Today is the day of the Million Student March, a grassroots initiative by young activists that will call for tuition-free public college, student debt cancellation, and a $15 minimum wage for all campus workers. For many students, it’s an opportunity to protest for reforms they believe in. But for Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) in New York, it’s been a chance instead to blame “the Zionists” for everything wrong with the university system.
On Nov. 9, in a Facebook post signed by every CUNY chapter of SJP, the anti-Israel activists declared that they would join the march. Their statement began ordinarily enough, but soon took a bizarre, conspiratorial turn:
On November 12, students all across CUNY will rally to demand a freeze on tuition and new contracts! We must fight for funding for our university, and for CUNY to be accessible to working class communities in NYC as the public university system. The Zionist administration invests in Israeli companies, companies that support the Israeli occupation, hosts birthright programs and study abroad programs in occupied Palestine, and reproduces settler-colonial ideology throughout CUNY through Zionist content of education. While CUNY aims to produce the next generation of professional Zionists, SJP aims to change the university to fight for all peoples liberation.
Thus, in a single paragraph, SJP managed to transmute the concerns of the Million March protesters into a rant against alleged Zionist domination of the CUNY system. In this way, rather than genuinely declaring solidarity with the aims of their fellow student protesters, Students for Justice in Palestine attempted to hijack the rally for their own bigoted ends.
The statement is signed by NYC Students for Justice in Palestine, Students for Justice in Palestine at Hunter College, Students for Justice in Palestine at Brooklyn College, Students for Justice in Palestine-St. Joseph’s College, Students for Justice in Palestine at College of Staten Island, Students for Justice in Palestine at John Jay College, CUNY School of Law Students for Justice in Palestine, Students for Justice in Palestine at Pace University – Pleasantville, NYU Students for Justice in Palestine, and Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine.
Requests for CUNY administration comment on the rhetoric of SJP were not immediately returned. Likewise, there has been no word on whether the anti-Israel protesters will explain their absence from class today by telling their professors that the Zionists ate their homework.
UPDATE: This afternoon, CUNY Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs issued a statement condemning those who “distract attention from important issues in higher education like learning, access and quality by invoking discriminatory language reeking of thinly veiled bigotry, prejudice, anti-semitism or other behavior inconsistent with our educational mission.”