Lawfare Project letter to NYU President Andrew Hamilton concerning award to Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP)

April 22, 2019

President Andrew Hamilton
Office of the President
New York University
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012

Sent Via Electronic Mail

We are writing to you in regard to the decision to give the NYU President’s Service Award to the NYU chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) for its "extraordinary and positive impact on the University community."

The following list, which is not exhaustive, is what the general public presently knows about SJP's "contributions" to the NYU community:

1. In March of 2014, at a pro-BDS conference sponsored by four NYU departments, the then president of the NYU SJP conducted a workshop on how to organize students for anti-Israel activism. BDS is the call to engage in illegal, commercial discrimination against Jews and Israelis.

2. In late April of 2014, members of SJP put mock eviction notices underneath the doors of nearly 2,000 students, many of whom were Jewish, in two NYU dormitories. These same Jewish students reported feeling "personally attacked", "threatened" and "unsafe".

3. In May of 2014, SJP hosted a "die-in" rally with chants of "Zionist state, tear it down" which is clearly a call for the destruction of the Jewish State of Israel.

4. In April of 2018, the NYU SJP gathered a coalition of over 50 student groups to boycott two NYU Jewish, pro-Israel student groups, Realize Israel and TorchPAC. The SJP led coalition refused to co-sponsor any events with these two Jewish led groups and also vowed to target off-campus Jewish groups, such as the ADL, as well. Despite acknowledging that the university opposed the boycott of the Jewish campus groups and found it at odds with its traditions and values, the school did nothing to address this behavior with the NYU SJP.

5. Also in April of 2018, protestors from NYU SJP disrupted an event being held by Realize Israel, a Jewish, pro-Israel NYU student group. A member of the NYU SJP was arrested for stealing and stomping on an Israeli flag. “We’re not going to let them stand by and support Zionism,” SJP President Khalid Abu Dawas told Washington Square News. “Our point is to make being Zionist uncomfortable on the NYU campus.” (emphasis added)

NYU spokesperson John Beckham has been quoted in the media as saying, “many in our university community disagree with the SJP, NYU will continue to defend the rights of our students and others to express their opposing views.” Please understand this is not a free speech issue. No one is contesting the right of SJP to express opposing views on Israel. What is being contested is the manner in which SJP vocalizes its views. The activities of the NYU SJP over the years have violated numerous NYU rules and policies, and, at times, state law.

The NYU SJP shuts down events and speakers hosted by Jewish groups. Its members physically threaten Jewish students and Jewish groups on campus. Its members have repeatedly violated school policies and procedures, and at times, have been arrested for violating state laws. The group's rhetoric and activities fall squarely within the working definition of anti-Semitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which has been adopted by the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education.

In light of all of this, could you please clarify exactly how the NYU SJP has had "an extraordinary and positive impact on the University community, including achievements within schools and departments, the University at large, local neighborhoods, and NYU's presence in the world"?

It is our sincere belief, one which is shared by many in the Jewish community, that issuing this award to the NYU SJP will embolden the group to become more aggressive and hostile towards Jewish students and Jewish groups on campus. Over the years, multiple Jewish students have expressed feeling unsafe and unwelcome at NYU. The granting of this award to the NYU SJP will do nothing to assuage these feelings. In fact, awarding this group is, at best, sending it a green light to continue its hostile activities, and at worst, condoning these activities.

As such, we call upon you to rescind this award from the NYU SJP or, alternatively, denounce the fact that the student affairs staffers and the student representative chose to bestow it in the first place.

Brooke Goldstein, Esq.
Executive Director, The Lawfare Project

Lori Tucker, Esq.
Coordinator of Campus Civil Rights Initiative, The Lawfare Project

Click here for a PDF of the letter.