Students representing the General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS) at San Francisco State University (SFSU) recently published a morally disgraceful statement. They attempted to justify their illegal disruption of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat’s speech at SFSU on April 6, 2016, by proclaiming social justice. They also confused some common definitions. We thank them for the opportunity to correct their misinformation:
Far from being a cry for freedom and equality, “Long Live the Intifada!” is an unambiguous rallying call for violence, particularly against Jews and Israelis. According to the dictionary, Intifada is an “uprising, rebellion, specifically an armed uprising of Palestinians against Israeli[s].” Intifada primarily targets civilians and precisely through terror. During the Second Intifada, over 1,000 Israeli men, women and children were murdered and over 6,000 were wounded. Since September 2015’s rise of the “Knife Intifada,” 147 men, women and children in Israel have been stabbed, 87 shot, and 43 rammed into by cars. We find it deeply disturbing and dishonest that GUPS glorifies the term “Intifada” and attempts to deny its bloody and violent connotation.
Second, the anti-Israel slogan that GUPS chanted while disrupting Mayor Barkat, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free,” can more accurately be understood by adding, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will Be Free… of Jews and/or a Jewish State.” As GUPS writes, this chant “envisions a liberated Arab world,” free of the Jewish State and possibly any Jews living in it. Just like Hamas in Gaza and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank prohibit any Jewish Israelis from living within Palestinian territory, GUPS openly calls for a future land of Israel also free of Jewish affiliation. To suggest that this is not anti-Semitic or that it can in any way be associated with social justice principles is simply reprehensible. It also ignores the fact that within the current State of Israel, over 20% of Israeli citizens are Arabs; Israel is also the only country in the Middle East with a growing Arab Christian population. Instead of acknowledging this remarkable testament to Israel’s democracy and flourishing pluralism, GUPS calls for the Jewish State’s destruction.
Furthermore, GUPS attempts to justify their illegal disruption—which appears to have been in violation of California Penal Code 403 and for which they likely should have been arrested at the time—as ethical, citing a list of grievances against the Israeli state. We encourage GUPS to visit StandWithUs.com to see refutations of each and every misinformed statement they make about Israeli policies.
Additionally, GUPS should know that regardless of the rationale they use to defend their actions, illegal activity is never justified. By disrupting Mayor Barkat, GUPS apparently not only broke California law, they violated the mayor’s right to speak and other students’ First Amendment rights to hear what the mayor had to say. There is no moral or ethical justification for this behavior.
Lastly, we commend SFSU President Les Wong’s recent statement strongly condemning GUPS’ disruption and calling for an official investigation into their activity, a revision of campus policy, and trainings for administrators and student leaders. We are encouraged that President Wong is not seduced by GUPS’ hateful and discriminatory rhetoric cloaked in social justice principles. It is our sincere hope that President Wong not forget his call to action and move swiftly in seeing its fulfillment. We believe this is necessary in the name of justice against those GUPS students who allegedly disrupted the mayor, essential to helping SFSU Jewish students feel safe and supported, and critical that law-abiding SFSU students believe that their President stands behind his declared pledges. We look forward to hearing in the days ahead exactly how President Les Wong’s investigation is proceeding and how his new policies are being implemented.
Yael Lerman Mazar is StandWithUs’ Director of Legal Affairs and Johanna Wilder is StandWithUs’ Northern California Associate Director.