Ms. Chris Griffith
Associate Vice Provost and
Dean of Student Life
Stanford, CA 94305
Re: Students for Justice in Palestine – National Conference (Oct. 25-27, 2013)
Dear Dean Griffith,
We write on behalf of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), the oldest and one of the largest pro-Israel organizations in the U.S., whose mission includes fighting anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias and bigotry on college campuses. We were recently alerted to the fact that a Registered Student Organization at Stanford University called Students for Palestinian Equal Rights (SPER) is violating several University policies, which prohibit discrimination and intolerance.
SPER, part of the national group called Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), is hosting SJP’s 2013 National Conference at Stanford on October 25-27, 2013. SPER has made it clear on its Web site that “all events for the conference are invitation-only (conference registrants and invited Stanford allies) except for Cultural Night and our closing plenary on Sunday, which will be open to the public.”
Invitation-only events are permissible at Stanford – but not in the way that SPER is doing it. When students register for the SJP’s National Conference, SPER is requiring that they identify the group they belong to. Moreover, the SPER has made it clear that when an individual registers to attend, his/her registration can be revoked at SPER’s sole discretion, based on the individual’s identity and student-group affiliation. The SPER’s registration page notifies prospective registrants that “your registration is subject to a vetting process by which we will confirm your identity and involvement in the student group you enter. We must vet all registrants. We reserve the right to revoke your registration for any reason . . . ”
There is little doubt that SPER is seeking to exclude from the SJP’s National Conference those individuals who are Jewish and pro-Israel, and is trying to weed out those individuals based on their affiliation with Jewish and pro-Israel groups on campus. There is also little doubt that SPER’s motive is to suppress free speech and open debate on campus, by preventing students from attending the SJP National Conference who will challenge the hateful anti-Israel falsehoods that will undoubtedly be promoted there.
Vilifying and demonizing Israel, and strategizing about efforts to harm the Jewish State, will surely be the focus of the SJP’s National Conference. This past Monday, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) issued a list of the “top 10” anti-Israel groups in the U.S., each of which the ADL has described as being “fixated with delegitimizing Israel.” The ADL noted that these ten groups “lob any and every accusation against Israel, including charges of Nazi-like crimes, ‘apartheid’ policies, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and genocide. Their accusations are rarely, if ever, balanced with an acknowledgement of Israel’s repeated efforts to make peace with the Palestinians, or the legitimate terrorism concerns faced by Israeli citizens.”
The SJP is on the ADL’s list of the most extreme Israel-bashing groups.
SPER’s actions, clearly intended to weed out and exclude Jews and Israel supporters from its Israel-bashing event, violate numerous university policies, including the following:
- Stanford’s Nondiscrimination Policy which prohibits discrimination against students on the basis of religion and national and ethnic origin, among other characteristics;
- Stanford’s Acts of Intolerance Protocol, which expresses the University’s commitment to a “living and learning environment in which every person is valued and respected, inclusion is assured and free expression and debate are encouraged,” and its abhorrence of “conduct that adversely and unfairly targets an individual or group” based on religion, race, ethnicity, nationality and other actual or perceived characteristics.
- The Fundamental Standard at Stanford, which requires students to “respect and uphold the rights and dignity of others,” to uphold the university’s values of “free speech” and “intellectual honesty,” and to respect university policies as well as state and federal law.
We also note that as a recipient of federal funding, Stanford is required to comply with federal non-discrimination laws which protect students from racial and ethnic discrimination, including discrimination based on students’ Jewish ancestry and ethnicity.
In addition, we bring to your attention the fact that Stanford’s Event Planning policy requires student groups to obtain University approval in order to promote and advertise their events. If SPER did in fact obtain Stanford’s approval of the group’s scheme to weed out and exclude all Jewish and pro-Israel students from the SJP’s National Conference, and to include only those students who endorse their Israel-bashing agenda, then the University has been wrongfully complicit in SPER’s discriminatory actions.
We urge you to ensure that all events for the SJP’s National Conference are open to the public. If any aspect of the conference is going to be by invitation-only, then the University must ensure that the invitations cannot be for a discriminatory or illegal purpose – to exclude Jews and Israel supporters, and to squelch free expression and open debate on campus.
Since the SJP’s National Conference is presently scheduled to begin this Friday, this situation demands your immediate attention. We look forward to hearing from you as to how it will be resolved.
National President, ZOA
Executive Director of Western Region, ZOA
Director of Center for Law and Justice, ZOA
CC: John Hennessy, President
Nanci Howe, Student Affairs Officer
Elaine Enos, Executive Director, Office of Special Events & Protocol
John Etchemendy, Provost
David Demarest, Vice President for Public Affairs