JVP Commends Findings from CUNY Report on Anti Semitism
September 13, 2016–Jewish Voice for Peace commends the thoughtful and thorough independent investigation into claims of antisemitism on City University of New York (CUNY) campuses. The investigation, conducted by Paul Shechtman, a former federal prosecutor, and Barbara Jones, a former federal judge, concludes that “the picture that has emerged is not one of unchecked anti-Semitism,” and that advocacy in support of Palestinian rights by members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) is constitutionally-protected speech.
The report expresses concern over a “tendency to blame SJP for any act of anti-Semitism on any CUNY campus,” noting that there was no link to SJP in the incidents under investigation. Not only do false accusations of antisemitism cause harm to individuals involved in Palestinian rights advocacy, as we have seen at Brooklyn College, but it also is harmful to the goal of fighting all forms of oppression, including both anti-Jewish and anti-Palestinian bigotry and violence. False accusations of antisemitism make it more difficult to challenge antisemitism when it does occur.
This investigation, initiated following complaints from the Zionist Organization of America, also came out against calls to ban Students for Justice in Palestine from CUNY campuses and noted that, “regrettably, CUNY has also seen its share of Islamophobia.” As JVP campus coordinator Ben Lorber noted in a letter to CUNY leadership in March 2016, the CUNY administration has consistently neglected to address threats, surveillance and hate speech directed towards Palestinian, Arab and Muslim students on CUNY campuses.
Expressing support for Palestinian rights and criticism of the State of Israel are protected forms of free speech. Distinguishing between antisemitism and criticism of Israel is crucial to ensuring that we can do the necessary and urgent work to oppose all forms of oppression.
For resources regarding what antisemitism is and what it is not, please see JVP’s policy statement on fighting antisemitism.