Students for Justice in Palestine: Brown Shirts on US Campuses
Last week, I wrote about a May 10 disruption of a pro-Israel event at the University of California at Irvine. Having taught part-time at UC Irvine from 1998-2016, I still follow events on campus, especially as they pertain to the ever-present Israeli-Palestinian issue. This issue is, for some reason, a top hot-button issue on US university campuses. That is thanks to the aggressive pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel lobby, which consists of both faculty and students. The result is that universities have become the focal point for anti-semitism in the US. When you combine radical faculty, leftist students, and radical outside speakers, it is a toxic mixture that has made far too many Jewish students feel threatened and intimidated during their college years.
In terms of students, the prime perpetrators belong either to the chapters of the Muslim Student Association/Union or Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). In some universities, like San Francisco State University, the chapter is known as the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS). That particular chapter has been notorious in the past couple of years for their expressions of support for the idea of killing Israelis.
Students for Justice in Palestine was co-founded by UC Berkeley Professor Hatem Bazian, a Palestinian native of Nablus, who was educated in the US and has now risen into the faculty. Bazian is a two-trick pony; if he is not campaigning against Israel, he is campaigning about Islamophobia, a concept he has helped turn into an institution. In fact, Bazian is also co-founder of something called the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Center. That sounds pretty impressive until you actually go there. It occupies a broom closet in room 638 of Barrows Hall — in effect a modest teacher’s office.
Bazian is also a man who led student protests against Israel while at San Francisco State University. In 2004, he gave a speech before a student audience calling for an intifada in the US. That cute little rant is available on YouTube. Bazian has often been charged with anti-semitism due to other statements attributed to him. He reportedly once told a student audience to go out and count the number of buildings on campus with Jewish names on them. He is also alleged to have quoted the infamous hadith about the Day of Judgment when the Jew will hide behind the trees and the trees will call out, “Oh, Muslim-there is a Jew hiding behind me. Come and kill him.” A few years ago when Bazian spoke at UCI, I asked him about those quotes attributed to him during the q and a. All I got was a tap dance and a referral back to an appearance he had made on the Bill O’Reilly show on Fox News, in which O’Reilly had asked him the same questions (and got the same answers).
So it is hardly surprising that his SJP creation acts in that spirit. They organize loud protests, play dirty tricks like passing eviction notices under the dorm room doors of Jewish students, and, of course, disrupt events that promote Israel.
At UC Irvine, SJP’s chapter was established in 2010 just after the Muslim Student Union was suspended for a year as punishment for their disruption of a speech by Michael Oren, the then-US Ambassador to the US. (The suspension was shorted to one quarter by the then-vice chancellor for student affairs on his last day in office before retiring.) Indeed, the two groups are joined at the hip, the major difference being that SJP has both Muslim and non-Muslim members (including sadly, some misfit Jews).
Since sprouting at UCI, the SJP chapter has already disrupted the annual I(Israel)- Fest twice with their loud chanting. In addition, in May 2016, they led other student groups in the rowdy disruption of an Israel Defense Forces film showing. They literally tried to barge through the door as a terrified, mostly female audience tried to bar the door and had to call campus police to restore order. For that infraction, SJP received-a warning letter!
That warning is now being put to the test because SJP repeated their act the following May (2017) in their disruption of another pro-Israeli event on the UCI campus. I was present and got it all on videotape. I quickly made that tape available to the university.
And it’s not just the University of California that has to deal with SJP. They have chapters on over 150 campuses across the country. Their tactics are the same. They help sponsor anti-Israel events and speakers and demonstrate and disrupt any pro-Israel events that come to campus. What makes it worse is that we are not talking about young hot heads who have yet to learn how to engage in discourse. Their tactics are planned and part of their strategy. That was revealed in 2014 when a document surfaced out of the SJP chapter at the State University in New York (SUNY ) at Binghamton. Disruption of Zionist events was included in their charter.
What we have here is an organization spread across the country engaged in tactics of disruption, bullying and intimidation against Jewish, pro-Israel students on campus. It is designed to silence any pro-Israel discourse. This is why I always refer to SJP as “brown shirts”. They are the successors of the Nazi SA of the 1920s and early 1930s. In my view, the activities of the SJP merit a RICO investigation by US federal law enforcement authorities. Not only are we dealing with childish and bullying behavior that keeps pro-Israel students from exercising their First Amendment right of free speech, this organization stretches across state lines, which should bring it to the FBI’s attention. Of course, there is also the little matter of SJP’s support for groups like Hamas and who SJP gets its funding from.
In the meantime, I feel the point has been reached where universities should ban SJP from their respective campuses. They are not interested in following the university code of civil discourse. They do not respect the free speech of others. They have engaged in bullying and intimidation of those Jewish students who are pro-Israel. Students for Justice in Palestine has no business being on any university campus.