Last week, the Anti-Defamation League and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law sent a letter to nearly 200 college presidents urging them to investigate campus chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine for potential violations of federal and state laws against providing material support to terrorism. As evidence for these very serious accusations, the ADL and the Brandeis center offered only the student group’s own strident rhetoric, including a sentence in its online tool kit, which praised Hamas’s attacks on Israel and said: “We must act as part of this movement. All of our efforts continue the work and resistance of the Palestinians on the ground.”
Under the direction of Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida has also ordered state universities to shut chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine. Citing the same tool kit, DeSantis said, “That is material support to terrorism, and that is not going to be tolerated in the state of Florida, and it should not be tolerated in these United States of America.” Virginia’s Republican attorney general has opened an investigation into American Muslims for Palestine, a national group that, according to the ADL, helps coordinate the activities of Students for Justice in Palestine, “for potentially violating Virginia’s charitable solicitation laws, including benefiting or providing support to terrorist organizations.” Several Republicans, including Donald Trump, have called for revoking the visas of pro-Palestinian student activists.
Ever since Hamas’s slaughter and mass kidnapping of Israelis on Oct. 7, there has been mounting fear and fury over the mistreatment of Jews at American colleges and universities. The Homeland Security, Justice and Education Departments are all taking steps to combat campus antisemitism. Congressional resolutions have condemned it. But while plenty of pro-Palestinian students have behaved in appalling ways, many also feel besieged, and for good reason.
For Palestinian and Muslim students, the invocation of terrorism law is especially frightening. Attempts to curtail anti-Zionist activism are not new; about 35 states have laws targeting the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. But now advocates for Palestinian rights describe a new level of repression. “The ADL is calling for the mass violation of students’ rights in a manner that’s reminiscent of the post 9/11 environment, but with a more intensely Palestinian twist,” said Radhika Sainath, a senior staff attorney at the civil rights organization Palestine Legal. She predicts that if federal and state governments follow through on the ADL’s demands, Palestinian activists will be subjected to an increase in surveillance, infiltration and investigation, even though their groups “pose zero threat and have done nothing but engage in speech 100 percent protected by the First Amendment.” [Continue reading…]