I used to believe that most members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a radical anti-Zionist club, were well-intentioned progressives. Although I am pro-Israel, I believed them when they said that they were anti-Zionists, not anti-Semites. But after just four days of SJP’s hatred-filled “Apartheid Week” at the Claremont Colleges, which they scheduled to coincide with Passover, I’m beginning to think my faith in SJP’s human decency was misplaced.
Students for Justice in Palestine is using Hate Week as an excuse to carry out a targeted harassment campaign aimed at me, members of my school’s pro-Israel club, the Claremont Progressive Israel Alliance (CPIA), and random Israeli and Jewish students. The very first day that their so-called “apartheid wall” was erected, I visited the wall to take pictures of it. Members of SJP, who were stationed next to the wall, verbally harassed me by name. They called me a racist, a white supremacist, and an advocate for ethnic cleansing.
One SJP member took a Snapchat picture of me at the wall and captioned it, “Her name is Kate Dulgenos [sic] and she is a proud racist.” They posted their targeting harassment on Twitter, where it was favorited and retweeted by other members of Students for Justice in Palestine. SJP continued their targeted harassment of me by stealing one of my Facebook profile pictures that had a pro-Israel message and making it their intro slide in a Powerpoint presentation about imperialism, which they gave publicly in a café on campus.
Not content to simply make my life on campus unpleasant, SJP has also been hard at work trying to prevent me from doing my job as opinions editor of my school newspaper. My job involves editing all the opinions pieces that are submitted to the paper, including many with which I disagree and including op-eds that criticize Israel and disagree with Zionism. But although I reached out to SJP at the beginning of the year to write an op-ed, they refuse to submit opinion pieces to me, because their club has an anti-normalization policy that forbids them from working with or even speaking to Zionists.
I bit my lip and put up with this because I did not want to cause internal conflict within the paper. But recently SJP has escalated their personal attacks against me at work. A member of SJP attempted to publish a “satire” piece for our newspaper’s annual joke issue that attributed fake racist quotes saying that Palestinians were not people to me (the writer transparently changed my name from “Kate Dolgenos” to “Tate Bolgemos.”) This same member of SJP has called me racist to my colleagues and on social media. I have never spoken to them, and I cannot disabuse them of the notion that I am racist, because as a member of SJP, they do not speak to Zionists.
SJP’s hatred of dialogue and free speech is not limited to personal attacks. After my club put up a series of posters with positive messages about Israel, none of which mentioned SJP, members of SJP tore most of them down within 24 hours. The posters were approved by my college, but SJP members did not hesitate to rip them down publicly and in front of members of my club. They replaced our posters with their own unapproved posters, which my pro-Israel club left alone because we believe in free speech.
Although CPIA has allowed SJP to carry out their Hate Week without interference, SJP has not allowed us the same courtesy for our events. When my club tabled and gave out cupcakes with tiny Israeli flags in them, a member of SJP took one of our cupcakes and threw it out, presumably to make a political point. Another SJP member, who is not of Palestinian descent, stole one of the chairs from our table and yelled, “Think of this as reparations!”
But the atmosphere of pervasive hate SJP has created this week extends beyond their club’s own petty stunts and creates antisemitism in the general student body. When one of my friend’s classmates could not find a piece of paper on day two of apartheid week, they turned to my Jewish friend and accused him of stealing the paper by saying, “You people steal land…” In another antisemitic incident, a student made an obscene gesture with her middle finger to members of a Jewish fraternity while they conducted a Holocaust remembrance event. In a third, an Israeli friend of mine – who is not a member of any pro-Israel organization – was cornered by a student in a Nazi Hunter shirt and called a colonialist and occupier.
The most jarring incident for me was when one of my friends overheard two other students discussing why I am a Zionist even though I am not Jewish. After one student pointed out that one of my grandparents was Jewish, the second student joked, “That’s enough for Nuremberg!” When told of this, I was rendered speechless. When did my campus become a place where it is acceptable to make jokes like this about people we disagree with politically?
Due to their misplaced fears of a student-led Zionist conspiracy against them, SJP maintains a guarded secrecy about their club’s activities. They only reveal the date of their annual Hate Week a few days before it begins, they keep the location of their meetings secret, they refuse to make public the location of their “Apartheid Wall” before they erect it, and they maintain a 24-hour guard around the wall.
Obviously, there is no pro-Israel plot to shut down SJP’s Hate Week. Pro-Israel students have not taken down SJP’s flyers, interfered with their events, or harassed them in person or online. Zionists do not somehow control the administration or the student media; I am not even allowed to edit their op-eds because of my political beliefs!
I am tired of being harassed and discriminated against by Students for Justice in Palestine for my political beliefs. I am tired of watching my friends experience antisemitic hatred because of this bullying club. I do not want to go to school in a place where students think it is acceptable to flip off a Holocaust remembrance event or make casual antisemitic remarks.
Students for Justice in Palestine, do better.