By Jackson Richman
A group of New York University alumni are calling on the school’s president to respond to a couple anti-Israel incidents around campus last month.
Alums for Campus Fairness (ACF), a 2500-member group which advocates for a safe pro-Israel environment on college campuses, emailed a letter to NYU president Andrew Hamilton on Monday, calling on him to investigate the incidents. The letter was also signed by students, faculty members, donors, and parents. There are 200 members of ACF’s NYU chapter, but the letter had 500 signatures.
“NYU’s inaction is allowing this situation to escalate. It is unacceptable for NYU to enable students to shun, marginalize and harass other students,” the letter states. “It is our hope, as a united voice in support of a fair and safe campus environment, that NYU acts expeditiously to restore civil behavior amongst students.”
One of the incidents last month consisted of a joint letter created by the school’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) chapters, signed by 53 student groups, calling on NYU to stop co-sponsoring events by pro-Israel campus groups like Realize Israel and TorchPAC. The letter also calls on NYU to “divest its holdings from companies and funds that are complicit in the Israeli occupation of Palestine,” a goal of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, or BDS.
“This action directly goes against the institution’s assertion of the importance of academic freedom,” ACF stated in a press release. “ACF thanked President Hamilton for personally declaring his opposition to the BDS campaign, but he has yet to take action to ensure that NYU students will not be bullied and blacklisted by their peers.”
The other incident was SJP and JVP igniting an altercation at a rave in Washington Square Park, organized by TorchPAC and Realize Israel, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence.
“The anti-Zionist groups burned an Israeli flag, during which one member of JVP was arrested. Another member was arrested later on in the protest,” the Washington Square News reported. “As music from the rave blared on less than 50 feet away, they waved the Palestinian flag, chanting, ‘Displacing lives is ’48, there’s nothing here to celebrate,'” referring to the immigration of Jews who left Europe after the Holocaust where 6 million Jews were killed.
A student from SJP and another one from JVP were arrested; one was apprehended for petty theft of an Israeli flag, while the other faced charges of disorderly conduct, second-degree robbery, third-degree assault, and third-degree criminal mischief.
In an interview with The National Discourse, ACF executive director Avi Gordon said that BDS isn’t the only kind of anti-Israel activity on campus. “The environment on campus has turned quite negative for Jews and those who support Israel. Denouncing BDS is important but it’s not the only issue,” he said. “Campuses are supposed to be a place where you can exchange ideas and by SJP and JVP blocking this, it creates an asymmetrical attack on the [pro-Israel] community.”
“I think the overall goal of SJP is anti-normalization, refusing to work with anyone who recognizes Israel to exist as a Jewish State,” Gordon added. “This is their way of pressing the issue even more by falsely convincing other organizations that Israel commits human rights violations, oppressing the LGBTQ community and other minority communities, etc. This is SJP’s next tactic after BDS.”
The letter cals on Hamilton to do the following:
1. Issue a formal statement denouncing the student boycott and the disruption of Realize Israel’s event;
2. State unequivocally that Jewish and pro-Israel students, for whom Zionism and the right of Jewish self-determination are core values, are welcome at NYU;
3. Investigate SJP and JVP and sanction their leadership for violating NYU’s Rules and Policies, and Code of Ethical Conduct;
4. Commit to a program which provides for free and fair discourse around the topic of Israel/Palestine; an opportunity for dialogue that befits a world-class institution such as NYU.
ACF isn’t the only group to call on Hamilton to speak out and take action against the anti-Israel activity. StandWithUs, an Israel education group, and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law co-signed a similar letter to Hamilton late last month.