Statement on Islamophobic Posters at SDSU & UCLA
We strongly condemn the inflammatory and Islamophobic posters that appeared on the campus of San Diego State University (SDSU) on April 14, 2016 and at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) on April 15, 2016. While pro-Israel advocates have shamelessly adopted the tactic of equating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism and smeared Students for Justice in Palestine and other activists, the naming of students and faculty in these posters represents a new–and dangerous–low in their ongoing effort to silence advocates of justice in Palestine. The posters are intended to injure not only those named on it, but to silence and instill fear in all those who might consider speaking out on these issues.
These posters are the latest in a string of virulently anti-Muslim and anti-Arab posters plastered across college campuses in recent years by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, whose founder, David Horowitz, has been called “the godfather of the anti-Muslim movement” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Since 2007, Horowitz’ center has organized Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week programming at hundreds of campuses. He has also spoken virulently against civil rights, LGBT equality, feminism, and much more. At UCLA, his targets have expanded from simply attacking students to also attacking two black faculty members who are vocal supporters of Palestinian rights.
Placing these posters on the SDSU and UCLA campuses is a McCarthyite tactic, clearly intended to threaten the academic and professional prospects and careers of campus pro-Palestine activists, to intimidate and silence. It is a fear-mongering tactic that places those named in danger of harassment and physical harm, both on and off campus.
In addition to an attack on activism in support of Palestinian rights, these posters are blatantly Islamophobic. They single out by name and demonize students and faculty for being members of a religious organization, the Muslim Students Association, which provides resources, programming, and community support for Muslim students on campuses across the country. This intimidation adds to a rising tide of Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism on college campuses and throughout the United States.
The disturbing trend of targeting Muslim, Arab, Black and Palestinian students and faculty for their human rights activism represents an increasingly common tactic for right-wing pro-Israel groups across the country. In the past year, for example, the Canary Mission website has assembled detailed profiles of hundreds of such activists and other students of color across the country, vilifying them for their activism, with the stated goal of harming their job prospects after graduation.
The linking of alleged Jew-hatred and the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS) is part of the larger campaign to falsely equate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. While groups like the David Horowitz Freedom Center slander SJP activists as “terrorists” and “Jew haters,” other right-wing organizations like the AMCHA Initiative, StandWithUs and the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) work to suppress the growing student movement for Palestinian rights by falsely accusing its leaders of anti-Semitism. From the New York State Legislature to the University of California Regents, these groups are pressuring campus administrators and local politicians to support legislation that falsely equates BDS activism with anti-Semitism, so as to set a dangerous precedent for stifling speech and suppressing activism on campus.
At a time of increasing Islamophobia, anti-Black racism and xenophobia in the United States, the concerted attempt by right-wing, pro-Israel groups to use false anti-Semitism charges to stoke anti-Muslim hatred and suppress campus activism for Palestinian rights is cynical and shameful. We stand with Palestinian, Muslim, Arab and all other students who advocate for Palestinian rights on their campuses.
We call on SDSU, UCLA and all other universities, to protect these students’ rights and safety. We call on them to denounce the posters and all such attempts to accuse students of bigotry because of their political views. We call on them to take proactive steps to make certain their campuses are a safe place for Muslim members of the school community, as well as for all those who speak out of political conviction and a commitment to justice.
In the past, administrators have reacted slowly and weakly to Horowitz’s hateful posters. This has provided him with an opportunity to escalate his attacks to the unprecedented and dangerous level of targeting individuals. The administration’s response to these new posters must, therefore, also be escalated, and must demonstrate that continued attempts to smear and endanger student activists will only backfire.
Jewish Voice for Peace
US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
American Friends Service Committee
US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel