Pro-Israel students at George Washington University have faced a number of challenges from both the BDS movement and anti-Israel groups in recent years. In 2017, the school successfully defeated a BDS resolution; however, last April a new resolution passed. A recently released report by a watchdog group highlights the rampant anti-Semitic and anti-Israel tactics that were used by members of the Students for Justice in Palestine amid the vote.
According a recent report by Canary Mission, a blacklist of anti-Israel activists and academics, 40 individuals were instrumental in the resolution’s success: Thirteen belonged to the school’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter; there were eight SJP coordinating committee members, according to SJP activist Abby Brook, four SJP-aligned group leaders; the resolution’s four co-sponsors; and 11 student senators who voted in favor of the measure, which was held in a secret ballot.
Taking a cue from Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales,” BDS supporter Liz Burkemper spread the blood libel that Israeli Jews poison Palestinian water, while resolution co-sponsor Eden Vitoff implied it is Israel’s policy to pollute Palestinian water, and murder “children and other civilians.”
Making an apparent Holocaust comparison, resolution co-sponsor Shaheera Jalil Albasit accused Israel of inflicting “forced labor” on Palestinians and capturing them “segregated into ghettos.”
SJP member Jessica Martinez co-sponsored the resolution and accused the Jewish state of “murder, segregation and occupation” while presenting her case in front of the SA.
Similar to Martinez, Tyler Katz, a now former SJP member who remarked that “the United States of America was a mostly bad idea,” accused Israel on Facebook of “genocide” and “aggression against Palestinians everywhere.”
“A struggle for Palestinian freedom is not anti-Semitic,” Katz added. “It’s the struggle for people given a place of power to be held accountable for the genocide they commit and for there to be consequences for such human rights violations.”
In that same post, Katz slammed and shared an article by a student who wrote about not feeling “welcome in the progressive movement anymore” due to its vitriol against Israel.
“At least try to understand your opposition before making such grandstanding claims,” said Katz. “Condoning genocide as a means through which you can celebrate Israel is not the progressive movement you should celebrate.”
Two of the resolution’s supporters made physical threats and other intimidating remarks. Morgan Richmeier tweeted that she would “physically fight” Zionists, while Henry Rosh posted on Instagram, using the hashtag “#makezionistsafraid” following the resolution’s passage.
The SJP accomplishment was accompanied by another victory: The student association failing to censure graduate student Brady Forrest, a former member of SJP, by the required two-thirds majority.
Forrest has spewed anti-Semitic and anti-Israel vitriol such as calling for boycotting GW Multicultural Student Services Center’s annual Winter Formal because of GW Hillel and the Jewish Student Association’s involvement. “Both organizations are complicit with and supportive of the state of Israel and programs and ideology that are exclusive and racist,” Forrest posted on Facebook.
In another post, he denounced the aforementioned Jewish groups for partaking in an event titled “Faith and the Environment.”
“[The] JSA [the student arm of Hillel] supports ‘Israel,’ he posted in a comment on the event’s Facebook invitation page. “ ‘Israel’ is currently destroying the environment of Gaza, ‘Israel’ and the West Bank. I don’t know if irony or hypocrisy is more on the nose here.”
The aforementioned students, in addition to Rosh and Katz, both alumni, did not respond to a request for comment.
Despite the pervasive anti-Israel atmosphere advanced by several dozen BDS activists, GW’s pro-Israel advocacy group, GW for Israel (GWI), is unafraid this academic year, which started more than a couple of weeks ago.
“We are not very nervous and are doing a lot of positive Israel events this semester,” GWI director of communications Elan Fox told JNS.
GW president Thomas LeBlanc adamantly denounced the BDS resolution, saying the university will not implement it.
“While I support the student senate’s right to express their views in the form of a resolution, I want to be clear to our University community that this does not represent the University’s views, and the University will not implement such a proposal,” he said in a statement.
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