Students for Justice in Palestine at Northeastern Banned for Telling the Truth About Israel

March 17, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


In a letter dated March 7, the administration at Northeastern University in Boston banned the student group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). The banning was in response to actions by activists in SJP exposing Israel’s policy of random, brutal, traumatic evictions of Palestinian people from their homes. (For background on Israel’s apartheid-like oppression of the Palestinian people, see “Israel and Apartheid: It’s not a ‘Branding’ Problem—It’s Reality,” at

Above, Palestinians walk through the rubble of a not-yet-completed home demolished by Israeli authorities on January 27 of this year in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of al-'Esawiyah.

As a result of wars since 1948, Israel militarily occupies much of the area designated as Palestine by the UN. These areas—still populated by Palestinian people—include the eastern part of the city of Jerusalem and much of the West Bank of the Jordan River (the western-most section of Palestine). These areas are referred to as the "occupied territories" and Israeli occupation of them is illegal under all international mandates and agreements.

The government of Israel has repeatedly expanded what it calls "settlements" in the "occupied territories" in the West Bank. These "settlements" are armed outposts of highly armed, fanatical Zionists who spread terror among the Palestinian residents of the "occupied territories."

On top of this, Palestinians are the targets of ongoing evictions to make way for expanding Israeli colonization and occupation. Often, the areas desired for seizure by the Israelis are suddenly labeled as “military zones.” Another tactic is to tear down Palestinian homes under the pretext that the residents do not have permits for home construction. Or that the Palestinians are not “legal residents” even though a family might have lived there for generations.

Photo: AP

Max Geller, a representative of SJP, told Revolution “We simulated and mimicked the Israeli practice of giving a very brief notice—four days—before demolishing homes. According to ICAHD [Israel Committee Against House Demolitions], such evictions have occurred 27,000 times since the occupation. The mock eviction notice had basic facts based on ICAHD statistics, basic facts.”

As a result of complaints by Zionist groups to the school administration, SJP has been banned for a year. Students who participated in the mock eviction were threatened with suspension from school and with criminal charges. A disciplinary hearing against two students that could have resulted in suspension or expulsion was cancelled only after 3,500 people signed a petition defending the students and school administrators were flooded with phone calls supporting them.

According to a statement issued by SJP, university police called students on their cell phones and came to their homes supposedly pursuing a criminal investigation.

This outrageous repression comes at a time of increasing isolation of Israel worldwide, and growing awareness of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people. Max Geller told Revolution that there were more than 100 incidents of pro-Palestinian campus speeches suppressed in 2013.

Ali Abunimah, who has written extensively on Israel and the Middle East, has been invited to speak at Northeastern by SJP. In an interview on Democracy Now!, he spoke to the state of repression against support for the Palestinian people on campuses: “It really is a free speech emergency. And just this week in New York City, at Columbia University, at Barnard College, students had gotten permission—they had gone through all the authorizations to put up a banner that said, ‘Stand with Justice in Palestine,’ and the university administration took it down after complaints from pro-Israel groups and basically said, ‘We’re not going to allow any more banners.’ Free speech is losing out to support for Israel on our campuses, when administrations are left in charge of people’s rights. That’s why we have to stand by the students at Northeastern and all over this country.” (July 13, 2014)

The SJP activists at Northeastern have stood strong and defiant. They have indicted the hypocrisy of the university’s claims to value academic freedom while suspending SJP. In a recent posting at its Facebook page, SJP declared: “Those throughout the country who, despite threats, suspensions, and arrests, continue to work for justice inspire us. Northeastern SJP has a message for its supporters: WE WILL FIGHT OUR SUSPENSION. WE WILL DEFEND OUR MEMBERS! We call on all our comrades and our allies to join us. We must demonstrate that we will stand up for one another against all forms of injustice—that the university can never isolate or separate us. Our sanctions become victories the moment we band together to fight them!”


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