Student groups calling for ceasefire and Palestine solidarity face repression by universities

In recent weeks, administrators at institutions of higher education across the country have lashed out at student groups who’ve shown solidarity with the besieged people of Palestine.

Harvard University, Columbia University, and the University of Pennsylvania are among the colleges that last week suspended student organizations—including Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) for demanding a ceasefire in Gaza—on the grounds that their activities were “anti-Semitic.” Ironically, JVP is a predominantly Jewish organization.

The latest suspension of student organizations continues a trend. In 2015, SJP at Northeastern University in Boston was banned, police investigations were launched into some students’ activities, and two students were threatened for distributing leaflets on campus.

According to the New York Times, “The universities are trying to address criticism by banning pro-Palestinian student groups, condemning slogans, and starting task forces to address anti-Semitism.” The universities’ actions arise from their equating criticism of the Israeli government and military policy with anti-Semitism.

While over 13,000 Palestinians have been killed and 30,000 injured by the Israeli state since the horrific Oct. 7th Hamas terrorist attack that killed 1,200 Israelis, these universities have no criticism of the disproportionate Israeli response or the unfolding genocide against all the peoples of Gaza and the West Bank.

JVP, responding to the Columbia ban, said:

“This is an appalling act of censorship and intimidation by the administration. The University is spuriously claiming that these groups violated university policy when calling for a ceasefire….

“The students in these groups are acting with moral clarity. They are protesting war and trying to save lives by calling for a ceasefire. By suspending Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine, Columbia has made a statement that Palestinians, students who support Palestinian rights, and Jewish students who reject the state of Israel’s actions in their name, are unwelcome on campus.”

The group said that rather than supporting students’ rights to speak and to mobilize on campus, “Columbia has chosen to prioritize suppressing speech on Israel and organizing to end the ongoing genocide and worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza.”

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Eric Brooks
Eric Brooks

Eric Brooks is Co-convener of the African-American Equality Commission, CPUSA, and Chair of the Communist Party of Indiana. He is organizing for an anti-racist society that puts the needs of working families over those of the rich.