Letter to the Editor: “On Students for Justice in Palestine, from the Zionist Organization of America”

Susan Tuchman

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To the Editor:

 
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) played a key role in ensuring that the right of Jewish students to a safe and non-hostile campus environment is protected under federal law.  The ZOA also works closely with pro-Israel students at Florida Atlantic University (FAU).

Members of the anti-Israel group, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), have tried to paint themselves as innocent victims who were unfairly sanctioned by FAU (“What is the administration trying to keep you from hearing?”).  In fact, the sanctions were well-deserved, after a police officer observed and reported that these SJP members harassed, heckled and disrupted a speech given by Israeli Colonel Bentzi Gruber last April.  Rather than respect Colonel Gruber’s constitutional right to express his views (and the right of those assembled to hear him), and then ask him tough questions afterwards, the SJP members engaged in a premeditated effort to silence Colonel Gruber, in violation of the Constitution and FAU rules, simply because they might disagree with him.

This is not the first time that SJP members have flouted the rules and the law at FAU.  In March 2012, the SJP posted 200 mock eviction notices on dorm-room doors.  The notices promoted hateful lies about Israel, causing Jewish students to feel threatened and afraid.  Even though the SJP violated university policy on that occasion as well, the group was not held accountable.

FAU’s requirement that the SJP wrongdoers participate in diversity training as part of the consequence for their wrongdoing is particularly important.  Members of this group seem to think they have the unrestricted right to do and say whatever they please under the First Amendment.  Yet at the same time, they have shown no regard for the First Amendment rights of others, believing that it’s acceptable to harass, intimidate and silence someone else’s speech simply because they don’t like it.

It’s not acceptable.  The FAU administration rightly held SJP members accountable for violating the rules and rights of others.  Hopefully, FAU will continue to do so.

Susan B. Tuchman, Esq.
Director, Center for Law and Justice
Zionist Organization of America
4 East 34th Street
New York, NY  10016
(212) 481-1500