"An independent investigation has vindicated a pro-Palestinian group charged with fostering an anti-Semitic climate at the nation’s largest urban public university.
PS Circulate widely.
Two lawyers hired by the City University of New York to investigate alleged instances of anti-Semitism found that expressions of political opposition to the State of Israel are not inherently anti-Semitic, and that such expressions are protected under the First Amendment. The investigation and the events that triggered it are part of a broader trend of campuses becoming political battlegrounds, where heavyweight Israel advocacy groups, like the Zionist Organization of America, spar with pro-Palestinian activists. Students for Justice in Palestine, the subject of this investigation, is a frequent target of such groups — but not the only one. “The report finds what we’ve said all along, that the ZOA’s claims that SJP engaged in anti-Semitic activity are completely unsubstantiated,” said Radhika Sainath, an attorney with Palestine Legal. The lawyers’s conducted their investigation after the ZOA wrote a scathing letter in February accusing local chapters of SJP of creating “a hostile campus environment” for Jewish students at CUNY. The ZOA, one of the country’s oldest pro-Israel organizations, has been campaigning against SJP for years. Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights have documented what they call a “Palestine exception” to free speech, which they say is a pattern of censorship on campuses and a silencing of criticism of Israel. The ZOA, Palestine Legal said in a statement, is at the forefront of these efforts. “[The report] confirmed that SJP cannot be scapegoated for accusation of anti-Semitism on campus,” said Nerdeen Kiswani, a former SJP leader at CUNY who graduated in June. “The facts on the ground are that standing against Zionism is not anti-Semitic and is protected under free speech.” Similar allegations against SJP and other pro-Palestinian groups have also been dismissed at San Francisco State University and the University of California Irvine, according to Palestine Legal. The U.S. Department of Education also dismissed complaints against pro-Palestinian groups at at UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, and UCI in 2013, and against Rutgers in 2014."