In a petition published on Monday, the radical anti-Israel Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) along with over twenty other pro-Palestinian groups, blasted Rutgers University as well as the Jewish campus group Hillel, accusing the two of “falsely conflating Palestine advocacy with antisemitism,” and blaming Zionism for endangering Jewish safety while calling for the university to ensure that “the safe space Rutgers promises to be” is preserved and demanded the university’s board comply with an SJP-led “audit of endowment investments.”
In response to a letter by New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D) to Rutgers president Jonathan Holloway which denounced a previous statement by the Executive Board of the Rutgers adjunct faculty union, anti-Israel student groups launched a petition on Monday blasting Rep. Gottheimer as well as Rutgers.
Last month, the Executive Board of the Rutgers adjunct faculty union called on the government to immediately cease all financial support to Israel and for the American Federation of Teachers to divest itself of all Israeli bonds.
“As teachers and union members, we can no longer allow ourselves to be complicit in the illegal acts of the Israeli government…,” the statement began, adding that it recognizes Israel as an “apartheid” regime of “legalized racial discrimination perpetrated against the Palestinian people.”
The petition claims that “an attack on adjunct faculty union members is an attack on Palestine solidarity.”
“We, the undersigned, categorically reject Rep. Gottheimer’s slanderous mischaracterization of the statement,” the petition begins, before ridiculing the notion that anti-Israel propaganda could harm Jewish students.
“Indeed, the only misinformation campaign here is the one being promoted by Rep. Gottheimer, who scurrilously insinuates that Jewish students at Rutgers could face a ‘hostile environment in the classroom or on campus’ because instructors and union members show solidarity with oppressed people,” the petition continues.
The petition then accuses the state university, as well as “Zionist groups” such as the Jewish campus group Hillel, of endangering Palestinian supporters.
“Moreover, considering Rutgers’ own endowment investments in apartheid Israel, and prominent campus Zionist organizations such as Hillel, with its history of falsely conflating Palestine advocacy with antisemitism, it is pro-Palestine union members, instructors, students, and organizers who are most at risk of harassment and least likely to receive support against it,” the petition reads.
Zionism, which is then compared to white supremacy, is described as the “real” threat to Jewish safety today in that it “ties all Jews to the Israeli regime and, by extension, its crimes,” according to the petition.
In response to Rep. Gottheimer asserting the statement “singles out” Israel, the petition compares the matter to South African apartheid and justice for George Floyd.
“[T]he Palestine solidarity movement is no more guilty of singling out Israel than earlier generations of activists were guilty of ‘singling out’ apartheid South Africa or the Montgomery Bus Company, or than the union’s 2020 statement demanding justice for George Floyd unfairly ‘singles out’ the Minneapolis Police Department,” it reads.
After describing Rep. Gottheimer’s letter to President Holloway as “one example of the hostility faced by pro-Palestine students and faculty members at Rutgers University,” the groups then call for a series of demands.
The first calls on the university’s president to “publicly affirm the right of Rutgers faculty, students, and staff to voice their solidarity with Palestine,” clarifying that the university “rejects all attempts to falsely conflate anti-Zionism with antisemitism.”
The second demands the university protect the rights and safety of its members by “denouncing and taking action against the targeted doxxing of pro-Palestinian students and faculty members on blacklist sites….,” and to “ensure accountability” from staff who “violate the safe space Rutgers promises to be for activists and advocates for the disenfranchised.”
Lastly, the groups demand the University Board of Governors and Trustees and Joint Committee on Investments “provide a detailed explanation for their rejection of the Endowment Justice Collective’s request for Rutgers University to divest from oppression and injustice,” as well as comply with an SJP-led “audit of endowment investments.”
Claiming the world currently stands at a “tipping point,” the petition then accuses Israel of seeking to “dispossess and erase” Palestinians.
“For decades, the pro-Israel narrative went virtually unchallenged in mainstream discourse,” the petition continues. “Palestinian voices were banished to the margins, mirroring Israel’s 73-year long campaign to dispossess and erase the Palestinian people.”
“But all that is changing,” the petition reassures, stating that the executive board’s statement is “part of growing labor solidarity with Palestine,” while praising those who have “courageously endorsed” the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
“BIPOC [black, indigenous, and other people of color] support for Palestine continues to rise,” the petition claims, citing the radical Movement for Black Lives and “over 160 gender studies departments and centers” which supported the “Palestinian call for ‘feminists everywhere to speak up, organize, and join the struggle for Palestinian liberation.’”
The group then lauds the Palestinians for having “shown reciprocal support” for “Black and Brown Lives, Indigenous water protectors, migrant rights and beyond.”
Describing Rep. Gottheimer’s letter as an “an attack on all who stand up to racism, settler colonialism, and state-sanctioned brutality,” the petition compares his protest of antisemitic rhetoric to that of right wing criticism of CRT.
“[His] ominous assertion that the statement ‘fall[s] outside of bounds’ of legitimate speech echoes right-wing attacks on Critical Race Theory, which, like the movement for Palestinian liberation, demands an honest interrogation of history and redress for systemic oppression,” it reads.
The petition then accuses Israel’s “enablers” of having “lost the moral argument,” leaving them to “intimidate Palestine solidarity into silence.”
The petition was signed by over twenty groups, including the radical anti-Israel Al-Awda NY: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition as well as the New Jersey branches of the Council on Islamic-American Relations, the Jewish Voice for Peace and the Democratic Socialists of America.
In response, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) issued a statement on Friday calling the petition both “shocking and antisemitic.”
This campaign against @RutgersHillel is a shocking and #antisemitic effort to isolate and delegitimize a Jewish institution.
It is nothing less than disturbing to try and take away Jewish students’ home away from home and their space to connect with the Jewish community. https://t.co/bdsBpb37r5
— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) July 30, 2021
Rutgers University, the second-oldest in New Jersey after Princeton University, has the largest Jewish undergraduate population of any campus in America and its Hillel House, dedicated to “celebrating Judaism and everything it means to be Jewish,” is the largest in America.
The matter comes as a surge in antisemitic acts and rhetoric, including many on campuses nationwide, has been seen over the last few months amid and following Israel’s conflict with Hamas, with disinformation spreading on social media seen as a major cause.
In May, following protests from SJP, the chancellor and provost of Rutgers University issued an apology for a previous condemnation of antisemitism, promising to be “more sensitive and balanced” in the future.
That same month, documentary filmmaker Ami Horowitz approached college students in Portland, Oregon, and managed to garner funds to support the Hamas terror organization despite openly presenting the group as determined to destroy Israel and kill Jews.
More than 70 Harvard faculty members decried the U.S. and Israel’s “criminalization” of the Palestinians’ “right to resist” and called on the Biden administration to end support for “Israel’s apartheid regime, condemn Israeli state aggression, and affirm our support for the Palestinian liberation struggle,” in a letter published in May.
During an appearance on Fox News Channel’s Hannity, conservative radio host and author Mark Levin blasted President Joe Biden for the proliferation of antisemitism that he alleged was coming from the left and elected Democrats.
Amid the spike in attacks, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Rep. David Kustoff (R-TN) introduced a bill that aims to target antisemitic hate crimes.
Last Sunday, during Fox & Friends, Zeldin addressed the massive increase in antisemitic violence in New York City.
He also called on leaders, particularly the Democrats in Congress, to “do more to speak out against” antisemitism because it is being “empowered, elevated and embraced.”
He attributed the surge in antisemitism to “many reasons,” including New York’s cashless bail law and the defund the police movement.
“Now, you have criminals emboldened where the handcuffs are on law enforcement, instead of being on the criminals,” he said.
On Wednesday, Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY), who is campaigning to be governor of New York, called for the firing of Mohammad Abbasi, an adjunct professor at the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Professional Studies, following a recent “vile antisemitic” sermon delivered by him in which he accused Jews of irredeemable corruption and advocated for the destruction of the Jewish state.
Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.