Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) strongly urged President Claire E. Sterk of Emory University to take significant action following the distribution of mock eviction notices by Emory Students for Justice in Palestine (ESJP) on April 2, 2019, which caused Jewish students to feel threatened and intimidated.
The notices contained false information calculated to incite hatred of Jews and Israel – including that Israel “routinely” gives eviction notices to Palestinian Arabs “for no other reason than their ethnicity,” and that Israel is trying to “ethnically cleanse the region of its Arab inhabitants and maintain an exclusively ‘Jewish’ character of the state.” Making matters worse, the eviction notices appeared to be endorsed by Emory University; the notices bore the university’s official seal, together with a stamp and a signature reflecting that the eviction notices received “Office of Resident & Housing Approval.”
On April 5, 2019, ZOA National President Morton A. Klein, Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., Director of ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, and Leore Ben-David, Managing Director of ZOA Campus, wrote a letter to President Sterk expressly condemning Emory University’s inadequate response to the mock eviction notices. Paul Marthers, Interim Vice President for Campus Life and Vice Provost for Enrollment Management, had issued a community message about the eviction notices that “whitewashed this group’s motives and goals, portraying SJP as a benevolent group with compassionate intentions.” Yet a 2018 study by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs described SJP as a “terror-affiliated anti-Semitic network” that “incites hatred and violence against Jewish students, and rejects the existence of the state of Israel in any borders,”
“Demonizing Israel, denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel’s right to exist are manifestations of anti-Semitism according to U.S. government standards,” wrote the ZOA professionals. “But Mr. Marthers did not even mention the word anti-Semitism in his community message.”
ZOA urged that if Emory University’s policies are to have meaning and if the university is truly committed to a learning environment that is safe and welcoming for Jewish and other students, then President Sterk should take the following steps:
- Conduct a full and fair investigation and determine whether SJP and its allies violated the Undergraduate Code of Conduct and/or the Housing Policy;
- Punish the wrongdoers if it is determined that SJP and its allies violated any policies;
- Discontinue the practice of placing the university seal on SJP and other student group flyers;
- Issue another community message which addresses the concerns raised in the letter to President Sterk.