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Investigation: ‘Students for Justice in Palestine’ Locked Down Its Annual Conference

Updated: Nov 29, 2019

Legal Insurrection

Samantha Mandeles

November 25, 2019

SJP held its 2019 conference at U. Minnesota under tight secrecy, as its tactics of intimidation and disruption gained national attention after Vassar’s president condemned as anti-Semitic SJP chants directed at an Israeli Jewish speaker.

Last week, we reported on the disruption of Israeli Hen Mazzig’s talk by Vassar College Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) in Vassar President: It was anti-Semitic to shout at Israeli Jewish speaker “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free”.

In a breath of fresh air, Vassar president Elizabeth Bradley issued an admirably strong condemnation of SJP’s behavior, stating that shouting “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”—a call for the extermination of Israel and the subjugation of Israeli Jews—at an Israeli Jewish speaker was anti-Semitic:

“the use of the chant—in this way, directed at this speaker—crossed the line into anti-Semitism.”

The reactions of some other university administrations to SJP’s characteristic anti-Semitism, however, have often fallen short of the standard president Bradley has established. SJP’s annual hate-filed conference, held only a few weeks earlier at the University of Minnesota, elicited barely a peep from the UMN administration, despite clear evidence of bigotry, secrecy, and even possible building code violations taking place.

Table of Contents

  • Students for Justice in Palestine: A Vicious History

  • National SJP Conference 2019 at the University of Minnesota

  • UMN’s Reaction

  • Conference Tactics: Hateful Language, Questionable Funding, & Secrecy

  • American Muslims for Palestine Connection

  • Conference Secrecy

  • Here’s What SJP Was Hiding

  • External Reaction – SJP as Liberators

  • Protest Outside – But No Disruption Unlike SJP Protests

  • Conclusion

3. UMN’s Reaction

Familiar with SJP’s history of spreading hate, the pro-Israel organization StandWithUs prepared a petition calling for the University of Minnesota to condemn the conference. According to the petition, each signature triggered the following letter‘s delivery to university president Joan T.A. Gabel:

Dear President Gabel,

As a strong supporter of free speech and academic freedom on campus, and an opponent of all forms of discrimination, I am deeply concerned about the National Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) Conference being held at UMN in November, 2019. Because UMN is a public institution bound by the First Amendment to the Constitution and must uphold academic freedom, I understand that this concerning conference must be permitted to proceed. However, in upholding academic freedom I believe you and your administration also have a responsibility to explicitly condemn campus events that promote hatred, intolerance, and opposition to the free exchange of ideas.

As you may know, SJP has a long record of spreading hate, supporting violence, and violating the free speech rights of people they disagree with on campus. Last year’s National SJP Conference explicitly promoted the destruction of Zionism, celebrated disruptions of speakers who support Israel’s right to exist, and glorified terrorism against Israeli civilians. An individual with a history of blatant anti-Semitism has already announced that she will be speaking at this year’s conference on your campus. This hate cannot go unanswered.

UMN’s guiding principles call for a campus environment that “embodies the values of academic freedom,” while providing, “an atmosphere of mutual respect, free from racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice and intolerance”.

As such, I urge you to:

Strongly condemn the National SJP Conference for promoting hate, supporting violence, and encouraging violations of free speech and academic freedom. This recent statement from the Chancellor of UMASS Amherst is a good model:

Develop and share concrete steps UMN will be taking to foster greater tolerance and protect the rights of all UMN students.

Respond to rising efforts to isolate Jews, Israelis, and their supporters by celebrating and growing your cooperation with these communities and the organizations that represent them on campus.

The petition received several thousand signatures.

In an article about the conference and petition, the Jewish Journal quoted StandWithUs Executive Director of Research and Strategy Max Samarov:

Last year, [the] National SJP openly called for silencing speakers who support Israel’s existence. They also called for the destruction of Zionism, and violence against Israelis. While free speech laws may require UMN to allow the conference, this should not stop university leaders from unequivocally condemning SJP’s long record of hate. We also encourage UMN to use this as a teachable moment to educate the campus community about anti-Semitism and foster civil dialogue about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But it appears that university president Gabel never issued any comment whatsoever on the conference. Instead, the Jewish Journal reported,

Any registered student group is allowed to reserve space on campus, provided they comply with relevant policies,” the [official University of Minnesota] spokesperson said in an email to the Journal. “The University of Minnesota encourages students and student groups to exercise their freedom of expression and a broad spectrum of ideas. We do not make decisions based on content.

Read the rest of the article here.


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