UPDATE: Palestine in America reached out to the communications office at University of Chicago in regards to the harmful posters. Marielle Sainvilus, Acting Director of Public Affairs Communications, said they are aware of the controversial flyers that circulated on campus and said the school would work with the students to address the issue.
Shortly after speaking with the university, another incident occurred to a U of C student. Students for Justice in Palestine member Zach Taylor was harassed on Facebook. A fake account with the name “Rachel Corrie” spammed SJP at U of C and Jewish Voice for Peace- UChicago (JVP) Facebook pages with threats and warnings in the comment sections of posts.
The Facebook threats included: “The next flyers posted will be graphic nude photos of Zach…” A Facebook page was also created for “Stabbing Jews for Peace.”
SJP U of C wrote a statement about the situation with ways to help as well as demands it seeks from the administration. The group wants a complete investigation into the perpetrators of the harassment, a public condemnation of the inflammatory posters, which violate University posting policy, and transparency regarding concrete steps being immediately taken to protect Palestinian students and those standing in solidarity with Palestinians on campus.
As PiA first reported, a University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) student received a threat via email because of the chapter’s pro-Palestine action on Oct. 16. Senior Director of Public Affairs at UIC Bill Burton said that the matter is under police investigation and is on-going. No further information was given by the school, as of today.
JVP national wrote a statement of solidarity with SJP members who have faced harassment in Chicago.
“We demand that these universities issue public statements condemning these and all other incidents of campus repression, notify SJP students of the steps being taken to ensure their personal safety, and protect the rights of SJP to raise awareness about Palestinian liberation on campus.”
Palestine Legal also wrote a statement in response to the recent incidents. The U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) wrote a letter in support of the student’s being harassed to the deans at the University of Chicago. Both UIC and U of C have yet to issue public statements on the disturbing harassment.
Members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) Chicago have been slandered and threatened by anti-Palestine activists on campuses after Palestine day of action demonstrations were hosted by several universities in the city.
SJP’s across the world participated in an international effort on college campuses that called on solidarity groups to bring attention to Palestine. The day of action was called for by SJP at the University of California Berkeley.
Members of SJP at the University of Chicago launched a poster campaign in solidarity with victims of Israeli violence. The posters were displayed all over campus on various bulletin boards. Since then, SJP at U of C experienced backlash.
Posters were taken down and vandalized within the same hour that they were put up, according to U of C SJP member and Ph.D student Alex Shams.
“Within the next few days, counter posters were put up. These posters were fact checking the names stating that some of the names of the victims were not actually dead, rather ‘severely injured’ in hospitals,” Shams told PiA.
SJP responded to the letter to the editor written by Simcha Barkai calling out SJP for “lying”, with their own letter. They clarified the misreported information by stating, “We are heartened to learn that initial reports have since been updated to reflect the fact that these two individuals survived the attack on them by Israeli security forces. We only wish there were more survivors.”
On Monday, posters were put up that used the SJP logo and the U of C emblem stating: SJP – Stabbing Jews for Peace.
“The posters don’t make any argument, or present any facts. They are primarily used to slander SJP and attack students who are standing for justice for Palestinians on their campus. This aggressive lashing out is indicative of their juvenile response and their inability to respond with reasoned arguments,” said Shams.
SJP students are planning on reaching out to administration to report the type of harassment and to see how this sort of climate can be addressed.
Members of SJP at the University of Illinois at Chicago held a die-in and peaceful demonstration in the quad on its campus. Hundreds of students rallied outside and participated in the action that happened during a passing period in the afternoon.
On Monday a member of the UIC chapter (PiA has elected not to name the member because of safety concerns) was sent a threat to his personal email from an anonymous person stating:
“If there is one more demonstration in the quad from your petty organization, consider it to be your real bodies falling next time.
What you did was downright Anti-Semitism.
Don’t underestimate the Jewish presence on campus.
“Pro-Israel students on campus are the ones to always claim ‘unsafe’ from actions and peaceful demonstrations that we do, yet they are the ones sending threatening emails to our members. This kind of behavior and hostility is not acceptable. It is ironic that they go to administration, yet are the ones inflicting physical harm threats,” the threatened student told PiA.
SJP at Northwestern held a demonstration for Palestine Day of Action at “the rock” (one of the busiest areas on campus). Their demonstration was in part a reenactment of the scene witnessed in the viral video of Ahmed Manasra being shot and Israeli soldiers chanting in Arabic: “Die son of a bitch, die.” SJP members and allies were dressed as “IDF soldiers” and others as Palestinians. They held up signs of names of those who died and were injured.
MEChA De Northwestern member Katherine Valentin explained that she witnessed faculty members watching the demonstration and ‘shaking their heads’ towards the action. “It was really disappointing for me to see Northwestern faculty being unsupportive of students and disregarding their action. It was very clear that they were not saying good things about the demonstration, in regards to their facial expression and body language,” she told PiA.
The following day, students organized an event “Northwestern Stands with Israel,” opposing the initial demonstration and instead “commemorating all innocent lives lost.” As stated in SJP NU’s press release, “It must be evident from the silence of the organizers and the attendees up to this point, that to them, Palestinian deaths are only considered when accompanied by Israeli ones – that is if they are considered at all. Settler-colonies such as Israel are, after all, built upon the massacres and ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population – acts which are naturally devoid of any empathy.”
Attendees of the pro-Israel event were encouraged to wear blue and took a group photo with the Israeli flag to show their support.
Threats like these and smear posters and counter actions are not new tactics by pro-Israel supporters on campus. Earlier this year, posters were plastered all over campuses depicting SJP members as “Jew Haters.” Palestine Legal documents the attacks students receive and recently released a report with the Center for Constitutional Rights, that outlines how widespread these practices and scare tactics are across campuses and communities in the U.S.