Recent media reports typically show young women with headscarves, presumably Islamist-leaning Muslims, at the forefront of increasingly violent “pro-Palestinian” demonstrations. The barbaric attacks on Israel and Jews redoubled after the October 17 strike near a hospital in Gaza, despite (or perhaps because of) clear evidence that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had nothing to do with that incident.
The Islamist group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) figures prominently in these demonstrations. Set up in 1991 by Palestine-born US Berkeley lecturer Hatem Bazian. It now includes more than 200 university chapters grouped under the National Students for Justice in Palestine. According to a report by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Bazian has said he was inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Muslim Student Association (MSA). He wanted SJP to rebrand MSA Islamist goals so they would appeal to secular students interested in social justice. Two examples show the degree to which he has succeeded.
First, cooperation between SJP and Black Lives Matter (BLM) has been beneficial in “mainstreaming” SJP. As WSJ’s Jason L. Riley points out, for years, liberals have overlooked or excused BLM’s open antisemitism and hatred of Israel:
“For BLM activists, the greater good is scapegoating Jews, destroying Israel, and exploiting racial division. They are using an old but effective playbook to rally others to their cause. And they are counting on the ignorance, complacency, and guilt of white liberals to lend the movement credibility and power.”
Second, one can only admire SJP’s virtuosity in spinning antisemitism and genocidal hatred of Israel and Jews into the “pro-Palestinian” fervor that animates today’s violent mobs. As Alan Dershowitz and Andrew Stein explain, Hamas is the most anti-Palestinian entity in the world: it has killed more Palestinians than have the Israelis; it has used Palestinian women and children as human shields; and most recently, it has prevented civilians in Gaza from moving south to escape Israeli bombing while depriving them of food, fuel, and medical supplies. In truth, today’s rallies are not “pro-Palestinian” but simply “pro-Hamas” or “anti-Israel,” agrees A.J. Caschetta of the Middle East Forum.
Stripping away the social justice fig leaf reveals SJP’s links to Islamist terrorism. Bazian himself worked as a fundraiser for the Islamist charity KindHearts before it was shut down in 2006 for funding Hamas. Today, SJP is closely connected to American Muslims for Palestine, the US Palestinian Community Network, and Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS), organizations whose leaders were former members and supporters of Palestinian and Islamist terror organizations, including Hamas. SJP chapters regularly host terrorists as speakers at their events.
Many college administrators, particularly at prestigious universities, either sympathize with SJP or fail to oppose it. A notable exception was Fordham University in New York City, where Dean of Students Keith Eldredge blocked the formation of an SJP chapter because “the proposed club could result in the polarization of the Fordham community and in turn adversely impact the safety and security for that same Fordham community.” Today’s events vindicate him.
Bazian wants to abolish the State of Israel. And his goals do not stop there: “It’s about time that we have an Intifada in this country [USA], we’ve been watching Intifada in Palestine, we’ve been watching an uprising in Iraq [against US soldiers], and the question is that: what are we doing? How come we don’t have an Intifada in this country?”
SJP cannot operate without official backing and funding. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis set an example of what state officials can do, shutting down SJP chapters on public campuses due to their connection to foreign terrorist organizations. And private donors have been making very public threats to cut funding, in particular to the Ivy League, unless universities take action against antisemitism.
And then there is the damage done by large donations by Gulf Arab countries, especially Hamas-supporting Qatar, to many schools and professors. As Andrew Borans of the Alpha Epsilon Pi Foundation puts it: “They are literally training their students to be little jihadists. The students are doing their bidding.”
Shortly after the 1979 revolution, Iranian liberals became targets of the very Islamists with whom they had partnered in the struggle against the Shah. American liberals, take note.