In mid-November of 2020, the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter at Northeastern University in Boston promoted terrorist propaganda.
In a since-deleted Instagram post, SJP bragged that they would be “reading through different strategies and theory of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine [PFLP]” in a “welcoming and accountable space where we can learn and grow from one another.” The post featured a PFLP poster emblazoned with a gun-toting militant.
The PFLP is a U.S.-designated terrorist organization and for good reason. Avowedly opposed to Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, the organization has murdered hundreds of civilians in a brutal fashion. To cite just one gut-wrenching example, in 2004, they sent a Palestinian teenager to blow up himself and others in Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market. To describe such an act as “evil” is an understatement. That’s why CAMERA on Campus rightfully admonished SJP on Facebook for their shameless glorification of such a violent group.
Remarkably, SJP can’t help but see themselves as the victims—recipients of unwarranted hatred at the hands of CAMERA and other special-interest groups who want nothing more than to “suppress Palestinian organizing” and quash righteous criticism of “settler colonies.” They said as much in a Nov. 28 Instagram post that attempts to “[clear] up [their] intentions and [make their] goals very clear.”
The relevant passage reads:
We are aware of groups such as CAMERA on Campus whose mission is to suppress Palestinian organizing, especially on college campuses, under the guise of correcting misinformation about Israel. We mention this specific group because we were recently profiled in one of their articles for apparently “glorifying” terrorism in our book club. CAMERA on Campus is one of the many organizations and groups we have encountered that consistently label us as harmful, hateful, misinformed and a danger to our fellow students. SJPs around the country spend much of our time dodging attacks and having to defend and constantly re-explain ourselves, primarily against the common accusation that critique of the state of Israel is antisemitic. SJP at Northeastern considers all settler colonies forces to critique, and we often apply this same lens to the United States.
Of course, SJP provides no examples of CAMERA-spearheaded “suppression” of “Palestinian organizing” on college campuses. It’s entirely true that we accused SJP of glorifying a terrorist organization, because, well, they did. They try to obscure this by insinuating that their actions are a “critique of the State of Israel,” but that logic is laughable. Is it, for example, a “critique of the state of India” to lionize Lashkar-e-Taiba, the terrorist organization that attacked Mumbai in 2008? If SJP chapters “around the country” are frustrated that they have to “defend and constantly re-explain” themselves, perhaps they should think twice before adulating bigotry.
SJP continues in a later paragraph:
In the past, SJP Book Club has read books such as The Wretched of the Earth by Franz Fanon, Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis and All Our Relations by Winona LaDuke. We support anti-colonial resistance in the forms that it takes, but as an organization do not condone civilian attacks nor do we plan on modeling our own organization after that of the PFLP.
This SJP chapter has no plausible deniability here. All we have to do is look back to their Oct. 16 Instagram post excoriating Zoom for its refusal to lend its platform to PFLP member and notorious former airplane hijacker Leila Khaled to see how they really feel about the terrorist group. To the SJP activists, the PFLP is merely “a group that has chosen to take up arms against Israel’s violent colonialism that has robbed Palestinians of their land and lives.” “Khaled,” they explain, “is personally known for participating in two airplane hijackings, during which no passengers were harmed.” This decision to “pick up a gun in the face of monumental and horrific oppression” was, apparently, an “extremely understandable choice.”
In all likelihood, SJP knows that their arguments are deceitful. They clearly study the PFLP, so they presumably realize that the group’s idea of “taking up arms” involves, for example, orchestrating a mass shooting in an Israeli airport, conducting suicide bombings and murdering teenagers enjoying a hike. Also hidden from SJP’s followers is the reason that “no passengers were harmed” during Khaled’s violent endeavors: During her Sept. 6, 1970 hijacking of El Al Flight #219 from Amsterdam to New York, the air marshal and a passenger found and reinserted the pin to the grenade that Khaled had opened. During the assault, flight attendant Shlomo Vider was shot and wounded by Khaled’s co-attacker Patrick Arguello.
SJP believes that Khaled’s attacks on innocent civilians are “extremely understandable,” and that her organization’s murderous track record is some kind of defensive armed struggle against “violent colonialism.” Such morally unconscionable thinking is stomach-churning; it is also widespread among activists who believe that Jewish self-determination epitomizes evil incarnate. Anti-Zionist activists at the University of California-Berkeley, San Francisco State University, University of Toronto, Cornell University, Binghamton University, Vassar College and none other than the national SJP branch, to name a few, have glamorized PFLP members and propaganda.
After their attempt to explain away their friendly treatment of the PFLP, SJP regurgitates the usual anti-Zionist talking points ad nauseum: SJP accuses “Zionists and pro-Israel students” of hypocrisy on the grounds that the Israel Defense Forces “and other Israeli military bodies are responsible for tens of thousands of Palestinian civilian deaths,” not understanding the intrinsic moral difference between a military that unintentionally kills civilians while fighting terror, and the terror groups that target civilians for murder. They claim that Israeli forces conducted a “genocidal invasion of Palestine in 1948,” concealing that it was five surrounding Arab armies that actually committed such a sin. Bizarrely, they lament “the occupation and colonization of the West Bank and Gaza,” ignoring that Israel uprooted every Jewish civilian from Gaza in 2005. Furthermore, Palestinian leaders themselves have turned down Israeli proposals that endorsed Palestinian statehood and an end to the occupation of the West Bank.
Continuing to bloviate, SJP gives an obligatory hat-tip to the strawman argument that criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitism, even though hardly anyone argues that it is, and contends that Israel has “a violent history and present,” as if the Palestinian movement has been entirely peaceful. Pivoting topics entirely, they affirm their right to “critique the idea that Israel is a democracy … without the criminalization of people advocating for Palestinian liberation.” Does such (false) critique of Israeli statecraft necessitate adoration of the PFLP? Certainly not. Would anyone in their right mind argue that critiquing Palestinian governance demands reverence for Baruch Goldstein, the terrorist who massacred Muslim worshippers at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron in 1994?
SJP’s last slide ends with a quote from the PFLP literature discussed during their book-club meeting that slurs Zionism “as an aggressive racial movement connected with imperialism which has exploited the sufferings of the Jews as a stepping stone for the promotion of its interests and the interests of imperialism in this part of the world … .” This is, simply put, wrong. In reality, Zionism is the self-determination movement of the Jewish people in their ancestral homeland—no more, no less. Israel, in fact, is an independent nation (it has no metropole) that takes up less than one percent of the Middle East’s land. Some “imperial” colony.
It’s high time for SJP chapters to understand a simple fact: In a world of nation-states, many of which are organized around ethnic identity (including religion in numerous cases), maintaining that only the Jewish state is too evil to exist is an anti-Semitic double standard. More to the point, revering those who purposely kill civilians in pursuit of such a discriminatory and destructive goal is not righteous, it’s an expression of bigotry.
Zac Schildcrout is the managing editor for CAMERA on Campus.