The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) strongly praises Fordham University for taking a strong stand against antisemitic hate groups. On October 19, 2020, the ZOA filed an amicus brief supporting Fordham’s decision to reject an application to establish a chapter of the antisemitic, anti-Israel hate group that calls itself “Students for Justice in Palestine” (SJP) at the University. SJP is the main perpetrator of anti-Israel activity on campuses across the U.S. and frequently harasses, threatens, and intimidates Jewish and pro-Israel students.
Fordham denied the application in December 2016, after the Dean of Students conducted a lengthy review of the application and other materials, did his own independent research, and interviewed various individuals with a variety of viewpoints, including members of the Fordham community, professors, administrators at other institutions with SJP chapters, and professionals and experts with knowledge and expertise about SJP. Expressing deep concern that the antisemitic hate group SJP would “polarize” the Fordham campus, the Dean of Students explained what led to his decision in correspondence with the applicants: “I cannot support an organization whose sole purpose is advocating political goals of a specific group, and against a specific country, when these goals clearly conflict with and run contrary to the mission and values of the University.”
The student applicants filed suit against Fordham in New York State Supreme Court in April 2017, seeking to annul the University’s determination and compel the University to recognize SJP as a sanctioned club. Concluding that Fordham’s decision was arbitrary and capricious, the court annulled the University’s decision, and directed Fordham to recognize an SJP club. Fordham appealed to the Appellate Division, First Department.
The ZOA’s amicus brief supporting Fordham shows that SJP has a long record of harassing and intimidating Jewish and pro-Israel students; shutting down Jewish and pro-Israel events and programs with which it disagrees, in violation of students’ legal rights; and even engaging in violence. Even if Fordham’s Dean of Students reviewed just a fraction of SJP’s hateful conduct on other college campuses around the country, what he gleaned from his review would surely have been enough to justify his decision to reject an SJP club at the University.
In addition, the ZOA’s amicus brief shows that SJP’s conduct is not just anti-Israel; it is also antisemitic, based on the working definition that is widely used by the U.S. government and close to 30 countries around the world. Finally, the ZOA’s amicus brief shows that according to empirical studies of campus antisemitism, the conduct that the antisemitic SJP engages in has a harmful impact on the learning environment of colleges and universities, to the point that a college or university may face legal consequences under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein and Director of ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice Susan B. Tuchman, Esq. stated, “Fordham University may well be the first university in the U.S. to take an important and necessary stand against the hate group SJP, a student group that polarizes campus communities, promotes hatred of Jews and Israel on campuses across the country, and helps create a hostile, antisemitic environment for many Jewish students. The ZOA strongly praises Fordham for making a physically and emotionally safe learning environment a top priority, and for fighting Jew-hatred and the demonization of Israel. We are proud to support the University’s rational and wise decision to keep a divisive, threatening hate group off the campus.”
You can read the ZOA’s amicus brief here.