New York anti-Israel student groups hijacked the public discourse surrounding today’s (November 12) Million Student March, turning a domestic student issue into a tool to attack Jews and Zionists.

An email sent by Student for Justice in Palestine (SJP) on November 9 (ironically, the anniversary of the 1938 “Kristallnacht” pogrom) called upon their supporters to join the student protests at CUNY and call upon the university to divest from Israel. A student protest focused on American society was used and abused by an extremist group to spread its hatred of Zionists and Israel.

The march, scheduled to take place at some 100 locations across the US was reported to be a framework “to protest ballooning student loan debt for higher education and rally for tuition-free public colleges,” among other things, but the email from SJP had little to do with these issues.

“The continued abuse of US academic platforms and student activity by anti-Israel groups and NGOs should trouble all those interested in liberal values and quality education,” Professor Gerald Steinberg, President of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor research institute, said.

SJP’s post, signed by SJP chapters throughout the CUNY system, declares that the “The [CUNY] 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 (sic) liberation.”

“This is yet another example of antisemitic speech aimed at American Jewish students, delivered under the guise of criticizing Israel and its supporters,” Steinberg said. “The Million Student March itself does not take this line has nothing to do with these troubling statements. The organizers should condemn the hijacking of their march by extremists and distance themselves from SJP.”

With over 150 chapters nationwide, SJP is the organization most directly responsible for creating a hostile environment for Jews on college campuses across the United States.  It organizes numerous pro-BDS (boycotts, divestment, sanctions) events and campaigns, including the annual “Israel Apartheid Week.”  SJP also conducts “guerilla activism” that increases tensions on campuses.

SJP is supported by a network of off-campus organizations.  These include a who’s who of anti-Israel voices on the radical left: Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, International Socialist Organization, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC- which as an arm of the Quakers), American Muslims for Palestine, WESPAC Foundation, Palestine Legal, and the National Lawyers Guild.

This network provides significant resources to SJP, from funding to legal support to training to co-sponsorship of on-campus events.  There is also media and activism guidebooks, such as one produced by American Muslims for Palestine.  AMP has also produced “campus activism resources” including fact-sheets, anti-normalization material, and Power Point presentations that parrot the Hamas narrative of the 2014 Israeli-Hamas conflict in Gaza.  Hamas is a recognized terror group by the US, EU and other countries.

For its part, AFSC recommends that students wanting to “support peace in Israel/Palestine” can start an SJP chapter and organize a divestment campaign.  ASFC and JVP have jointly contributed to the training of BDS activists through their “BDS Summer Institute,” billed as a “five day intensive program focused on building skills for divestment campaigns… co-led by student participants and BDS movement leaders.”

JVP, which has an “Academic Advisory Council Coordinator” on staff, has co-sponsored — with SJP — anti-Israel events on various campus such as a BDS panel at Vasser College last April and a “Nakba” workshop at the University of Chicago last May.  Also last semester, JVP and SJP co-sponsored a pledge calling on all candidates for UCLA student governments to refrain from participating in paid trips to Israel. Once again, Israel was singled out for boycott and demonization.

This national support network counsels SJP chapters on how to sidestep “false accusations” of antisemitism.  For instance, JVP issued a “report” called “Stifling Dissent: How Israel’s Defenders Use False Charges of Anti-Semitism to Limit the Debate over Israel on Campus.”  Likewise, Palestine Legal describes charges of antisemitism “as a tool to silence activism in support of Palestinian rights.”

For further comments or questions please contact Aaron from NGO Monitor: