By: Jeff Seidel
It is well known that pro-Israel university groups have not been able to get their message across on campus, especially when in a constant battle with the anti-Israel university groups. The main one being Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). SJP’s tactics on campus are well documented by pro-Israel groups like CAMERA, StandWithUs, and Hasbara Fellowships. While SJP tries to use their extreme narrative on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to “relate their oppression” to other minority organizations, Jewish students should have the advantage. Our history and narrative has many more commonalities with these disenfranchised groups, it is the SJP and their allies that prevent these connections and ultimately denies Jewish students their social justice.
While most universities have SJP on campus, Jewish students generally in the northeast and west coast of America feel their influence the most. Universities like California Berkeley, UCLA, Columbia, and Northeastern are the usual hotspots and often in the news for Israel apartheid walls, events by anti-Israel speakers, and strong amounts of tension between SJP and the Jewish and/or pro-Israel groups. Over this past year SJP has become stronger in the MidWest; looking at Kent State University, the situation has become unhinged.
Kent State’s SJP members are unabashedly against Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel, and apparently also against personal space. In one recent case, while Kent State’s Hillel was tabling for Taglit-Birthright (the free trip to Israel) as well as the Jewish holiday of Tu BiShvat, members of Students for Justice in Palestine approached their table just to started yelling slurs against Jews and against Israel. Racist rhetoric like “Jews have no homeland” was chanted. Incidents against pro-Israel students are common, targeting Jewish students is as well.
Another reported incident of SJP members occurred when members had spotted pro-Israel leader on campus, despite the fact he was on his own private time, they proceeded to stalk him to the building he was attending. Should we in the Jewish community be hiring bodyguards to protect our students fighting for the rights of the Jewish people? Even at non-university events like Chicago’s Pride parade, Jewish students who came in support were shunned from participating after fellow protestors saw their pride flag with a Star of David on it. While, they were marching as fellow protestors, members of Kent State’s SJP took to Twitter to applaud the protestors who turned gay pro-Israel students away from the parade.
Sadly, discrimination against pro-Israel students is common, the Students for Justice in Palestine publishes a plethora of anti-Israel articles written in the public school newspaper, Kent State’s pro-Israel activists like Lilly Romond have their articles rejected when they try to write rebuttals, challenging the falsities of their narrative. One article in particular was why Gal Gadot should not be permitted to play “Wonder Woman” due to the fact that she is an Israeli and a Zionist. According to Lilly, this was just one obvious case of anti-Israel bias by a core institution of free speech at Kent State University. This is at the fault of the university; if the student editors are unwilling to publish articles by pro-Israel students, the university should press the issue to make them.
At Kent State, Hillel is one of Students for Justice in Palestine’s big targets, this is in addition to the campus’ Students Supporting Israel. Students Supporting Israel (SSI), an international pro-Israel student organization that supports Israel as a Jewish Democratic nation-state. As the founder of SSI Columbia University Rudy Rochman commonly says: “I judge a campus not by how strong the anti-Israel movement is, but by how weak the pro-Israel movement has been.”
In most cases, the Kent State University administration has refused to investigate incidents further, categorizing any disruptive action by a SJP member as “freedom of speech”. If the KSU administration continues to deny the relevance and possible escalation of Students for Justice in Palestine’s incidents, they could be playing with fire. They should be investigating any on-campus disturbance and take action against the crowd in the wrong. Kent State’s Students for Justice in Palestine bullies pro-Israel students, stalks them on campus, and does not miss a chance to confront an event.
American Universities are supposed to represent a country that values freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, for the administration at Kent State to allow the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) to continue their destructive and in some cases criminal tactics on campus is discrimination. It must not be tolerated. Though the pro-Israel group’s fight has continued despite the actions of the radicals in Kent State’s SJP. This is the time to push the administration into acting, I wish the pro-Israel groups at Kent State University and at all universities strength in their battle against the anti-Israel forces, especially as Passover, Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron, and Yom Haatzmaut are coming up.