After Boston’s Northeastern University suspended its campus chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine last week, more than 200 protesters from more than 29 organizations gathered to rally against the decision.
The group of activists presented the university’s president, Joseph Aoun, with a petition signed by 7,000 people that called for the group to be reinstated, JTA reports. The Northeastern chapter of SJP has been suspended for at least one year and its executive board members have been banned from future positions of board leadership.
In a statement released by Jewish Voice for Peace, activist Lisa Stampnitzky called the university’s actions as discriminatory. “We condemn the university’s strong-arm tactics as blatant violations of free speech and dangerous attempts to suppress academic debate on campus,” said Stampnitzky. “SJP has been treated more harshly than other groups who have enacted similar protests.”
SJP’s controversial protests have included organizing a silent walk-out during an event attended by Israeli soldiers (for which they were put on probation), and distributing mock eviction notices in the student dorms mimicking those found near Israeli settlements. The flyers read “Dorm scheduled for demolition in three days. Eviction notices are routinely given to Palestinian families living under oppressive Israeli occupation.”
Responding to the demonstrations, the university released a statement stressing their dedication to “a free and open exchange of ideas” while reiterating that the “undergraduate Students for Justice in Palestine organization at Northeastern has been temporarily suspended for multiple violations … over an extended period of time.” Failed efforts by university officials to try and work with the group’s leadership resulted in its necessary suspension.
StandWithUs, a pro-Israel campus organization, issued a statement applauding the university’s actions.
“We realize that the Arab-Israeli conflict is a contentious issue,” said StandWithUs CEO, Roz Rothstein. “But on too many campuses, anti-Israel activists have increasingly crossed red lines: they deny free speech to Israel’s supporters, spread lies about Israel, spew bigotry and anti-Semitism and bully pro-Israel students. We applaud NEU for upholding a responsible environment.”
Hannah Dreyfus is an editorial intern at Tablet.