Skidmore College Reverses Course, Clears the Way for Pro-Israel Club

March 23, 2021

Skidmore College's student government granted a progressive, pro-Israel group a trial period after first declining to recognize the club for its "troublesome" perspective.

The Skidmore College Student Government Association denied Progressive Zionists for Peace's request for official club status on March 13, saying the group needed to clarify its mission statement and "gain more diverse perspectives." Student senator Sarah Baker said the "dialogue focused" group with "one perspective" could be "troublesome," according to a letter from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

The student government recently granted a trial period to Students for Justice in Palestine, a group known to pressure and intimidate Jewish students.

School administrators, student government leaders, and Progressive Zionists for Peace met on Friday to discuss the decision, which resulted in the student government's course reversal.

The Progressive Zionists for Peace's mission statement, according to its request for recognition, calls for creating "an environment that facilitates mutual understandings between Skidmore students with regards to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict." The group sought to educate students on "peaceful Zionism" and equip members to fight anti-Semitism.

Progressive Zionists for Peace president Nessa Goldhirsch Brown previously told the Washington Free Beacon that she did not believe the student government's denial of her club was rooted in anti-Semitism but rather in a lack of understanding of Zionism.

FIRE spokeswoman Katie Kortepeter told the Free Beacon that the group appreciates Skidmore's decision to grant Progressive Zionists for Peace a trial period.

"We applaud Skidmore's student government for ultimately reversing course and recognizing [Progressive Zionists for Peace] in a viewpoint-neutral manner," Kortepeter said. "We hope Skidmore's student government continues to comply with the college's commendable promises of freedom of expression as it considers other prospective organizations in the future."

Many university student governments have condemned Israel through Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions measures that target Israeli companies. Some Jewish students have faced harassment for standing up against those measures. One Jewish student government leader at Tufts University was threatened with impeachment after he opposed a measure that would have blamed Israel for militarizing police forces in the United States.