the results. These acts include suicide bombings that caused many civilian fatalities as well as thwarted attacks against soldiers or civilians. The demolished houses belong not only to perpetrators but to individuals accused of involvement in an attack, either by planning it, dispatching the perpetrators, or providing assistance to the responsible terrorist cell.”
Though definitely controversial, these demolitions have been shown to reduce acts of terror that are carried out against Israelis: according to the same study, “By exploiting spatial and time variation in house demolitions and suicide terror attacks during the second Palestinian uprising, we show that punitive house demolitions (those targeting Palestinian suicide terrorists and terror operatives) cause an immediate, significant decrease in the number of suicide attacks.” SJP claims these actions are unjustified, but one must put the demolitions into historical context: If the Palestinians truly wanted the West Bank, then why did the Palestinian Authority run away from the table in 2000 and 2008 when Israel offered up 95% of the West Bank, Gaza, and parts of East Jerusalem? Instead, they carried out the Second Intifada which resulted in the deaths of thousands of Israeli men, women, and children. In the words of another Jewish sophomore and Palladium resident I spoke with anonymously, “It’s disturbing to wake up to a flyer like this. Nobody should have to be homeless, but this paper fails to mention other horrible things like the thousands of innocent Israelis who have been murdered.” SJP should stop pretending it wants peace; the Palestinian Authority, supported by its Islamic brothers across the Middle East, publically calls for the utter destruction of Israel and states time and time again that “victory is when we see you suffer” and their state sponsored media refers to Jews as “zionist pigs.”
SJP’s flyer also critiques Israel for attempts to maintain a Jewish character, and bemoans the fact that “The United States government, American corporations, and NYU faculty pension funds support these policies through foreign aid and investment.” If SJP is outraged by NYU supporting Israel on the basis that it is a Jewish state on the grounds that this is racist, why are they not upset that NYU maintains supremely close ties with and has its largest portal campus in the United Arab Emirates, a country whose official religion is Islam, has a long history of anti-semitism, and where those holding an Israeli passport cannot even enter? Arabs sit on Israel’s supreme court and sit in Knesset; what positions of power are held by Jews in Abu Dhabi?
Especially when SJP’s actions come so close to Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), we must not allow this blatant act of fear mongering and religious targeting to go unnoticed. We must stand up against hatred and intolerance and make sure NYU remains a safe space for all students, inside and outside of the classroom.
At the time of publishing, NYU SJP was unavailable for comment.
The original eviction notice:
We regret to inform you that your suite is scheduled for demolition in three days.
If you do not vacate the premise by midnight on 25 April, 2014 we reserve the right to destroy all remaining belongings. We cannot be held responsible for property or persons remaining inside the premises. Charges for demolition will be applied to your student accounts.
Eviction notices are routinely given to Palestinian families living under Israeli occupation for no other reason than their ethnicity. Forced evictions are arbitrary, racist, humiliating, and in violation of Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Palestinian homes are destroyed as part of the state of Israel’s ongoing attempts to ethnically cleanse the region of its Arab inhabitants and maintain an exclusively “Jewish” character of the state. By destroying Palestinian homes, the state makes room for illegal Israeli settlements. The Israeli government itself describes the process as ‘Judaization.’
The United States government, American corporations, and NYU faculty pension funds support these policies through foreign aid and investment.
27,000 Palestinian homes have been destroyed since 1967
160,000 Palestinians have been left homeless as a result of these policies
THIS IS NOT A REAL EVICTION NOTICE
This is intended to draw attention to the reality that Palestinians confront on a regular basis
Source: The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions