Report: Students for Justice in Palestine Threatens Free Speech on Campus

SJP activists have applauded terrorists, engage in violence and intimidation

A Palestinian protester carries a burning tire during clashes with Israeli forces
A Palestinian protester carries a burning tire during clashes with Israeli forces / Getty Images
November 15, 2017

The anti-Israel national campus organization Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) is a terror-affiliated, anti-free speech organization endangering American campuses, according to a new report from a Jerusalem research institute.

Co-authored by Dan Diker and Jamie Berk of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, "SJP Unmasked" claims SJP "operates under mysterious auspices and receives monetary and material support from organizations and individuals connected to Palestinian terror groups and associates."

"Students for Justice in Palestine is a byproduct of American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), an organization whose leaders were former members and supporters of Palestinian and Islamist terror organization," according to the report. AMP was formed after several U.S.-based Muslim organizations dissolved between 2001 and 2011 following a federal case that found the groups had funneled money to Hamas, write Diker and Berk.

This reflects congressional testimony last year from Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who said the Hamas-linked AMP bankrolled the anti-Israel activism movement.

One AMP board member, Saleh Sarsour, served jail time in Israel for his Hamas activities, according to Schanzer. Sarsour used his Milwaukee, Wis., furniture store "to pass money to Adel Awadallah, the leader of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' armed wing," explains the JCPA report.

SJP activists have applauded terrorists and their methods, inviting terrorists to speak and lauding Palestinian murderers as "martyrs" on social media.

SJP at American University in Washington, D.C., organized a talk via Skype from Khader Adnan Mohammed Musa, a spokesperson for Islamic Jihad, a U.S. designated terrorist organization, notes the report. Additionally, activists at "Bowdoin College, Tufts University, Union Theological Seminary, Ryerson University, and Columbia University have expressed solidarity with Adnan on social media."

Before her deportation to Jordan, Rasmea Odeh was a popular figure on the campus circuit, finding strong supporters in SJP during her bid to fight the immigration fraud charges levied against her.

SJP activists have also reportedly engaged in violence and physical intimidation.

At Temple University in 2014, a man tabling for SJP "punched a student in the face and called him a 'kike' and 'baby-killer' for asking to discuss Israel," states the report. Jewish students have reported being assaulted, harassed and spat on by their SJP peers at Cornell, Loyola University in Chicago, and Stanford.

Diker told the Washington Free Beacon that it is not his intention with the report to attack individual characters, alluding to a tactic taken up by some pro-Israel activists in recent years to publicly name faculty and students who have made statements seen as anti-Semitic.

Instead, he said he worried that SJP's behavior constituted a threat to the character and safety of the American campus.

"SJP is engaging in intellectual tyranny, a terrorism of the mind," said Diker. "They threaten the principles of democracy in this country."

Khaled Abu Toameh, a Palestinian journalist on the West Bank and Gaza, said he used to speak on campuses, until repeated protests by SJP activists made him feel too unsafe to continue.

Abu Toameh described SJP activists as "divorced and disconnected from the realities on the ground."

"They want to be pro-Palestinian? What about opposing the arrests of journalists by both the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas? What about justice for Palestinians facing the persecution of corrupt leaders?" said Abu Toameh. "Try to help Palestinians, instead of just hating Israel. Stop blaming Israel for all my peoples' miseries."

In the report, Diker applauded Fordham University, where administrators last year denied students' application to create an official SJP club, citing concerns for student safety based on the behavior of existing SJP chapters. An ongoing suit brought by the students claims this constituted an infringement on their free speech rights.

Sarah McLaughlin, who wrote a letter in January for the libertarian Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) condemning the decision as inappropriately penalizing SJP because administrators disagreed with its "purpose and goals," told the Washington Free Beacon, "Students should not be punished based on the subjective offensiveness of their speech. There are very limited categories of speech, like true threats or defamation, that are rightfully not protected by the First Amendment."

Diker said his research has raised significant concerns about SJP's methods, but that he would welcome a genuine pro-Palestinian human rights organization.

"This is not an issue of taking away the free speech for SJP, but for taking back the free speech of others that SJP has kidnapped," said Diker.

The national arm of SJP did not respond to request for comment.