A year after working to get a non-binding boycott, divest and sanction resolution passed at the University of Minnesota, the school has been chosen as the host site for the National Students for Justice in Palestine annual conference.
SJP is part of the national BDS movement, which has been working since 2003 to get colleges and universities to boycott and divest from Israel. The National SJP organization did not return a call seeking comment.
Campus facilities are being utilized for the conference; The University of Minnesota Public Relations office said that because SJP UMN is an officially registered student group that is independent and autonomous from the University, it, like any other registered student group, is allowed to reserve space on campus, provided they comply with relevant policies.
Minnesota Hillel has already started engaging with the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, student leaders, and more than two dozen campus and community partners to “showcase perspectives that honor our values of respect, dialogue, inclusive education, and relationship building – both during the conference weekend and throughout the school year,” according to a joint statement that executive directors of Hillel and the JCRC released Wednesday morning.
“We are alarmed that this closed-door conference is convening in our state with the express purpose of ‘advance[ing] an unequivocally anti-Zionist movement for Palestinian liberation’ and the destruction of Israel,” Hillel’s Benjie Kaplan and the JCRC’s Steve Hunegs wrote. “This conference’s singular focus on creating a world without Israel – the indigenous homeland of the Jewish people and home to half the world’s Jews – as well as their demonization of Israel and all who support the country’s existence, is disturbing. We know this focus will promote the perpetuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and maliciously divide our campus and state.
“We are troubled by a message which celebrates terrorism against Israeli civilians, dishonestly uses fringe voices to try to redefine Judaism and Zionism, disrupts events and shouts down speakers who offer a differing perspective, and stands vehemently against efforts to find common ground or create a better future for Israelis and Palestinians. Most damagingly, ‘anti-normalization’ tactics are intended to ostracize the majority of Jewish students.”
One of the organizations of pro-Israel students that have had run-ins with various SJP chapters around the country, Students Supporting Israel, is calling the SJP “dangerous, racist and anti-Semitic.”
“Last year I had the chance to be inside the SJP National conference (at UCLA), and they were shouting chants like “Intifada, Intifada,” which call for the murder of Israelis,” said Ilan Sinelnikov, the co-founder of SSI. “If you look online you can find members of SJP say horrible things against Jews, and they try to shut down pro-Israel events all over the country making the pro-Israel Zionist students feel like they need to hide.”