By MA Rahman
Published: October 24th, 2018
Following a rough two year-long hiatus from campus, members of the Student for Justice in Palestine (SJP) organization at Brooklyn College and other interested students convened a meeting to discuss topics concerning the group.
They discussed mainly how to maintain SJP’s image while engaging with students in spite of the hostilities and preconceived notions looming over the organization.
A highly controversial organization, SJP’s members spoke candidly about the intimidation and bullying they faced previously on a regular basis.
“Students who have been a part of SJP or have been a part of any other group have seen the ways that this campus oppresses students’ voices,” said the Vice-President of SJP at Brooklyn College, whose identity could not be given for fear of intimidation from other students on campus.
She expressed her frustration towards CUNY for putting the group’s e-board members “on trial,” suggesting there is administratively sanctioned hostility towards SJP pointing at past incidents involving Muslims students being surveillanced and arrested by the NYPD.
In her view the few repercussions for threats made by students towards SJP members served as further validation for her concerns.
For many SJP members like her, they concur that the group’s biggest predicaments are not only confined within campus but rather beyond it; persistent lawsuits that are levied against the organization on the basis of spreading “anti-semitism” on CUNY campuses by various zionist organizations such as Canary Mission.
NYS legislatures also have proven to be some of the biggest quarrels for the group to overcome as many of them threaten CUNY to cut funding to the ‘extremist’ organization.
The general intent of these typically pro-zionist groups like Canary Mission is to coerce prospective students and faculty from supporting groups like SJP by way of flagging, thereby diminishing SJP’s image for any perceived “anti-Israeli” or “anti-Jewish” remarks or actions.
Their website boasts an extensive list of various professors, organizers and ordinary individuals that have shown solidarity with groups like SJP and says, “Canary Mission documents people and groups that promote hatred of the USA, Israel and Jews on North American college campuses.”
The implications are vilifying persons for their dissenting views and are effectively censoring them in college campuses of all places where it may be of little surprise that such views prevail.
“People like to lump Hamas with all the Palestinian people, but not everyone that’s Palestinian is [a member of] Hamas. Just like how not everyone that is Palestinian is necessarily Muslim,” said Kellen Gold, a queer, Jewish member of SJP at Brooklyn College.
Gold noted the deliberate attempt to conflate extremists and those seeking to take a critical position on Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
“[Compared to] the amount of students you see today at our meeting, there are so many more people who support the Palestinian cause that are just afraid to speak about it on this campus because of the oppression of free speech,” an anonymous member said regarding the fairly small turnout to the SJP meeting.
According to Sarah Gafur, SJP’s current treasurer and a transfer student, while herself not being privy to knowing exact circumstances that led to why past SJP members were harassed by NYPD and other students, she intends to redouble SJP’s focus on student advocacy and social justice reform.
Therefore, working on matters like Black Liberation and combatting over-policing in turn presumably might help mend, if not improve, SJP’s image to students.