Yale Law School Students Protest Presence of IDF Soldier on Campus

The school's chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine says the 'platforming of an IDF combatant' makes members feel 'psychologically unsafe and unwelcome in our own school'

Anti-Israel protesters at Yale University (@NYSSofficial, X/Twitter)
February 5, 2024

Yale Law School's chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, the group that celebrated the murder of 1,200 Israelis on Oct. 7 and praised the architects of the attack as "martyrs," is calling on the school to cancel an event with a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, arguing that his presence on campus will make students unsafe.

"We implore the administration to take seriously the implications of this militarization of campus," Yale Law Students for Justice in Palestine wrote in a Feb. 1 Instagram post. "The platforming of an IDF combatant recently returned from Israel's atrocities in Gaza makes many of us—especially Palestinian Arab, Muslim, Black, and brown students—feel physically and psychologically unsafe and unwelcome in our own school."

The demand to cancel the event, which is scheduled for Monday evening, comes weeks after the same group called on Yale to "protect free speech." It's part of a larger campaign to vilify the Jewish state and keep IDF soldiers off the law school's campus, where some students responded to the Oct. 7 attacks by defending Hamas and mocking Jewish students who condemned the violence.

In anticipation of Monday's event, which was organized by Law Students for Israel, activists plastered the law school with signs saying "NO IDF ON CAMPUS." A few signs contain additional slogans, from "ANTIZIONISM ≠ ANTISEMITISM" to "WAR CRIMINALS AREN'T WELCOME," that reflect the rhetoric of the national Students for Justice in Palestine organization, which has been behind some of the most disruptive protests on university campuses since the Israel-Hamas war began.

Rutgers suspended its chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine after the group allegedly vandalized school property. Columbia did the same after its chapter held an unauthorized protest that involved "threatening rhetoric and intimidation," per a statement from university officials.

Several branches, including the national organization, have also glorified the paraglider—used by Hamas to invade Israel by air and massacre partygoers at the Re'im music festival—as a symbol of Palestinian "resistance." Others say they reject the distinction between "civilian" and "militant" and support resistance "by any means necessary."

The chapter at Yale Law School appears to deny that Hamas is a terror group. Characterizing the war in Gaza as a fight against "terrorist organizations," it wrote on Instagram, "is not only factually incorrect but relies on dangerous Islamophobic and racist tropes."

Though Yale Law Students for Justice in Palestine does not publicly disclose the names of its members, Rosalyn Leban, a third-year law student, has sent emails to an all-student listserv advertising the group's programming—including a lunch event about the "Israeli army's genocide in Gaza."

"Please wear your mask when you are not eating," the event description read.

Leban, who did not respond to a request for comment, is "interested in exploring the impacts of capitalism and environmental racism on immigrant communities, indigenous communities, and communities of color," according to her bio on the law school's website. She has written about the "impenetrable digital border" facing migrants to the United States and, according to her LinkedIn, directs the "Mental Health Justice Clinic" at Yale Law School.

Yale Law Students for Justice in Palestine did not respond to a request for comment.

The controversy comes after the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the United Nations' top legal body, ruled that Israel's actions in Gaza could amount to genocide and allowed South Africa, which sued Israel in December, to proceed with its case against the Jewish state. Yale Law Students for Justice in Palestine cited that verdict to argue that IDF troops should be barred from campus.

"We consider the law school allowing an event with an IDF combatant, particularly in the aftermath of the ICJ ruling, and with no oversight of the contents of his speech, to be an inconsistent application of the law school's norms of free expression with actually dangerous implications for campus safety," the group wrote.

Law Students for Justice in Palestine also accused Yale Law School of having a "pro-Israel ideological bias." Last year, the law school's Schell Center for Human Rights resisted hosting an event on the Oct. 7 massacre, telling a Jewish student that the situation was "complex."