Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Massachusetts Boston put together a “March for Palestine” at the Massachusetts State House on June 24. The event began with a UMass Boston SJP member taking the microphone and telling the crowd that participants would be marching to the local offices of the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Community Relations Council. The choice of these locations seemed interesting, given that the Israeli Consulate is only a short walk away from the State House.
“I’m so sorry; I’m still learning about this stuff,” the speaker remarked about the above two organizations that SJP was protesting, clarifying that they were marching to these offices because the ADL has funded trips for police to receive counter-terrorism training in Israel, while the JCRC has paid for state lawmakers to visit Israel.
Without providing a shred of evidence, she suggested that these “trips for police have resulted in an escalation of militarization and lethality of Massachusetts police.” She also asserted that trips to Israel for lawmakers “poison[s] our representatives” and constitute an “investment in white supremacy.”
Clearly, the purpose of her speech was to blame Israel and American-Jewish organizations for domestic issues in the United States that center on race. The logic of such a stunt is simple: Listeners otherwise uninvolved in anti-Israel movements may glom on to their demagogic antics if masqueraded as “justice.”
This attempt to Americanize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was followed by the demand “that the ADL and JCRC set up a truth council and pay restitution to black and indigenous communities that they have harmed in Massachusetts.”
Regardless of how baseless their accusations, their intent is to defame, demonize and isolate the majority of American Jews and Zionists from any kind of social-justice movement.
Another speaker, a Boston University SJP member who identified himself as “Chance,” referred to the ADL, the JCRC and “a bunch of other Zionist organizations” as “some of the most powerful organizations in Boston, represent[ing] some of the most influential sections of the ruling class in this country.”
This was anti-Semitism on full display. Chance might as well have been reading from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a 1903 fabricated anti-Semitic text from Russia that speaks of a secretive worldwide Jewish conspiracy for control and power.
Chance then called law-enforcement agencies “the scum of the earth,” before labeling the ADL a “terrorist organization.”
A short time after the last speech, delivered by local educator Nino Brown, who called Israel a “cancer to the Middle East,” the group headed for the offices of the ADL and JCRC. Along the way, participants chanted “Long live the intifada!” and “There is only one solution, intifada revolution!”
These chants presumably reference the first and second intifadas, the latter an especially deadly period in Israel (2000-05) when Palestinian terrorists perpetrated suicide bombings, stabbings shootings and car-rammings against innocent Israeli civilians on an almost daily basis. In other words, young people on the streets of Boston were and still are advocating for terrorism with no pushback.
At the ADL, the first speaker from the State House was interrupted by another member of SJP, who whispered something in her ear. Immediately, she called out, “Is Dexter Van Zile in the crowd?” Suddenly recognizing him, she said, “It’s nice that you’re joining us today … [It’s an] open rally.”
Van Zile, a researcher for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA), attended the event to observe it. Quiet and cordial, he stood scribbling notes, when Nino Brown again took the microphone.
“Dexter Van Zile over here is in the crowd,” shouted Brown. “He’s a rabid Zionist with this group called CAMERA.”
Fervent booing ensued. “If you are a Zionist here in the crowd, go home,” Brown continued, leading a chant of “Zionists go home.” So much for the “open rally.”
The mob of enraged zealots proceeded to swarm around Van Zile, yelling obscenities and slurring him as a “Nazi.” They inched closer and closer, completely surrounding him, leaving him no option for escape.
As the crowd grew even more agitated, a fellow protester—wearing a kipah—urged, “Don’t give them the ammunition.” He was clearly concerned that such violent behavior would damage their cause.
Van Zile was shoved by one member of the crowd while another doused him with water.
As the kipah-wearing participant continued to admonish, “They will use this against us,” more people crowded around Van Zile, who responded with Am Yisrael Chai [“The people of Israel live on.”] Again he was called a Nazi. A young woman in a keffiyeh called him a “f**king pig” and spat at him. Before long, the mob thankfully dispersed.
Let me be clear: This violent, xenophobic and anti-Semitic mob seeks the destruction of an entire country. Their incitement to violence and terror against Israelis should not be tolerated on the streets of Boston or anywhere else. That this group became so agitated by the mere presence of a Zionist at an “open rally” as to jeopardize his personal safety is deplorable.
As a registered student organization (RSO) at UMass Boston, SJP receives funding from the school to carry out its activities, such as those that led to the verbal and physical harassment of Van Zile and similar assaults.
The UMass Boston chapter of SJP describes itself as a “group of students and faculty.” The administration of UMass Boston, a school funded by tax dollars, shouldn’t tolerate any kind of violence on the part of its students or faculty.
While peaceful discussions of opposing viewpoints should be encouraged, the rally in question was anything but that, and UMass Boston must act accordingly.
Adam Gordon is a campus adviser for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA). He is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a B.A. in political science.