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Language around ‘Day of Resistance and Protest’ leaves Jews fearful

The Seattle Times

By Randy Kessler

Oct. 18, 2023

On Oct. 12, I witnessed a rally by a student group called SUPER UW (Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights and Return at the University of Washington). Their event, officially titled “A Day of Resistance and Protest for Palestine,” should have been called “A Day to Celebrate Hamas.”

SUPER is the UW chapter of National Students for Justice in Palestine, which has organized these rallies on campuses across the country. The language used at the rally is profoundly threatening to the 80% of American Jews who say that caring about Israel is an essential or important part of what being Jewish means to them. Most Jewish people have friends or family living in Israel, as 50% of the world’s Jews live there.

Here’s how NSJP describes the events of Oct. 7, when over 1,300 Israelis were savagely killed and 199 taken hostage: “Today, we witness a historic win for the Palestinian resistance: across land, air, and sea, our people have broken down the artificial barriers of the Zionist entity, taking with it the facade of an impenetrable settler colony and reminding each of us that total return and liberation to Palestine is near. Catching the enemy completely by surprise, the Palestinian resistance has captured over a dozen settlements surrounding Gaza along with many occupation soldiers and military vehicles. This is what it means to Free Palestine: not just slogans and rallies, but armed confrontation with the oppressors.”

NSJP published a tool kit for the planning and execution of “day of resistance” events by local SJP chapters. It includes guidance that dehumanizes Israelis and justifies and promotes violence. For example, the tool kit includes the following messages:

  • “National liberation is near — glory to our resistance, to our martyrs, and to our steadfast people.”

  • Liberation is not an abstract concept. It is not a moment circumscribed to a revolutionary past as it is often characterized. Rather, liberating colonized land is a real process that requires confrontation by any means necessary …. It calls upon us to engage in meaningful actions that go beyond symbolism and rhetoric. Resistance comes in all forms — armed struggle, general strikes, and popular demonstrations. All of it is legitimate, and all of it is necessary.”

  • “We as Palestinian students in exile are PART of this movement, not in solidarity with this movement. This is a moment of mobilization for all Palestinians. We must act as part of this movement. All of our efforts continue the work and resistance of Palestinians on the ground.”

  • “When people are occupied, resistance is justified — normalize the resistance.”

  • “Settlers [defined by SJP as anyone living in Israel] are not ‘civilians’ in the sense of international law, because they are military assets used to ensure continued control over stolen Palestinian land.” [Presumably, this justifies the killing of all men, women, and children living in Israel.]

In other words, SJP’s tool kit calls upon registered student organizations on campuses across the United States to fall into lockstep with the vile actions of Hamas over those few days. The speakers at the rally justified Hamas terrorism, encouraging further violence against Israel and its supporters here. The same messages were present at Saturday’s march in downtown Seattle.

The First Amendment ensures that Americans have a broad right to free speech, including hate speech. But certain forms of speech cross legal (and moral) lines. As the Supreme Court held in Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969), the government may forbid “incitement”— speech “directed at inciting or producing imminent lawless action” and “likely to incite or produce such action” can legally be restricted.

The UW leadership consulted with the campus Jewish community and ensured police and administrative presence at the rally. But American Jews worry about what comes next and we ask our friends and neighbors to stand with us as Israel acts to rescue the hostages from Gaza, stop the rocket attacks and recover from its unfathomable losses. Randy Kessler leads the Northwest office of StandWithUs, an international nonprofit that educates about Israel and fights antisemitism.

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