University of Chicago Considered Aggressive Response to 'Watch Lists' of Anti-Israel Students

Pro-Israel groups distributed lists naming students involved in anti-Israel, anti-Semitic activities on campus

Anti-Israeli protesters march past the White House on Jan. 19, 2013 in Washington, D.C.
Anti-Israeli protesters march past the White House on Jan. 19, 2013 in Washington, D.C. / Getty Images
August 14, 2017

University of Chicago administrators considered an aggressive response to "watch lists" of anti-Israel students posted online and in flyers distributed on campus by pro-Israel groups, according to a recently released memo.

After students demanded the university take action on their behalf against the David Horowitz Freedom Center and anonymous website Canary Mission—both of which aim to document anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity by U.S. students, and publicly name individuals who engage in such activities—administrators weighed the "pros and cons" of engaging directly with the organizations, according to student paper the Chicago Maroon.

Those named by Canary Mission and the Horowitz Center included students associated with Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the Muslim Students Association, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), and boycott, divestment, and sanctions coalition UofC Divest.

The presence of SJP on campus has been correlated with increased anti-Semitism at that campus, according to at least three studies. Jewish Voice for Peace, a far-left organization, honored at their 2017 national conference a convicted Palestinian terrorist and boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) activist Linda Sarsour.

According to the memo, students have claimed that the exposure of their comments and activities regarding Israel have put their "reputational and employment prospects … at stake and that they are at risk of becoming targets of intimidation and harassment."

University administrators noted in the document that it considered condemning the specific groups behind the lists by name in official statements, requesting that students' information be removed from the websites, and offering students legal and technical advice on how to scrub their social media profiles.

Canary Mission told the Washington Free Beacon that the students have set up a "double standard," in which "they seek to perpetuate their brand of bully-tactics, incitement and bigotry, while at the same time they seek immunity from being exposed for their divisive actions."

"We find [the students'] complaints that they are being unfairly targeted ironic. Canary Mission merely aggregated their own words and actions, whereas their entire modus operandi was a systematic targeted campaign to undermine the pro-Israel campus community's narrative," said the watchdog.

David Horowitz said that the students "are part of a Hamas-funded terror network, and what they do is carry out propaganda for terrorists, and then when you identify them and call them out, they pretend they are victims."

Last year, Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, testified before two subcommittees of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs about ties between the BDS movement and Hamas. Schanzer, a terror finance expert, noted that key figures in the 2008 Holy Land trial—which found those in charge of what was then the United States' largest Islamic charity guilty of funneling $12 million to Hamas—have since become associated with American Muslims for Palestine, an Illinois-based group that funds SJP.

Horowitz said universities that recognize and fund SJP chapters are "complicit" in the students' activism, and called on administrators to withdraw their stamp of approval from the group.