Lawfare Project and Brandeis Center Urge NYU to Discipline Students for Distributing Harassing Eviction Notices Into Private Dorm Rooms

This past Friday, The Lawfare Project and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law sent a letter urging New York University President John Sexton and his administration to “firmly and forcefully” discipline students who, at 3:00 AM on April 24th, slid mock eviction notices under private student dorm room doors. Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the group responsible for distributing the notices, was recently suspended at Northeastern University for engaging in the same conduct.

  

The notices read, “Palestinian homes are destroyed as part of the state of Israel’s ongoing attempts to ethnically cleanse the region of its Arab inhabitants and maintain an exclusively Jewish character of the state. By destroying Palestinian homes, the state makes room for illegal Israeli settlements. The Israeli government itself describes this process as Judaization.”

NYU students, who were alarmed by this intimidating and harassing stunt, contacted The Lawfare Project and the Brandeis Center. In their letter to President Sexton and Vice Chancellor Linda Mills, the two organizations emphasized that the insertion of the notices into private rooms – which are “virtually the opposite of public forums for speech and debate” and are indeed spaces where “students are most vulnerable” – creates “an atmosphere of intimidation and harassment,” raising “serious issues under federal civil rights law.” Specifically, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in programs that receive federal funds, as does NYU. Moreover, in 2004 and again in 2010, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced that Title VI “applies to discrimination on the basis of Jewish ethnicity or ancestry.”

Palladium Hall, one of the two targeted dorms, is known to have a particularly high concentration of Jewish students. Indeed, Palladium is the only NYU dorm that has a Shabbat elevator.

The false allegations contained in these notices are routinely used by lawfare proponents, both to drum up anti-Jewish sentiment and to fuel the delegitimization movement against Israel. This tactic – the deliberate misinterpretation of international law and misuse of human rights terminology like “ethnic cleansing,” “genocide,” and “apartheid” – is aimed at demonizing the State of Israel by incorrectly portraying it as a human rights violator. Advocates of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement have engaged in this lawfare maneuvering in attempt to justify discriminatory boycotts targeting law-abiding civilians. Now, the practice has permeated U.S. academic campuses as a means of harassing and intimidating students who, ironically, advocate for human rights. Ignoring this discrimination is unacceptable, and The Lawfare Project calls for NYU and all U.S. institutions of higher learning to protect the civil rights of their students.

Benjamin Ryberg