USF Student Government Tries to Push Resolution Condemning Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

Resolution promoted on Palestinian community social media

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University of South Florida student government senators attempted last week to push through a resolution condemning the Trump administration's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, with the support of a network of external pro-Palestinian activists.

The text of the "Hands off Resolution" was promoted on Palestinian community social media nearly two weeks before student government representatives were informed that the resolution would be brought for a vote.

The student resolution, co-authored and co-sponsored by senators Andrew Pitts-Nordera and Yousef Afifi, asked the senate to declare it "refutes the Israeli justification for Palestinian occupation under the religious context of a ‘promised land' that is repeatedly provided."

Their motion also condemns the Balfour Declaration, the British statement in support of the creation of a Jewish State, whose centennial was marked last year. The students erroneously dated the statement to 1916 and mischaracterized the informal letter as an "act" issued by the UK government.

The text of the motion appeared in full on Jan. 13 on the Palestinian American Congress Facebook page, a 10,000-member forum that regularly pushes anti-Israel rhetoric, including celebrating Palestinian terrorist leaders.

The self-described president of the Palestinian American Congress, Abdel-qader Maher, published the resolution with the comment, in Arabic, "University of Florida condemns the decision of the stupid Trump declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of the Zionist entity, rapist of Palestine."

Student government, however, only first heard of the resolution at its Jan. 23 meeting, in a surprise addition to that session's agenda.

The resolution's co-sponsors, Pitts-Nordera and Afifi, also noted the assistance of an Egyptian political operative Mahmoud Sharkawy in drafting the bill.

Sharkawy, called a "family friend" by one the co-sponsors, appears to be Mahmoud el-Sharkawy of the Egyptian Americans for Freedom and Justice, an activist with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, according to the Investigative Project.

Pitts-Nordera and Afifi had implored their peers to rush the bill through, in the hopes of delivering the approved resolution to the Arab League by a "deadline" of Friday.

When contacted, Pitts-Nordera and Afifi did not clarify who set that deadline, and did not respond to inquiries regarding external involvement in the writing and promotion of the bill.

The resolution was narrowly tabled last week for further discussion at this Tuesday's student government session.

Ohio State University's student government also pursued anti-Israel action last week, passing a bill inspired by the international boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement to isolate and delegitimize Israel on the world stage.