- During the 2020-2021 academic year, much of the anti-Israel activist movement on campus continued to vilify Israel and Zionism and ostracize pro-Israel and Zionist students. This action disproportionately impacts large percentages of Jewish students, for whom a connection with Israel is an integral component of their religious, social, or cultural lives and identities. Many Jewish students reported feeling compelled to hide aspects of their identities.
- The campus anti-Israel movement’s rhetoric and actions span from legitimate criticism of Israeli government policies to expressions of antisemitism from some activists. Anti-Israel rhetoric that veers into antisemitism may include: invoking classic antisemitic tropes; denigrating Zionism as inherently racist; and demeaning pro-Israel students for their identities and/or calling for their exclusion from campus spaces.
- The campus anti-Israel movement is led by student groups and some professors. Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) continue to be two of the most influential anti-Israel campus groups, allied often with likeminded organizations such as Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA), Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM) and American Muslims for Palestine (AMP).
- One of the most common strategies of anti-Israel activists in 2020-2021 was to promote the view that any expression of a connection with or support for Israel is racist, thereby implicitly painting many Jewish students as being complicit in the alleged misdeeds of the Israeli government. Another tactic used by anti-Israel activists, many of whom are not Jewish, was to loudly insist that Zionism and support for Israel cannot be a part of Judaism, despite that for many Jewish students these are integral components of their Jewish identities.
- Some of the most strident anti-Israel activists also called for Israel to be dismantled or denied its right to exist; expressed support for violent resistance to Israel; and called for Zionists and pro-Israel students to be excluded from campus life.
- Calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel continue to be a cornerstone of anti-Israel campus activity. Student governments considered 17 BDS-inspired calls in 2020-2021. Eleven of them passed. BDS resolutions and related initiatives during the 2020-2021 academic year at times contained blatant misinformation or language intimating support for violence against Israel.
- The conflict between Israel and Hamas in May 2021 was a flashpoint for anti-Israel activism on campus. During and after Israel’s violent conflict with Hamas that month, campus anti-Israel groups and activists engaged in anti-Israel activity and inflammatory rhetoric at the highest rate in recent memory.
- While the COVID-19 pandemic forced most anti-Israel activity online, the movement’s organizing did not appear to falter.
- The Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) renewed its giving to JVP in Summer 2021; WESPAC (Westchester Peace Action Committee) Foundation continues to be the fiscal sponsor for SJP. RBF continues to fund other groups that engage in inflammatory rhetoric on Israel; WESPAC continues to propagate such rhetoric.
Background: The anti-Israel movement on U.S. campuses
Over the past few decades and through the 2020-2021 academic year, a small but vocal segment of U.S. student groups and faculty have espoused anti-Israel views on U.S. campuses. This reflects a stance among some parts of the left which alleges that Israeli human rights violations against the Palestinians, or at times the very existence of Israel, are representative of the worst of global systemic injustices.
The rhetoric and activity of the anti-Israel movement on U.S. campuses continues to span the spectrum from legitimate critiques of Israeli government policies to expressions of antisemitism by some activists. In a number of instances, Jewish students report feeling attacked and, in some cases, compelled to hide their Jewish identities.
Anti-Israel animus may be manifested in various ways, including: calling for the end of Israel’s existence as a Jewish state; accusing Israel of committing genocide or ethnic cleansing; labelling Israel an “apartheid state;” calling for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel; supporting violence or a military confrontation with Israel; and opposition to Zionism and Zionists. Zionism may be broadly defined as the movement for Jewish statehood in the Jewish people’s historic homeland.
Rhetoric may become antisemitic when classic tropes are espoused, such as those relating to “dual loyalty” or Jewish/Zionist power over a country’s policies; when Zionism is denigrated as inherently racist; or when pro-Israel and Zionist students are ostracized and demeaned as “white supremacists” or otherwise unfit for participation in the campus community. A majority of American Jews feel attached to Israel or view a relationship with Israel to be a part of their Jewish identities.
During the 2020-2021 academic year, many campus anti-Israel groups and faculty continued to eschew the idea that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a tragic dispute between two legitimate national movements with competing claims for the same small piece of land. Instead, Israel is viewed solely through a condemnatory lens, and its creation and existence as a Jewish state is demeaned as a cut-and-dry case of settler-colonialism. Oftentimes, Israelis are seen as little more than white European colonists engaged in the physical erasure of Palestinians from their land, perpetuating an apartheid regime. Comparisons are made to apartheid South Africa or Algeria under French colonial rule. Zionism is labelled as inherently racist.
Accordingly, much of the anti-Israel movement on campus continues to reject the “two-states for two peoples” solution, which would lead to the creation of a Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state of Israel as part of a mutually negotiated final status peace agreement. Instead, they often advocate for one democratic state in the region for all people regardless of religion or ethnicity—but one that rejects Zionism and the legitimacy of a Jewish state. A minority of anti-Israel advocates go even further and call for some Jewish Israelis to leave the country altogether. In tandem, activists often deny that the Jewish people are indigenous to the land of Israel (just as Palestinians are also indigenous).
Continuing a historic trend, in 2020-2021 a segment of campus anti-Israel groups and activists engaged in rhetoric that incorporated antisemitic tropes, including those related to alleged Jewish power and control over the media or political affairs. While major anti-Israel groups state their opposition to antisemitism on their websites, they repeatedly appear unaware, ambivalent or defiant when their own rhetoric about Israel and Zionism becomes offensive or plays into antisemitic themes. More often, they deny that it is even possible for anti-Israel or anti-Zionist rhetoric to be antisemitic. While only a minority of anti-Israel activity on campus explicitly references antisemitic tropes, the large volume of anti-Israel activity ensures many Jewish students will encounter bigotry.
In addition to the use of antisemitic tropes and themes, anti-Israel rhetoric can become antisemitic when opposition to Zionism turns into the active maligning, exclusion and denigration of Zionism and Zionists. During the 2020-2021 academic year such a pattern was evident, in particular during the May 2021 Israel-Hamas conflagration. Viewing Zionists as inherently nefarious and undeserving of certain rights can lead to many Jewish students feeling isolated and under siege. Moreover, the vitriol aimed at Jews who support Israel’s existence is rarely matched with energy targeting non-Jews, most of whom also recognize and support Israel’s existence.
Criticism and debate over the policies of the State of Israel—like criticism of any country—is part of a healthy campus ecosystem. The First Amendment protects the right to boycott, as well as to engage in harsh and divisive rhetoric. Yet, students and faculty of all political stripes can do their best to engage in healthy and respectful dialogue.
MAIN CAMPUS ANTI-ISRAEL GROUPS
Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) is the most active anti-Israel group on campus in the United States, consisting of a network of approximately 180 chapters across the country mostly concentrated in the Northeast, Midwest and California (20 or so chapters are based in Canada). The group organizes lectures and rallies; disseminates propaganda via its social media accounts and campus newspapers; organizes anti-Israel BDS resolutions and petitions on campuses and more. A significant segment of SJP’s rhetoric is combative and inflammatory, and some incorporates antisemitic tropes. Historically, SJP’s trademark controversial actions have included constructing mock “apartheid walls” and distributing fake “eviction notices” across campuses in attempt to mimic Israeli actions toward Palestinians, though these tactics have essentially been abandoned during the pandemic.
In 2020, the umbrella National SJP made concerted efforts at greater cohesion and organizing. In public announcements, the group expressed its desire for individual chapters to coordinate to a greater degree in pursuit of their strategic goals. It is unclear to what extent this has occurred.
Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) is a radical anti-Israel activist group whose campus chapters work closely with SJP in organizing some of the activities outlined above. JVP strenuously advocates for a Jewish future and a Judaism in which Zionism has been eradicated. They view it as unacceptable that fellow Jews identify with Zionism, which they see as racist and a form of “Jewish supremacy.” Such an approach dovetails with SJP’s extreme anti-normalization views, and campus JVP chapters often partner with the group on a variety of initiatives. Several of the more radical members of JVP espouse rhetoric that peddles antisemitic tropes including language about inherent Zionist greed or nefarious control over political developments. Like SJP, the group ignores the full range of Zionist identities and often equates the mildest expressions of support for Israel with the furthest fringes of hardline Zionist expansionism. JVP activists often claim to be the voice of or represent the Jewish community during campus hearings on anti-Israel resolutions.
The Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM), a likeminded Palestinian nationalist activist group overwhelmingly composed of younger people, also has a considerable presence on campus and often organizes and partners with SJP and JVP. The group is strident in its rejection of a two-state solution under any circumstances and often engages in inflammatory rhetoric.
American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) is a Chicago-based anti-Israel and anti-Zionist activist organization that works both in the general community and on college campuses. Established in 2005 by University of California, Berkeley, lecturer (and current AMP National Chairman) Hatem Bazian, AMP has seven chapters across the country. Some of the group’s activism includes policy-focused pro-Palestine work, including organizing in support of Rep. Betty McCollum’s HR 2590, which would limit how Israel can spend American aid. However, left unchecked is a pattern of rhetoric from some of the group’s top leadership that promotes the denigration of Zionists and classic antisemitic tropes including those related to the role of Jews in politics.
AMP’s organizational roots lie in the now-defunct Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP), which was once described by the U.S. government as functioning to “disseminate[d] information/propaganda” for Hamas. Though IAP officially dissolved in 2004, many of its leaders continued their activism with AMP, including Rafeeq Jaber, Abdelbaset Hamayel, Kifah Mustapha, Osama Abuirshaid (current AMP Executive Director), Nihad Awad (current Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations) and Raed Tayeh. IAP was never charged with wrongdoing.
Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA), the youth wing of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), has played an increasingly active role in the anti-Israel movement on campuses in recent years. DSA officially endorsed BDS in 2016, and some YDSA activists on campus are also SJP or JVP members. While YDSA does not reject a two-state solution to the conflict, its anti-Israel activism on campus only rarely entertains such an outcome.
Largely due to concerted efforts by both SJP and JVP to form allyships with other groups considered part of the political left-wing, student organizations dedicated to addressing other prominent social justice issues, such as climate change, police brutality and income inequality, often actively support anti-Israel initiatives. These partnerships give anti-Israel activity increased exposure across campuses and likely help to corral support for anti-Israel resolutions considered by student governments and student bodies.
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Resolutions
Support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel continues to be a central feature of the campus anti-Israel movement. The official BDS movement has three core demands: an end to Israel’s occupation and the dismantling of its security fence, full equality for Israel’s Arab-Palestinian citizens, and the right of return for Palestinian refugees. Campus BDS campaigns often go beyond these demands and incorporate language accusing Israel of perpetrating ethnic cleansing, genocide, apartheid and more.
Other elements of the official BDS movement include an economic boycott, which targets Israeli companies that they claim contribute to alleged human rights violations against Palestinians; an academic boycott, which prohibits exchanges with Israeli educational institutions and affiliated academics; and a cultural boycott, which targets Israeli “cultural institutions,” such as Israeli artists and performers (as well as calling for cultural figures to not perform or appear in Israel). The BDS movement also includes “lobby groups” and those they allege to be “complicit” in Israeli government activity in this category.
Student governments considered 17 BDS-inspired calls in 2020-2021. Eleven of them passed. A number of BDS resolutions called on their universities to sever ties, usually through endowments or other investments, with companies that provide services or equipment to the Israeli military. To date, none of these universities have divested from these companies, and in many cases, the university president directly condemned BDS and the resolution.
Three of the BDS resolutions or student-run outfits sponsoring them veered into troubling rhetoric in 2020-2021, including:
- At Pomona College in April 2021, a BDS resolution passed by the student government would have forced Jewish and pro-Israel student groups to pledge support for BDS before being eligible for university funding. After public outcry, including a letter from Pomona College President Gabrielle Star imploring the student government to reconsider, the student government passed a revised BDS resolution without the language of concern in the beginning of May.
- A BDS resolution spearheaded by SJP University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and passed by its student government in September 2020 claimed that Israel had a policy effectively barring non-Jews from public parks: “Caterpillar Inc. … is building parks [in Israel’s Negev region] … that would only be accessible to nearby Jewish settlements.” They provide a citation to a short article by a Christian Zionist group that does not substantiate their allegation. This put opponents of the resolution seemingly on the side of blatantly racist segregation.
- The website of Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD), the group that organized and was referenced in the text of a BDS referendum that passed in September 2020 at Columbia University, expresses support for “armed struggle.” It venerates Rasmea Odeh, who was convicted in an Israeli court in 1970 for her alleged involvement in a 1969 supermarket bombing that killed college students Leon Kanner and Eddie Joffe:
- “…we honor the call of Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian campaigner and activist who has fought tirelessly for the rights of Palestinian women. …We honor the Palestinian women who took up armed struggle against Zionist forces after al-Nakba.”
The Cultural Boycott and Anti-Normalization
Promoting boycotts, divestment and sanctions against any country is properly protected by the First Amendment. Yet the implementation of the official BDS Movement’s cultural boycott guidelines, which call for the shunning of “activities that involve Israel, its lobby groups and complicit institutions or that whitewash Israel’s human rights violations,” has had an inordinately large impact on the Jewish community, as pro-BDS groups often consider most American Jewish organizations “lobby groups” or “complicit institutions” and deserving of a boycott. A similar impact has been seen from the implementation of the BDS Movement’s anti-normalization guidelines, which label as “intellectually dishonest and morally reprehensible” any event “involving Palestinians and/or other Arabs on one side and Israelis on the other (whether bi- or multi- lateral) that are based on the false premise of symmetry/parity between the oppressors and the oppressed or that assume that both colonizers and colonized are equally responsible for the ‘conflict.’”
In May 2021, for example, SJP co-founder and University of California, Berkeley lecturer Hatem Bazian signed and promoted on Facebook a collective statement (entitled “Palestine Statement of Principles for American Muslim Leaders and Communities”) that reads: “We renounce the use of interfaith dialogue and engagement as a trojan horse to normalize Zionism and Israel while building relations with Zionist organizations, like…JCRC [Jewish Community Relations Council] …” There are more than 100 JCRCs across the United States representing the mainstream American Jewish community.
Hillel, the most prominent campus Jewish student organization in the United States, may also be included in the BDS call. A 2018 Arabic-language article on the BDS Movement’s official website describes Hillel as “considered…complicit in promoting the regime of racial segregation and Israeli colonial settlement and protecting it from accountability.” While National SJP and JVP do not appear to have an official policy of calling for a Hillel boycott, over the years individual activists or SJP chapters have done so:
- September 2020: An American University graduate student who was formerly an SJP leader at Butler University published a piece in the anti-Zionist Electronic Intifada stating that “Zionism should have no place or standing in such organizations on college campuses. Zionist organizations like Hillel only perpetuate narrow-minded thinking and reinforce racism.”
- In 2019, University of Washington’s SJP affiliate complained of Hillel’s participation in in a Middle East cultural event, writing that “the very presence of Hillel and the representation of a violent settler colonial state is both political and unquestionably neither ‘family-friendly’ nor safe for Palestinian students.” (The university ensured that Hillel was able to participate.)
- May 2017: Stony Brook University SJP condemned a Muslim Students Association (MSA) event with “Zionist Hillel,” opining that “Zionism should not be on campus and should not be mixed in with Judaism in the interfaith community.”
The BDS Movement’s anti-normalization guidelines requiring Israelis to see themselves as oppressors and colonizers as a precondition for engagement likewise shuts out most of the Jewish community. This type of anti-normalization sentiment was evidenced by BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti during a March 31, 2021 webinar, when (like in the statement signed by Bazian) he invoked interfaith dialogue: “any interfaith dialogue that is used to whitewash war crimes, crimes against humanity and an apartheid regime” should be rejected. Whatever his intent, such a remark seems to imply that organizations and individuals who support Israel should not be allowed to participate in interfaith dialogue. Notwithstanding recent polling showing a quarter of American Jews agreeing with the view that Israel practices apartheid, an overwhelming majority continues to oppose it.
Both Barghouti’s sentiment and the themes in the statement signed by Bazian were reflected by pro-BDS campus groups during the 2020-2021 academic year. In April 2021, an Instagram post by SJP at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champagne with the heading “SJP UIUC rejects normalization” stated complete opposition to dialogue with Zionists: “A fundamental part of being a Zionist is not recognizing and supporting Palestinian human rights, which is why there is no fair and equal ‘dialogue’ to be had with Zionists.”
Historically, pro-BDS campus groups such as SJP and JVP have also engaged in the heckling and interruption of campus speakers deemed pro-Israel or Zionist. One notable example occurred at University of California, Irvine, in 2010 when students shouted at then-Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, refusing to let him speak. Students involved in the incident were escorted out of the room and arrested. In other instances, anti-Israel student activists have staged walkouts or gone so far as to approach the speaker’s podium to stage their disruption. During the 2020-2021 academic year, this was all but halted due to virtual learning during the pandemic. Zoombombing by student activists occurred on only rare occasions.
RHETORIC ON ZIONISM AND ZIONISTS
Zionism, broadly defined as the movement for Jewish statehood in the Jewish people’s historic homeland, is almost universally opposed by anti-Israel student groups.
Yet this opposition at times takes the form of active denigration and demeaning of Zionism and Zionists, with activists alleging that Zionism is an inherently bigoted ideology. Such rhetoric ignores that there are various schools of thought within Zionism, spanning the left-right political spectrum. Moreover, Zionism has broad support from different ethnic communities in Israel and around the world. It has helped establish an ethnically diverse, democratic state in which basic rights are protected and which shares a vision of equality and justice for all.
In a number of instances in 2020-2021, excessively stringent, incendiary or antisemitic language was espoused by anti-Israel campus groups in addressing Zionism or Zionists on campus. Such rhetoric often insinuated that the presence of Zionists and Zionism on campus is unacceptable. This illiberal and exclusionary language can have the effect of making many Jewish students feel attacked for their identities.
- A zine (electronic activism-focused pamphlet for students) published by Tufts SJP in November 2020 denigrated both Zionists and Jews by name, insinuating that Zionists do not genuinely support freedom for all people and that Jews are taught from childhood to endorse “settler-colonial practices:”
- In December 2020, SJP at University of Illinois, Chicago posted a meme on their Instagram account that actively encouraged the shaming of Zionists by calling them “colonizer,” “racist,” telling them to “go back to Brooklyn” and more. Advocating for fellow students to “go back to Brooklyn” is unconscionable, and the idea that Zionists are from Brooklyn plays into an antisemitic trope:
- February 28, 2021: The National SJP Conference featured U.S. Palestinian Community Network’s Nesreen Hasan, who remarked that “liberal Zionists” do not have a place in social justice spaces, alleging they do not support Palestinian rights.
- March 2021: SJP at University of Illinois-Chicago posted a message on Instagram that appears to insinuate that Zionism is the core cause of all Islamophobia.
- Nov. 18, 2020: On Facebook, SJP at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne (SJP UIUC) called for pro-Israel students to be excluded from racial justice organizing, claiming that white supremacy and racism is inherent to pro-Israel advocacy. Responding to the university’s call for Zionists to be allowed in social justice spaces, SJP stated:
- “they [UIUC administration] fail to mention that as Zionists, they actively advocate for white supremacy and racism, effectively excluding them from all anti-racist organizing.”
- July 7, 2020: Florida State University’s SJP tweeted “Zionism is racism,” a slogan often heard in anti-Israel circles.
- In December 2020, JWeekly reported that University of California, Merced Professor Abbas Ghassemi had made a series of posts on social media that espoused a litany of antisemitic tropes, including those related to money, greed, power, finance and media. After Ghassemi’s posts were exposed, he deleted his Twitter account and the university opened an investigation, announcing that Ghassemi would not teach during the Spring 2021 semester. Ghassemi is not known to have associated with any campus anti-Israel groups. As of July 2021, it is unclear whether Ghassemi will continue teaching at UC Merced. His offending posts included:
- June 14, 2020: An image of “The Zionist Brain” descends into many of the most well-known antisemitic tropes related to finance, global power, greed, exploitation, thievery and deception:
- December 8, 2020: After President Biden’s election victory, Ghassemi tweeted: “Surprise, surprise!! The entire system in America is controlled by [the] Zionist. Change of president is just a surface polish, change of veneer. Same trash different pile!”
- December 13, 2020: Ghassemi commented: “the Zionists and IsraHell interest have embedded themselves in every component of the American system, media, banking, policy, commerce … just a veneer of serving US interest and population — everyone pretends that is the case.”
- In June 2020, the senior class president at Pomona College shared blatantly antisemitic comments on social media that referred to “zionist-israel-birthright-vacation-stuck-oncomparing-holocaust-to-racism-WW2-worshipping bitches.” She later apologized. A spokesperson for the college condemned the incident in a statement.
JVP, SJP, PYM, DSA and AMP have each officially expressed their opposition to Zionism, at times employing divisive or inflammatory language:
- Jewish Voice for Peace: In early 2019 JVP released a statement on Zionism reading, in part:
- “Jewish Voice for Peace is guided by a vision of justice, equality and freedom for all people. We unequivocally oppose Zionism because it is counter to those ideals … we have come to see that Zionism was a false and failed answer to the desperately real question many of our ancestors faced of how to protect Jewish lives from murderous antisemitism in Europe. … While it had many strains historically, the Zionism that took hold and stands today is a settler-colonial movement, establishing an apartheid state where Jews have more rights than others. Our own history teaches us how dangerous this can be.”
- Students for Justice in Palestine has expressed its anti-Zionist stance since it was founded in the 1990s. A document announcing National SJP’s 2018 annual conference encapsulates the group’s current approach. It veers into inflammatory rhetoric, suggesting that it is impossible for Zionists to be anything but cruel and destructive to Palestinians:
- “Zionism is perverse in all aspects of Palestinian life and aims to destroy Palestinian existence and culture…. We know that Zionism is ethnic cleansing, destruction, mass expulsion, apartheid, and death… Zionism is a human ideology and a set of laws that have been challenged and can be destroyed.”
- The Palestinian Youth Movement, in various pages across its website, expresses rigid opposition to Zionism that at times flirts with antisemitic tropes about global political conspiracies:
- “We understand the consequences of Zionism across the region and believe it is centrally tied to the suffering of the Arab masses by repressive regimes, including Syria.”
- “It is the obligation of Palestinians worldwide to raise our banner and confront Zionism…”
- “‘Zionism’ is of such toxicity…”
- “We recognize that poverty, dictatorship, repression, sectarianism, civil war and state violence in the Arab countries is directly an outcome of Zionism and its goal to destabilize the region.”
- “our conviction in our pending triumph as Palestinians: the overthrow of Zionism…”
- YDSA: In February 2020, YDSA’s parent organization, Democratic Socialists of America, endorsed a statement containing a passage that casts Zionism as immutably at odds with the rights of others, especially Palestinians:
- “Zionism, the political ideology that drives Israel’s oppression of Palestinians is a form of supremacy and is inherently anti-Palestinian.”
- American Muslims for Palestine: AMP is a fierce opponent of any form of Zionism. They have stated their belief that Zionism is an inherently discriminatory ideology and is “synonymous…with policies against the Palestinian people.” As a page on its website states, “political Zionism is a racist ideology that has at its core the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.”
To varying degrees, the above statements go beyond simple opposition to Zionism and into its demonization. Anti-Israel groups tend to either ignore or fail to seriously consider that those who embrace Zionism or Israel are far from a political monolith and include everything from anti-occupation activists to supporters of settlements in the West Bank. By actively excluding all of them, they actively exclude most of the Jewish community.
Personal attacks or campaigns against Jewish Zionist students
In its most extreme and troubling manifestations, calls are made for individual Zionist and pro-Israel students to be barred from campus spaces, including, at times, from student government. Such calls almost always target Jewish students despite many non-Jews who also identify as Zionist or pro-Israel. ADL reported on this trend in its 2019 campus report, and it has continued since.
In 2020-2021, Jewish members of student governments on at least two campuses faced personal harassment and exclusionary calls because of their expressions of support for Israel and Zionism. In one instance, harassment led to the student leader’s resignation.
- In February 2021, Tufts University student judiciary member Max Price faced harassment from some SJP members and student government officials for his pro-Israel views and identification with Zionism, with SJP petitioning for Price to recuse himself from fulfilling his duties helping to oversee an anti-Israel student referendum, citing his involvement with a campus pro-Israel group.
- In an official complaint to the Tufts Senate, Tufts SJP alleged that Price “has a conflict of interest as the Tufts Friends of Israel E-Board President.”
- In a personal statement, Price reflected that in a November meeting, “…other student government leaders grilled me for over an hour about whether my personal beliefs and Jewish and Zionist identities impact my ability to serve on the TCUJ [Tufts student judiciary] on this issue. I was explicitly asked if being co-president of Tufts Friends of Israel—the sole Zionist student club on campus—rendered me too biased to participate in this process. The undercurrent of nearly every question was whether my Zionist beliefs, which are a central expression of my Jewish identity, disqualified me from serving on student government.”
- On August 5, 2020, University of Southern California (USC) student government vice president Rose Ritch resigned from her position, stating in her resignation letter that “…because I also openly identify as a Zionist, a supporter of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, I have been accused by a group of students of being unsuitable as a student leader. I have been told that my support for Israel has made me complicit in racism, and that, by association, I am racist. Students launched an aggressive social media campaign to ‘impeach [my] Zionist a**.’”
- On August 10, SJP USC responded to her resignation with a statement emphasizing their view that an identification with Zionism makes one inherently unqualified for a student leadership position: “SJP seeks to hold representatives of our institution at all levels accountable for their beliefs. In the conversation of accountability, Students for Justice in Palestine plays a central role in countering narratives that deny and erase this history of Palestinians’ struggle for dignity, human rights and liberation. Zionism in its present-day incarnation is one such narrative…SJP rejects the claim that Zionism is an inherent part of Judaism.”
- Examples of social media harassment directed at Ritch based on her identification as a Zionist included: