By Eliana Rudee/JNS.org
A newly released report by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) think tank exposes the terror affiliations of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), an international campus organization that has posed an increasing challenge for Jewish and pro-Israel college students in recent years.
The roughly 50-page report claims that principal backers of SJP include “founders, financial patrons and ideological supporters who have been connected to Islamic terror organizations such as Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).”
Dan Diker, the author of the JCPA report and a former secretary general of the World Jewish Congress, described the undertaking as the first report of its kind “by a respected policy institute.”
“Students for Justice in Palestine has intensified as a network of publicly and demonstrably anti-Semitic students and faculty who publicly express support for Palestinian Islamic terror groups. This defies all norms of civil behavior on campus and even violates state laws prohibiting support for terror groups,” Diker told JNS.org.
“We wanted to unmask this group and let the public finally know what the truth is,” said Diker. “They are not a grassroots pro-Palestinian group, but a group dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish nation-state. It’s about time they are held accountable for their own behavior.”
Diker said that by presenting the information in a dispassionate and factual way, the report intends to start a conversation between alumni, trustees, major donors and senior college administrators.
The report’s co-authors, Diker and Jamie Berk, use what they describe as “well-placed intelligence information” to find that a major source of funding for SJP—at least $100,000 in 2014—comes from American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), whose leaders were previously implicated by the U.S. government from 2001-2011 for financing the Gaza-ruling Palestinian terror group Hamas.
According to the report, “Many of the leaders and top donors to these organizations were jailed, deported, or investigated for terror connections,” and “those who remained in the United States, and who are not currently imprisoned, have since migrated to AMP.”
The report singles out a leader of the SJP-funding organization, AMP board member Saleh Sarsour, who was imprisoned for eight months in Israel for using his Milwaukee furniture store to transfer money to Adel Awadallah, the leader of Hamas’s “military wing.”
Additionally, the report maintains that the individual responsible for preparing the SJP donors’ tax returns previously headed a nonprofit responsible for funding Hamas in the U.S.
Aviva Slomich, international campus director for CAMERA, a media watchdog group devoted to promoting accurate and balanced coverage of Israel and the Middle East, praised the report as a tool for students that needs to be shared widely.
“This report is something that should be brought to university administrations when there are incidences of aggressive, problematic SJP chapters and even beforehand, when thinking of starting an SJP chapter,” she told JNS.org. “It will help explain to the administration and professors on campus why SJP is such a problem.”
According to Slomich, although there are some more moderate SJP members who might be swayed by this report, SJP is a hate group whose goal “isn’t to promote education about Palestinians, but make the campus environment hostile for Israel supporters.”
Even so, Slomich remains optimistic that the influence of SJP on campus could change, as there is a precedent for campus administrations denying SJP’s registration due to the anti-Israel group’s law-breaking behaviors and neglecting of university policy.
“We should look to these universities as examples and take the same direction,” said Slomich.
She explained that SJP’s support for terror goes far beyond the funding aspect.
“To think that SJP doesn’t inspire real hate is naïve,” she said. “Students proudly wear t-shirts with terrorists on them like Leila Khaled. There were two British students who left school and joined ISIS. There are also examples from Canada and the U.S. It’s a real possibility that if you hear consistent forms of incitement coming from celebrated speakers like [Palestinian-American activist] Linda Sarsour and professors, it’s not so shocking that you would be brainwashed to be believe this hate.”
But exposing terror incitement and terror funding, Slomich said, requires being vocal about those issues.
“If we don’t speak up against something that we find is blatantly inaccurate, or even worse, anti-Semitic, there’s no reason for us to feel that anybody else will speak up for us,” she said, adding that this responsibility extends from students to politicians and school administrations.
The JCPA report’s policy recommendations similarly suggest that university donors and members of alumni communities “can serve as powerful channels for holding SJP chapters accountable by speaking to their university administration about the importance of investigating SJP, to ensure that these organizations are not operating with funding from terror-linked organizations or violating freedom of speech rights of fellow students.”
It recommends that the administrations “remain vigilant, and demand that their campus communities and state governments unmask, expose, investigate, prosecute, and sanction SJP in order to reign in extremist terror-supporting and anti-Semitic actions on U.S. campuses.”