Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn), joined by Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Queens) and Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn), called for the “immediate suspension” of Students for Justice in Palestine from City University of New York college campuses on Tuesday in light of several incidents that have left many Jews feeling fearful and intimidated by the actions of SJP across college campuses nationwide. In writing a letter to CUNY Chancellor James Milliken that garnered the support of 33 elected officials from both Republicans and Democrats, Assemblyman Hikind reiterated the importance of suspending the “toxic” organization.
“SJP’s actions and statements throughout CUNY institutions, as well as at universities and colleges throughout the country have shown the true nature and belief of the group—nothing short of the total destruction and elimination of the State of Israel,” Hikind wrote in the letter. “Instead of promoting understanding and co-existence between Arab and Jew, the Jewish State is routinely compared to Nazi Germany and is demonized with false statements and rhetoric. SJP may claim to be an advocate for the Palestinian people and their human rights, but a closer a look at their rhetoric and actions counter that motion.”
Many Jewish students and faculty members have complained on several occasions of being fearful for their personal safety and well-being, with unfortunately some rhetoric taking a violent turn. Students have reported being pushed, spat upon and having objects thrown at them. “It’s not about an issue of ‘freedom of speech,’ it’s about intimidation and fear.”
Assemblyman David Weprin, who signed the letter in support of the suspension, echoed Hikind’s remarks, saying “acts of hate and anti-Semitism have no place in our community of civility and mutual respect. Recent acts by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) on CUNY campuses across the city leave Jewish and pro-Israel students living in a culture of silence and fear. The inciteful speech promoted by SJP and its supporters silences critical and open thought while limiting the free exchange of ideas. Hate Speech is not Free Speech and I call on CUNY to keep their campuses hate-free by taking concrete action on SJP.”
“Students for Justice in Palestine continue to stroke the flames of hatred and encourage violence and harassment against Jewish students only to see the CUNY administration respond weakly to these hate-filled acts,” Hikind continued.
Assemblyman Hikind, who publicly demanded for the establishment of a task force to probe anti-Semitism in CUNY, applauded the efforts and follow-through in the administration’s investigation, but proposed taking “concrete steps against this hostile environment.”
“We call for the immediate suspension of the Student for Justice of Palestine from City University of New York campuses, sending a clear and unequivocal message that hatred and bias have no home at CUNY,” Hikind added. “No funding should be rewarded to a group that engages in incitement and intimidation.”
Other elected officials that joined the movement to have SJP removed from CUNY institutions include: Assemblymen Peter Abbate (D-Brooklyn); Karl Brabenec (R-Orange); Marc Butler (R-Fulton); Vivian Cook (D-Queens); Brian Curran (R-Nassau); Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn); Maritza Davila (D-Brooklyn); Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Suffolk); Andrew Garbarino (R-Nassau); Phillip Goldfeder (D-Queens); Alfred Graf (R-Suffolk); Andrew Hevesi (D-Queens); Mark Johns (R-Monroe); Todd Kaminsky (D-Nassau); Ron Kim (D-Queens); Charles Lavine (D-Nassau); Joseph Lentol (D-Brooklyn); David McDonough (R-Nassau); Thomas McKevitt (R-Nassau); Walter Mosely (D-Brooklyn); Dean Murray (R-Suffolk); Felix Ortiz (D-Brooklyn); Edward Ra (R-Nassau); Nily Rozic (D-Queens) and Joseph Saladino (R-Nassau). Senators that signed on include: Ruben Diaz (D-Bronx); Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn); Jesse Hamilton (D-Brooklyn); Jack Martins (R-Nassau); Terrence Murphy (R-Dutchess) and Kevin Parker (D-Brooklyn).
While elected officials continue to show their support, one organization, in particular, has been at the forefront of the ongoing fight against anti-Israel sentiment. Zionist Organization of America (ZOA)—an organization that has condemned the anti-Semitic sentiment swirling around CUNY—wrote a lengthy letter to CUNY Chancellor James Milliken about anti-Semitism and a separate letter to Brooklyn College President Karen Gould after another incident that saw SJP protesters chant “Zionism Out of CUNY.”
“This amazing organization, led by Mort Klein, has done such a phenomenal job at bringing attention to the growing problem of anti-Semitism on our CUNY campuses,” Hikind said. “I commend Mr. Klein and the entire ZOA family for continuously speaking out against this hatred in an effort to rid CUNY campuses of this malicious rhetoric.”