Northeastern University SJP chapter suspended as members are subjected to police interrogation

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Students for Justice in Palestine activists at a conference at Columbia University in 2011. (Photo: Columbia SJP)

 

Northeastern University SJP chapter suspended as members are subjected to police interrogation

By Max Blumenthal (MondoWeiss)The Islamophobia network led by the anti-Muslim hatemonger Charles Jacobs has been deeply involved in smearing NEU’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter. This is an unprecedented attack on student rights and academic freedom.

On March 7, members of Northeastern University’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) were informed by the school’s Center for Student Involvement that their chapter had been suspended for at least a year.

In a letter sent to the SJP chapter and provided to me by Max Geller, a second year Northeastern University School of Law student who actively campaigns with SJP, the school’s Director of the Center for Student Involvement, Jason Campbell-Foster, offered a litany of charges against the students. At the top of the list was the SJP’s February 24 distribution of notices across Northeastern campuses that mocked the sort of eviction notices slapped on Palestinian homes slated for Israeli demolition – an awareness-raising tactic increasing in popularity among SJP chapters nationwide.

“You have not shown a concerted effort to improve your practices and educate your members on how to properly operate your organization within the boundaries of university policy,” Northeastern’s Campbell-Foster wrote.

According to Campbell-Foster’s letter, all current members of Northeastern SJP’s current executive board are permanently banned from serving on any future board in the organization. Further, SJP members must undergo a strict regimen of trainings led by university administrators as a condition for reinstatement.

On the morning of February 25, two days after Northeastern SJP members distributed mock eviction notices throughout campus dormitories, all Northeastern students received an email from Robert Jose, Northeastern’s Associate Dean for Cultural and Residential Life. “We do not condone any behavior that causes members of our community to feel targeted and/or intimidated,” Jose wrote.

Jose urged students to express “how this has impacted [them]” by contacting school administrators and the Hillel House of Northeastern, an explicitly pro-Israel Jewish communal organization committed to countering SJP-related activism.

letter that appeared almost simultaneously on Northeastern’s Hillel’s website announced, “Rather than seeking to prompt dialogue, the fake eviction notices alarmed and intimidated students in their homes, in clear violation of Northeastern policy. We are in communication with Student Affairs regarding this incident, who have been quick to respond to student concerns. The administration is working with the Northeastern University Police Department to conduct a thorough investigation.”

At 10 AM that same day, members of Northeastern SJP received phone calls and visits from campus police officers. “All of the sudden the school was accusing us of an act of criminality for simply [an] act of leafleting,” remarked Geller. “A special investigation was launched for what the university claimed was a petty handbook violation and NYPD-style tactics were used against students. It was so disproportionate to what happened and a complete misappropriation of university funds.”

Geller told me the first Northeastern SJP members to be visited by teams of university police were Muslim and Arab members. “They were freaked out and scared,” he recalled. “It’s hard enough being a brown person with an Arabic name on campus. Now imagine what it was like being treated like a criminal for handing out fliers.” (Full disclosure: Geller hosted me for a discussion of my book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, at Northeastern on January 7).

Following the police investigations, the university has pursued disciplinary sanctions against two SJP members, accusing them of “endangering behavior” and threatening them with expulsion for their involvement in the mock eviction action. They happen to be the only women of color in the Northeastern SJP chapter.

According to Geller, neither student was involved in a leadership role in the organization or in the leafleting action. “It is so arbitrary and Kafkaesque what the school has done,” he said. “Instead of going after the actual leadership they are targeting two women of color with Muslim backgrounds.”

The suspension of Northeastern SJP is the culmination of a long-running campaign against the group led by powerful pro-Israel outfits based in Boston. The campaign began in the wake of David Project founder Charles Jacobs’ failed campaign to prevent the construction of the Islamic Community Center of Boston in the predominately African-American neighborhood of Roxbury. Jacobs, an outspoken anti-Muslim activist who has referred to mosques as “victory markers,” turned his attention to Northeastern, which lays just on the border of Roxbury.

Through his newly minted front group, Americans for Peace and Tolerance (AFPT), Jacobs orchestrated a campaign called “Shame on NEU.” On the group’s website, Jacobs promoted editorials baselessly accusing Northeastern SJP of “Call[ing] for the Murder of Jews” and “Cheerlead[ing] Hamas.” Together with Richard Cravatts, a communications professor at Boston University who leads the pro-Israel outfit Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, Jacobs claimed SJP was comprised of “anti-Semites, Israel haters” seeking to “justify a second Holocaust, the mass murder of Jews” and possessed with “an irrational, seething animus against the Jew of nations, Israel.”

On July 5, 2013, Northeastern University President Joseph Aoun received a breathless twelve-page letter from the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) demanding an investigation of three professors – Dennis Sullivan, Berna Turam, and M. Shahid Alam – accused by the organization of fostering a “hostile environment” for pro-Israel and Jewish students. Further, the ZOA demanded a review of course material to ensure it adhered to a strictly pro-Israel ideological line, and that the school punish “wrongdoers” for political activities both on and off campus. “Many Jewish students are feeling marginalized and even threatened on campus, afraid to express they are Jewish and pro-Israel,” ZOA President Morton Klein claimed in the letter, which was promptly reproduced and promoted on the website of Jacobs’ AFPT.

The Anti-Defamation League bolstered the ZOA and Jacobs’ crusade against Palestine solidarity at Northeastern by sending a letter of its own to Aoun demanding action against the “anti-Israel” professors.

The ZOA is a far-right organization that supports continuous, unrestricted Israeli settlement activity and the annexation of the occupied West Bank. Its national Vice Chairman, Steven Goldberg, has said that Jews who protest settlement activity are “mutants” who should have been aborted.

CC’ed on the ZOA letter to Northeastern was Robert Shillman, the multi-millionaire CEO of Cognex Corporation. A graduate of Northeastern, Shillman is identified [PDF] in the ZOA’s newsletter as “a major supporter” of the organization. Shillman has pumped his fortune into right-wing Zionist causes from the ZOA to the David Horowitz Freedom Center, which has back-channeled funding to Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer – far-right extremists identified as anti-Muslim hate group leaders by the Southern Poverty Law Center. (Geller has promoted an inflammatory 32-minute Americans for Peace and Tolerance video on her blog accusing Sullivan, a professor of international affairs and the director of the university’s Middle East Center for Peace, Culture and Development, of supporting terrorism and “shocking Jew hatred.”)

Shillman also happens to be a top contributor to Northeastern, having donating $3 million for the construction of a new classroom building in 1999 – Shillman Hall.Though Shillman is still alive, a statue of his likeness stands in the center of Northeastern’s campus, just outside the hall bearing his name.

Another wealthy pro-Israel donor who has exerted his influence over Northeastern is Seth Klarman, the hedge fund billionaire who acts as a principal financial angel for Jacobs’ political empire. Besides having backed Jacobs-founded outfits like the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting (CAMERA) and The David Project, Klarman is a major donor to the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston. And it is through the Combined Philanthropies, according to a review of 990 forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service, that the Hillel of Northeastern University received the vast majority of its funding in 2009 — $27,509 in all.

Under the tenure of President Aoun, a Lebanese Christian born in Beirut, pro-Israel forces in Boston have exerted their influence against an exceptionally malleable administration. In December, Aoun condemned the American Studies Association’s decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions involved in the occupation of Palestine, declaring, “Political differences indeed heighten, not diminish, the importance of unfettered discourse among scholars.”

The campaign against Northeastern SJP escalated when Jacobs’ AFPT created a Facebook page called, “Exposing Islamic Extremism at Northeastern University.”Threats poured in through the page, both publicly and privately, according to Geller. As Northeastern University Middle East Studies MA candidate and SJP board member Ryan Branagan documented at Electronic Intifada, one commenter said of Geller, “I would seriously introduce that kid to the inside of an ambulance.” Geller said he began receiving threats targeting his family when his parents’ home address was posted online.

In June, Northeastern SJP was placed on administrative probation and warned against future “transgressions” after its members staged a brief walkout protest of a presentation on campus by Israeli soldiers. The students were forced to issue a “statement of civility” afterwards by university administrators. The Boston Globe’s Yvonne Abraham described the sanctioning of SJP as a symbol of the transformation of American universities into “overpriced country clubs with climbing walls, sushi, and a culture of enforced politeness that is downright depressing.”

With the suspension of its SJP chapter, Northeastern University has awarded Boston-area pro-Israel outfits the prize they had been seeking. According to Geller, the episode provides the clearest proof yet that Northeastern’s administration “is more interested in appeasing outside astroturfed Zionist groups than in fostering an environment where the vigorous exchange of ideas can take place.”

My calls seeking comments from Northeastern University Center for Student Involvement were not returned.

Creative Zionist Coalition: Jessica Felber and Orit Arfa to Award Racist Pamela Geller

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The founders of the Creative Zionist Coalition, Jessica Felber and Orit Arfa are going to award Pamela Geller, the looniest blogger ever with what they are terming the “Queen Esther Award for Jewish Heroism” and Robert Spencer with the “Shushan Award for Righteous Gentile.” Apparently if you pay $180 for a ticket to the event you can be a “Royal Courtier” and $306 makes you a “Royal Adviser.”

I nominate all four of these loons get the “Gimpel Award” for their contribution to hate, racism, Islamophobia and general buffoonery in making up awards in obscene displays of self-congratulatory egotism.

Who is Jessica Felber:

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Felber works as the West Coast Director of JerusalemOnlineU.com and holds the volunteer position of YP Chair with the Zionist Organization of America. She was involved in a lawsuit in which she claimed that she was assaulted by Pro-Palestine protesters at Berkeley, her lawsuit was thrown out.

Who is Orit Arfa:

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Orit Arfa lived in Israel from 1999-2008, where she worked in both non-profit PR and journalism. Orit returned to Los Angeles in 2008 and served as Executive Director of the Zionist Organization of America, Western Region. Her main tasks were to whitewash Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, policies of Occupation and apartheid. She describes herself as an “advocate on behalf of victims of Arab terror.” She is also the author of a novel that romanticizes land theft titled “The Settler,” which bemoans Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.

It seems as though the Creative Zionist Coalition is related to the Zionist Organization of America.

Update: Jewish Federation of LA Pulls the Plug on Pamela Geller’s Hatefest

We re-posted Richard Silverstein’s blogpost on the shocking fact that Pamela Geller was scheduled to speak at an event hosted by one of the nation’s largest Jewish federations.

In the ensuing hours the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles has had the good sense to not want to be associated with such a crazed hatemonger as Geller and decided to pull the plug on her speaking engagement.

Geller is fuming and calling on her followers to flood the federation with emails and phone calls. Loonwatchers should congratulate the federation and urge them to be more careful in the future (h/t: CriticalDragon):

by Charles Johnson (LGF)

Deranged hate group leader Pamela Geller is raging and spewing venom this morning (I know, it’s her usual state) because the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles pulled the plug on her scheduled speech titled “Islamic Jew Hatred as the Root Cause of Failure to Achieve Peace.”

As usual when a Jewish organization refuses to endorse her foul bigotry, she’s accusing them of being “kapos” — Jewish collaborators with the Nazis: JEWISH SURRENDER: LA JEWISH FEDERATION SUBMITS TO HAMAS-LINKED MUSLIM GROUPS, CANCELS GELLER EVENT!!!!! – Atlas Shrugs

If you’re in LA, come to the Jewish Federation at 6505 Wilshire Boulevard at 11AM. We will be protesting this craven capitulation of the Jewish Federation to Islamic supremacist Jew-haters.

In a jaw-dropping act of cowardice and submission, LA Federation is not allowing ZOA (Zionist Organization of America) to hold the event where I was scheduled to speak this morning.

Jewish leadership is on the trains and thinks we will go quietly. This is tragic. Imagine, without so much as firing a shot, they’re caving in to a Hamas front group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Hamas’s fundamental goal is the annihilation of Israel.

This mirrors Nazi Party Representatives attending a 1933 Berlin Jewish Community charity drive gathering — back on December 20, 1933, three thousand Jews attended the first official Jewish gathering in which uniformed Nazis participated. The mass meeting was arranged by the Berlin Jewish community to open the special campaign for winter relief. And we know how that worked out.

Is it any wonder that the American Jewish left has become a problem for Israel? Who are these people? What is their role? What is their mission? What’s the point of Jewish lay leadership if they submit before their executioners? Shame on our cowardly leadership for throwing one of our own under the bus. We expect that from kapos, not from proud Jews who should hold the freedom of speech as a fundamental Jewish value.

Proud Jews and lovers and free speech will be protesting outside the LA Jewish Federation building at 11 am, and another venue will be announced shortly.

Geller has published the phone number of the Jewish Federation and the names of their board members and officials, urging her bigoted followers to harass and pressure them to reverse the decision.

Here’s the contact page for the organization — I’ll be sending them a note of congratulations to let them know they’re doing the right thing. Please join me and call or write a note of support, so they don’t get the false impression that the bigots are in the majority.

Los Angeles Jewish Federation Hosts, Endorses Pamela Geller’s Islamophobia

Richard Silverstein writes that this is beyond a shanda this is a bushah v’cherpah.

Los Angeles Jewish Federation Hosts, Endorses Pam Geller’s Islamophobia

by Richard Silverstein (Tikkun Olam)

Well, now I’ve seen everything.  In the course of writing this blog, at various points I’ve made similar statements.  But invariably an even greater outrage occurs and I have to amend myself.  Tonight is such a time.

CAIR’s daily press briefing reveals that the Los Angeles Jewish Federation will be hosting a lecture by rabid Muslim-hater Pam GellerIslamic Jew Hatred: The Root Cause of Failure to Achieve Peace.  The official sponsor of the event is the Zionist Organization of America, but she will speak tomorrow on their behalf in the Sanders Board Room, the Federation’s main meeting space.  There are several serious ironies here.  First, this board room is named after Ed Sanders, a State Department official in the Carter administration who was an illustrious member of the local Jewish community known for his dovish political views on Israel.  Second, I know Jonathan Jacoby, a senior vice president of the Jewish federation.  Jonnie was the founding director of the New Israel Fund.  Though his views were always liberal rather than left-wing (obviously, how could he get a job working for a federation if they weren’t?), but he must be squirming or worse at this development.

Here’s the Federation blurb on the event, no doubt cooked up by the ZOA itself:

“Islamic Jew Hatred: The Root Cause of Failure to Achieve Peace” with acclaimed author and activist, Pamela Geller

All too often, pundits and world leaders blame Israel for the failure to achieve peace in the Middle East. Join us as renowned author and activist Pamela Geller reveals the root cause of war in the Middle East: Islamic Jew hatred. She’ll discuss the motive behind Islam’s war on the Jews, the war against Israel, and the 1,400-year-old hatred of Jews living in Muslim lands.

Lest the federation not know this, the Southern Poverty Law Center features her in it’s racist Hall of Shame.  The hate blogger was lauded  by serial killer Anders Breivik and defended him as Think Progress noted.  Do these people know with whom they’ve gotten into bed?  To have her officially endorsed by a Jewish communal organization representing all the Jews of one of the largest communities in America is beyond a shandeh.  In Hebrew, it’s a bushah v’cherpah.

Update: Robert Spencer Whines and Whimpers After Being Exposed

Robert Spencer: Exposed

Robert Spencer: Exposed

We recently wrote about the bruhaha that occurred when it was revealed that anti-Muslim polemicist Robert Spencer was invited by the ALA (American Library Association) to participate on a panel discussing the topic, Perspectives on Islam: Beyond The Stereotypes.

To summarize, close to the date of the event one of the panelists, Dr. Marcia Hermansen, discovered that Spencer would be on the panel. She informed the other panelists, one of the panelists decided to drop out in protest while Hermansen and the other panelist decided to stay on.

In the meantime various scholars, ALA member librarians, concerned citizens contacted the ALA to lodge their protest and demand to know why a notorious Islam hater was on a panel meant to dispel stereotypes about Islam, as did groups like CAIR-Chicago and CIOGC later on. The ALA lagged in their response and the remaining two panelists decided to drop out which lead the ALA to cancel the event.

It turns out the ALA did not know a thing or two about Spencer when he was curiously lobbied for by Ellen Zyroff, the co-chair of ALA’s EMIERT’s Jewish Information Committee and a leader at the San Diego chapter of the Zionist Organization of America, and were caught like a deer in headlights when it later became apparent to them that they had invited a discredited hatemonger. They are not entirely innocent however, how they let Zyroff decide who gets to be on a panel about Islam as opposed to someone on the Islamic Information Committee (if one even exists) is an untold story in and of itself.

In response to the cancellation and unanimous rejection to his participation Spencer started to cry “bloody censorship.” He accused CAIR of orchestrating a campaign to silence him and attack free speech when in reality all of the panelists had decided to drop out independently of CAIR contacting the ALA. By their own admission, they cited the ALA’s “failure to address their concerns” as well as the ALA actively misrepresenting the event to them.

As a result of most self-respecting people not wanting to associate with his rabidly anti-Muslim discourse, the apocalyptic Spencer and his shock troops began to cry that our whole Western Civilization was now under threat.  Closer to the truth seems to be that increasing incidents, such as these involving Spencer, reinforce his marginalization and highlight who he is: a bitter, bigoted Islamophobe with an ego the size of Alaska.

Unable to let the incident go with one 2300 worded diatribe, he penned another (shorter) assault in which he turned his venom from his former ally Charles Johnson onto CAIR-Chicago Director, Ahmed Rehab, in what seems to be an outrageous display of juvenility and senility that further exposes his lack of serious academic prowess or professional standards. In it, he claims that Ahmed Rehab “strong armed” the ALA into canceling the event, and that it is all part of his campaign “against free speech” and the so-called “truth of Islamic Jihad.” In reality, Ahmed Rehab had performed his organization’s stated mission of fighting bigotry by simply exposing the facts about Robert Spencer’s discredited methodology that would earn him an F in the academic world.

Ahmed Rehab, in his own article on the Huffington Post, articulately laid out the facts and even pre-empted this obvious line of attack from Spencer by stating that,

In fact, CAIR-Chicago’s call on the ALA to rescind Spencer’s invitation was not about Spencer but about the ALA, specifically: a) questioning why a respectable organization like the ALA would secretly invite an Islam-basher for an event designed to dispel stereotypes about Islam, and b) demanding that the ALA take responsibility for its misrepresentation of the panel event to the other panelists involved and to the public, and to provide an appropriate remedy for their error.

In Spencer’s self-inflated grandiose world he is unable to see that what concerned the diverse coalition of Americans that rejected him had nothing to do with him, or censoring him, but everything to do with the ALA and what it stands for, as well as the obvious incongruity in providing a platform to someone who makes a living from perpetuating stereotypes to speak on dispelling stereotypes.

Is that really so hard to understand?

Spencer further claimed that the participants knew about the event a month in advance, but he seems to be caught in a contradiction. On July 6, a few days from the event, Dr. Marcia Hermansen discovered that Spencer would be on the panel,

From: Marcia Hermansen
Date: July 6, 2009 8:07:26 AM CDT
To: xxxx@LISTS.xxxx.EDU
Subject: Marcia Hermansen and Robert Spencer
Reply-To: Marcia Hermansen

Thanks–I didn’t know about this–I thought I was on an informational panel for librarians–I guess this turns up the heat!

“xxxx” [xxxx@xxxx.xxxx] 07/06/09 3:06 AM >>>
Dear Colleagues,

I just found out on from the MELA list that Marcia Hermansen and Robert Spencer will be on an invited panel at the Ethnic and Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT) panel at the American Librarians Association annual meeting on July 12.

What Spencer may not want to admit is that this episode was never about censoring free speech which, when one considers Spencer’s explicit endorsement and support for Geert Wilders who is on the record stating that the “Qur’an should be banned” and that “freedom of religion should not apply to Islam”, seems just a tad bit hypocritical and disingenuous.

It was about principles of consistency, of not giving a platform to Islamophobes just as we don’t give platforms to racists and holocaust deniers. In that vein it seems the overwhelming majority of people agree and as one librarian expressing her own and her colleagues’ sentiments wrote:

Being a librarian I did my own homework. I verify my sources. I can tell that Ahmed Rehab did an excellent job in laying out the facts. Just check the facts again. Call the panelists and ALA organizers. Do your own investigation. The format of this panel was totally UNETHICAL. The main reason was to sneak Robert Spencer and impose a “fait accompli” to other panelists. The whole thing was flawed.

So, let Spencer claim that the world is out to get him and there is a nefarious plot to subvert his free expression of speech. It is his right, under — you guessed it — freedom of speech, but he shouldn’t be such a sore loser when others exercise their free speech and call him out for using his free speech to push lies and support for hatred and bigotry. He can always take solace in that while the sane world rejects him, he will always have his troop of “Crazy McCain ladies” cooing over his innuendo at his David Horowitz-funded extremist blog, “Jihadwatch.”