By Nora Barrows-Friedman,
Fueled by demands from Israel lobby groups, US students who are organizing against Israel’s genocidal attacks are facing accelerated repression by their own university administrations.
These McCarthyite efforts are being encouraged by the Biden administration.
But students and civil rights groups are fighting back.
🚨 BREAKING: We shut it down!
10 college students arrested at Congressional Hearing on Campus Freedom of Speech.
Dissenters, alongside SJP at Howard, SJP GWU & DC Young Communists League demand protection for pro-Palestinian activism and students of color on campus. pic.twitter.com/LTtAGd2FCf
— Dissenters 🌊 (@wearedissenters) November 8, 2023
20 Jewish students at Brown University with @jews4ceasefire are occupying Pres. Christina Paxton’s office demanding Brown do its part to promote an immediate ceasefire and a lasting peace by divesting its endowment from companies that enable war crimes in Gaza. pic.twitter.com/YaG1zuaMC9
— Cicia Lee (@cicialee_) November 8, 2023
SHUT 👏 IT 👏 ALL 👏 DOWN 👏 https://t.co/CKEKcLJQq0
— Palestine Legal (@pal_legal) November 8, 2023
Two weeks ago, the Anti-Defamation League and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law – two right-wing Israel lobby groups masquerading as civil rights organizations – sent notices to hundreds of US universities, urging them to punish students who are protesting Israel’s slaughter in Gaza and designate them as “terrorists.”
They are desperate. Pro-genocide Zionist hate group @ADL, headed by genocide supporter @JGreenblattADL, is trying to get US college students who advocate for Palestinian rights designated as "terrorists." https://t.co/w0Wfva8uav pic.twitter.com/Wrcmj7pPho
— Ali Abunimah is now on bluesky (@AliAbunimah) October 26, 2023
THREAD: Across the US, people advocating for Palestinian rights are facing a wave of McCarthyite backlash targeting their livelihoods and careers. In the last 2 weeks, Palestine Legal has responded to over 260 such incidents. Here’s what we’re seeing. 🧵
— Palestine Legal (@pal_legal) October 24, 2023
The two lobby groups demanded that administrations “immediately investigate” campus chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) for “potential violations of the prohibition against materially supporting a foreign terrorist organization.”
This defamatory and incendiary language was bolstered by the Biden administration’s spokesperson, Karine Jean-Pierre, who on 30 October equated anti-racist activists who protest Israel’s genocide in Gaza with violent white supremacists.
I mean what else do you say to this. Just completely libelous and gross pic.twitter.com/qPaOaD8NS0
— Adam Johnson (@adamjohnsonCHI) October 30, 2023
The Biden administration released plans to appease the ADL’s claims of “upticks” in anti-Jewish bigotry by partnering with law enforcement, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security “to track hate-related threats and provide federal resources to schools,” according to NBC News.
An unnamed White House official told NBC that “dozens of cybersecurity and protective security experts at DHS have been detailed to engage with schools as they navigate incredibly tense environments.”
An associate professor at the City University of New York tweeted on Wednesday that faculty were “just informed that Muslim students’ social media posts about the war are being surveilled by the college and have been reported to the NYPD.”
I am concerned about free speech on my campus. We were just informed that Muslim students' social media posts about the war are being surveilled by the college and have been reported to the NYPD. I don't know what to do yet but I will start by sharing this information here.
— Briallen Hopper (@briallenhopper) November 8, 2023
READ: Piece by @yasmeenaltaji featuring senior staff attorney @radhikasainath about the chilling effect of repression on campuses. Students remain resolute: “I’ve made it very clear, there’s nothing you can offer me to be quiet about genocide.” https://t.co/DrcAclcx5r
— Palestine Legal (@pal_legal) November 6, 2023
Circumventing the constitution
Way ahead of the Biden administration, Florida’s government had already begun employing such tactics of surveillance and punishment of students in the state.
On 24 October, the chancellor of the State University System of Florida released a memorandum “directing public universities in Florida to ‘deactivate’ chapters of National Students for Justice in Palestine on their campuses,” stated the civil rights group Palestine Legal.
“The memo is filled with erroneous factual and legal claims that seek to distract from, distort and silence the message of student activists across the United States the same way Israeli propaganda has sought to distract public attention from ongoing Israeli war crimes,” the group added.
Palestine Legal warned Florida legislators that the call to ban SJP chapters is a flagrant violation of the First Amendment and that “it will be challenged in court.”
The lawyers noted that Florida is attempting to circumvent constitutional rights by claiming that “language referring to ‘resistance’ and the statement that ‘Palestinian students in exile are PART of this movement, not in solidarity with this movement’ somehow makes National Students for Justice in Palestine or the independent student groups that share its name guilty of ‘support for terrorism’ under the law.”
This claim, on which the ADL and the Brandeis Center are also relying, has been used across the US as Islamophobia and anti-Arab bigotry remains unchallenged.
“Independent protests and organizing in support of Palestinian rights do not constitute ‘material support for terrorism,’” Palestine Legal stated.
A coalition of civil rights organizations have urged more than 650 US universities “to protect your students from the ongoing campaign to harass, defame, and silence supporters of Palestinian human rights.”
ACLU to 650 college and university leaders: Reject calls to investigate, disband, or penalize pro-Palestinian student groups for exercising their free speech rights. https://t.co/bow8O5lmlY pic.twitter.com/6ld8qEJRAc
— Jamil Dakwar (@jdakwar) November 1, 2023
Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights also demanded that the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights address rising Islamophobic and anti-Palestinian attacks.
The US Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, offered a both-sides approach, saying that he will ask Congress for more funding “so that we can make sure we’re expediting investigations against antisemitism or Islamophobia.”
When it comes to antisemitism or Islamophobia, that has no place on our college campuses or in our schools.https://t.co/Thd1eFl1dB
— Secretary Miguel Cardona (@SecCardona) November 7, 2023
The Biden Administration is scrambling to hold onto support from Arab and Muslim voters, which has slipped dramatically over Biden’s support for Israel’s war crimes.
Brandeis University bans SJP
However, universities seem to be heeding the Israel lobby’s call to crack down on student activism in defense of Palestinians.
On Tuesday, the Grayzone reported that David Friedman, the former ambassador to Israel under President Donald Trump, signed a letter to top New York University officials demanding that the university crack down on – and even prosecute – students who protest Israel’s attacks.
The Grayzone has obtained a letter signed by Trump’s rabidly pro-settler ex-ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, and sent to NYU leadership, demanding the school crack down on free speech to satisfy the Israeli government's interests
— The Grayzone (@TheGrayzoneNews) November 7, 2023
Brandeis University, meanwhile, revoked its recognition of its Students for Justice in Palestine chapter this week after students planned to hold a candlelight vigil for the ten thousand Palestinians killed in Israel’s month-long attacks.
Using a racist trope that equates support for Palestinians rights to a call for the death of Jews, the university falsely and libelously claimed that National SJP “has called on its chapters to engage in conduct that supports Hamas in its call for the violent elimination of Israel and the Jewish people.”
Brandeis just became the first private university to ban SJP – why? Because Zionism requires that calls for Palestinian dignity & liberation can only be seen as calls for the eradication of Jews.
Nonsense about chants was only ever meant to crush & punish dissent. pic.twitter.com/QcCB87ZFte
— Sana Saeed (@SanaSaeed) November 6, 2023
brandeis sjp just had their charter revoked because they planned to hold a vigil for the dead in palestine. and obscene and indefensible choice by the administration, which claims mourning is a “genuine threat” pic.twitter.com/nKp5CqoiAp
— sophia (@pastoralcomical) November 6, 2023
The ban on Students for Justice in Palestine by Brandeis University will reverberate well outside the US, and will be closely followed in the Middle East. Usually, Europe is behind the US on issues of freedom of speech (which is never absolute, here or there). SJP should sue.
— asad abukhalil أسعد أبو خليل (@asadabukhalil) November 7, 2023
National SJP, for its part, has amplified voices of student activists and called out the mass “campaign of lies … fueled by Islamophobic and anti-Arab tropes, used to generate manufactured consent for the obliteration of an entire people by the Zionist project and the US empire.”
Disclaimer: We at Prepare for Change (PFC) bring you information that is not offered by the mainstream news, and therefore may seem controversial. The opinions, views, statements, and/or information we present are not necessarily promoted, endorsed, espoused, or agreed to by Prepare for Change, its leadership Council, members, those who work with PFC, or those who read its content. However, they are hopefully provocative. Please use discernment! Use logical thinking, your own intuition and your own connection with Source, Spirit and Natural Laws to help you determine what is true and what is not. By sharing information and seeding dialogue, it is our goal to raise consciousness and awareness of higher truths to free us from enslavement of the matrix in this material realm.