US/World News

Actions of pro-Palestinian campus group not antisemitic, investigation finds

(JTA) – The actions of a pro-Palestinian group on City University of New York campuses may be offensive but are not antisemitic, an independent investigation found. Offensive speech in political opposition to Israel is also protected under the First Amendment, according to the report issued this week by a former federal judge, Barbara Jones, and a former assistant federal prosecutor, Paul Shechtman. The investigation into incidents on CUNY campuses involving Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) came after a 14-page complaint in February from the Zionist Organization of America, which catalogued the incidents. The complaint accused SJP of creating a “hostile campus environment” for Jewish students at CUNY colleges and called on the university to expel the group.

The report acknowledged that such incidents caused students to feel harassed, threatened and unsafe, and made some fearful of openly identifying as Jewish on campus, but said many antisemitic incidents were not committed by people associated with SJP and that it was a “mistake” to “blame SJP for any act of antisemitism on any CUNY campus.”

Among the incidents on CUNY campuses highlighted by the ZOA: At a rally reported to be organized by SJP at Hunter College, protesters chanted “Jews out of CUNY” and “Death to Jews”; at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a student with an Israeli flag patch on his backpack was called a “Zionist pig” and had a water bottle thrown at his head, and the Nov. 12, 2015 Million Student March rally at Hunter turned into an attack on Israel, “Zionists” and Jews. ZOA in a statement issued Sept. 13 “strongly criticized” the report, saying it “not only failed in its mission; it almost surely will encourage more anti-Semitism at CUNY and on campuses around the country.”

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