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Richard Cravatts

Dr Richard Cravatts: Students for Justice in Palestine Says ‘Free speech for me, but not for thee’

By Richard L. Cravatts, PhD, October 30,2015


Perhaps when literary critic C.S. Lewis despaired of “omnipotent moral busybodies . . . who torment us for our own good,” he was speaking about those well-meaning, but naïve college students who “torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” Lewis’s observation seemed to have been given credence in the past weeks by the very public, tendentious rants of members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a toxic campus group of anti-Israel activists who have help lead a campaign of libel and delegitimization against the Jewish state, and, at times, ugly anti-Semitism disguised as being merely criticism of Israeli government policies.


SJP has a long history since its founding in 1993 of bringing vitriolic anti-Israel speakers to their respective campuses, and for sponsoring Israeli Apartheid Weeks, building mock “apartheid walls,” and sending mock eviction notices to students in their dorms to help them empathize with Palestinians.  


Of course, this vituperative activism has not gone unnoticed by pro-Israel groups and individuals on campus, even resulting in SJP chapters being suspended for their errant behavior, as happened in 2014 at Northeastern University, as one example, after “a series of violations, which included vandalizing university property, disrupting another group’s event, failure to write a civility statement, and distributing flyers without permission.” 


In general, however, SJP has been unimpeded in spreading its calumnies against Israel, fending off any criticism of their invective as attacks on the rights of free expression and academic freedom. The problem for SJP, unfortunately, is that while they are perfectly content to propel a mendacious campaign of anti-Israel libels, and base their analysis of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict on falsehoods, distortions, and a false reading of history and fact, so certain are they of their moral authority that they will never countenance any views—even facts as opposed to opinions—which contradict their hateful political agenda.


They also react in feigned horror when pro-Israel groups use some of the same tactics that SJP has made their modus operandi. At the University of Chicago, for example, SJP distributed posters across campus on October 14th as part of the “International Day of Action on University Campuses for Palestine,” the stated purpose being “to commemorate the lives of these latest victims of Israeli state violence,” including, they mistakenly stated, a 13 year-old boy. They were, in other words, paying homage to the murderous young psychopathic Arab men and women who had spent the last weeks stabbing, shooting, stoning, and ramming cars into Jewish civilians for the purpose of murdering them. In SJP’s morally defective view, though, the murders should be honored, not the innocent victims of the terroristic carnage.


In response, an unidentified group plastered posters of their own around the Chicago campus, these with the phrase “Stabbing Jews for Peace” under the three letters above, SJP, a clear reference to Students for Justice in Palestine. The SJP members were shocked, shocked, that anyone with a moral compass at all would be offended by their offensive poster, writing that “Shockingly, some members of the University community have taken offense at our simple efforts to acknowledge the humanity of those Israel has summarily executed.”


And morally blind as they are, they did not understand why some members of the U Chicago community might wonder why only dead Arabs were being counted and honored by SJP, and none of their eight Jewish victims murdered over the past weeks. How did SJP analyze this issue? By seeing it as collective racism against Palestinians, and that it is “More worrisome . . . that [the posters] are also evidence that some members of our community seemingly suffer from an inability to see Palestinians as human beings.” Perhaps it is because many normal people view a Palestinian who murders two parents in front of four small children in the back seat of their car, as one gruesome example, as a human being, but not one who deserves respect, adoration, or honor.


SJP’s Boston University chapter exhibited some of the same moral obtuseness this week when members complained in a letter to the editor of BU’s Daily Free Press about an October 16th event, sponsored by BU’s Students for Israel and Hillel, “Vigil for Victims of Terrorism,” which, in SJP’s view, “was an example of the one-sided, manipulative propaganda present on our campus.” Why was that? First, said SJP, “The deliberate use of the word ‘terrorism’ to refer to the Palestinians is an attempt to dehumanize them.” Always completely insensitive to the sensibilities of anyone with differing views, SJP did, however, in this instance take great umbrage at the potential harm the vigil could do to the BU community. An event like the vigil “serves to divide our campus by triggering families and students at BU, who are deeply connected to Palestine and the experiences of living under the ongoing occupation.”


Concern for the long-suffering Palestinians may be a commendable effort, but SJP’s caustic activism and demonization of pro-Israel supporters as a tool for seeking social justice for that one group “represents a profound betrayal of the cardinal principle of intellectual endeavor,” observed commentator Melanie Phillips, “which is freedom of speech and debate,” something universities should never stop diligently defending.



Richard L. Cravatts, PhD, author of Genocidal Liberalism: The University’s Jihad Against Israel & Jews, is president of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.








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