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SJP Violated UNC’s Policies; Why Isn’t the Group Suspended?

Students sit on the steps of Wilson Library on the campus of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, US, Sept. 20, 2018. Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

What will it take for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) to suspend the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter (UNC-SJP) on campus?

One day after Hamas killed 1,200 Israelis, took 240 hostages, and raped and tortured many others on Oct. 7, UNC-SJP proclaimed on social media: “It is our moral obligation to be in solidarity with the dispossessed, no matter the pathway to liberation they choose to take. This includes violence.”

On Oct 12, UNC-SJP held a “Day of Resistance Protest for Palestine” on campus. The event flier celebrated terrorism by featuring a Hamas paraglider en route to kill Israelis and commit other atrocities. In a widely circulated video, a protester shouted, “All of us Hamas.”

Given that UNC is now being probed by the Federal government for its treatment of the Jewish community, it seems like a prudent time for the school to take action against SJP for violating university policies.

State Rep. Jon Hardister (R) — the NC House Majority Whip — wrote the following to UNC’s Vice President for Safety & Emergency Operations, to UNC’s Provost, to UNC’s Chief of Police, and to other campus officials: “I do believe the use of paraglider imagery in the pamphlet that was circulated is out of bounds and could be construed as inciting violence.”

Writing to a member of the Board of Trustees, UNC’s Provost, Christopher Clemons, stated, “There is no doubt the flyer represents a celebration of violence and murder.”

Before the rally, UNC-SJP publicly “recommended” protestors wear “face coverings” to this outdoor event, even though campus policy states that masks may not be worn to “conceal identity.” UNC-SJP also posted on social media that “masks are required for all events going forward.” Students, faculty, and community members with whom I have spoken see as an attempt to conceal the protestors’ identities.

A UNC student told me that Jewish students who were silently counter-protesting this event on Oct. 12 were approached by two masked activists who allegedly said, “Let’s fight,” and allegedly brandished knives. An Israeli professor was pushed down stairs.

Fifty UNC students — the majority of whom are Jewish — wrote to a US senator: “Jewish students at UNC do not feel safe.” They report that on Oct. 12, UNC-SJP members allegedly “threatened several peaceful protesters with violence, and some brandished pocket knives and threatened our members.”

The next day, W. M. “Marty” Kotis III — a member of UNC’s Board of Trustees — sent an email titled “Free Speech vs Inciting Violence Line” to the Provost and other UNC leaders, pointing out that in Sept. 2023, UNC provided its SJP chapter with $1,380 in funding.

Kotis wrote, “We want to support protected free speech — but there are classes of speech that are not protected — inciting violence, true threats, fighting words and obscenity are four of them.”

Kotis wrote to the Chancellor and other UNC officials: “This recent [Oct. 12] protest seems to violate NC Statute 14-12.8 as well as University policy.”

The statute forbids individuals in North Carolina from wearing masks or other coverings to “conceal the identity of the wearer.”

In October, UNC-SJP held a “a week of action” with five events. The flier stated, “MASKS REQUIRED AT ALL EVENTS.”

In response, a leader of the Jewish community on campus wrote to the Chancellor: “For all of the SJP programs this week they are requiring masks to preserve the anonymity of those present. As we saw on Thursday [Oct. 12], the masks are also a sign of intimidation allowing people to say and do things they would not feel comfortable doing if they were being held accountable … it highlights the real security concern and fear Jewish students have of this group on campus.”

A tour guide recently told a woman I met that UNC’s campus had become unsafe due to SJP rallies.

On Nov. 28, I attended the event “No Peace Without Justice: A Round-Table Talk about Social Justice in Palestine,” hosted by several UNC departments. A speaker, Rania Masri, told the audience, “Oct. 7 for many of us from the region was a beautiful day” and added, “Let us demand the eradication of Zionism.”

There were SJP activists in attendance. As this picture shows, people were sitting closely together inside and not one person appeared to be masked. Yet, when protesting outside, we have seen that most SJP activists and their allies wear masks. It seems clear that masking is about concealing the identities of protestors and not about health safety.

The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has just opened an investigation to determine if UNC “responded to alleged harassment of students based on national origin (shared Jewish ancestry) in a manner consistent with the requirements of Title VI.”

A group of more than 100 UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School (KFBS) graduates, students, and professors sent an email to Dean Mary Margaret Frank asking that KFBS resources not be used by SJP or “any other UNC affiliated groups that have engaged in violent antisemitic rhetoric on campus.”

UNC-SJP has boasted on social media about purposely disrupting the campus: “On Friday, November 17, a group of about 40 members of SJP and allied organizations occupied South Building for a total of 3 hours, shutting down administrative operations for the day.” A video taken from this shutdown shows masked activists chanting, “Intifada Intifada, long live the Intifada.”

When walking on UNC’s campus, I have personally seen chalkings calling for “Intifada” and “From the river to the sea,” which Jews understand as calls for violence and genocide. Another chalking says, “Long live the PFLP!” The PFLP is the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which the United States has designated a terrorist group.

University officials need to take the safety of their students seriously, as Elizabeth Magill learned from her recent resignation as President at the University of Pennsylvania.

Kotis wrote to UNC’s chancellor about the shutdown of South Building: “It violates our honor code and federal protections. It constitutes harassment. Such calls for genocide or global jihad present a clear and present danger to our campus.” He added, “The disruption violated Policy 1300.8.”

This policy states that “Students, staff, and faculty shall be permitted to assemble and engage in spontaneous expressive activity as long as such activity is lawful and does not materially and substantially disrupt the functioning of the constituent institution.”

The SJP chapter at Rutgers University was recently suspended, in part, for “disruptive or disorderly conduct” and for “occupying” the business school. Four or more SJP chapters have been suspended nationwide since the attacks of Oct. 7. It is time for UNC to hold its SJP chapter accountable for inciting violence, purposely concealing their identities during protests, disrupting campus administration, and creating a hostile campus environment for Jewish students.

Peter Reitzes writes about issues related to antisemitism and Israel.

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Tribute: Rabbi Dovid Schochet, 91, a pioneer in building Toronto’s observant community

The Jewish community in Toronto lost a towering leader when Rabbi Dovid Schochet, the president of the Toronto Rabbinical Council and the senior rabbi of the Chabad community in Toronto, passed away at the age of 91 on Jan. 28. He was born in 1932 in Basel, Switzerland, the second of 10 children, to Rabbi […]

The post Tribute: Rabbi Dovid Schochet, 91, a pioneer in building Toronto’s observant community appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Attacker in 2021 Antisemitic Assault in New York Sentenced to Three Years in State Prison

Joseph Borgen, victim of an antisemitic attack, addressing a rally in Long Island. Photo: courtesy

The final criminal proceeding for the case of Joseph “Joey” Borgen, a Jewish man whom a gang of antisemites mauled and pepper-sprayed in broad daylight during protests and counter-protests over Israel’s 2021 war with Hamas, resulted in another conviction Wednesday.

Mohammed Said Othman, 29, was sentenced to three years in state prison, according to a press release issued by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg.

Borgen, who is Jewish, was wearing a kippah while walking in Manhattan when Said Othman, along with several other men, ambushed him without being provoked. They shouted antisemitic slurs at the pro-Israel advocate, who suffered a concussion, wrist injury, black eye, and bruises all over his body.

Since then, three other sentences have been handed down in the Borgen case. Waseem Awawdeh, who continuously struck Borgen with a crutch while allegedly joining the others in shouting antisemitic epithets at him, pleaded guilty to attempted assault as a hate crime and received 18 months in jail, as part of a plea bargain negotiated with Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Jonathon Junig.

In November, Mahmoud Musa received seven years in prison for his role in the attack. In December, Mohammed Othman was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in state prison and five additional years of post-release supervision.

As seen in footage of the incident, Othman kicked and repeatedly struck Borgen in the face while sitting on his chest to weigh him down. In court, he pleaded guilty to gang assault and third-degree hate crime assault.

“These defendants violently targeted and assaulted another individual simply because he is Jewish,” District Attorney Bragg said in a statement. “While this office always supports the right to peacefully protest and engage in open dialogue, these multi-year prison sentences makes clear that physically attacking someone because of their religion is never acceptable. I thank our hate crimes unit for its diligent work in this case.”

Throughout the criminal proceedings in his case, Joey Borgen called on New York City lawmakers to do more to eradicate antisemitic hatred in the five boroughs.

In December, he told The Algemeiner that while he is pleased with the outcome of the case he is worried that the group with which his attackers were allegedly affiliated, the extreme anti-Zionist organization Within Our Lifetime (WOL), is still engaging in antisemitic activity that could lead to more hate crimes.

Since Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, WOL has posted (and deleted) a map, titled “Know Your Enemies,” showing the addresses of Jewish organizations in New York City, and staged numerous disruptive protests. The group is led by Nerdeen Kiswani, a former City University of New York (CUNY) student who once threatened to set on fire someone’s Israel Defense Forces (IDF) hoodie while he was wearing it.

“They’re still causing havoc; they’re forcing Jewish attendees of a fundraiser to speak at the backdoor of a police van, and they’re bombarding the mother of a hostage with horrible antisemitic chants,” Borgen said. “While I’m happy that I got a positive result in my case, I’m still disturbed that this same group is still going around causing issues for Jewish people, attacking restaurants, and putting people in danger.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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See Mark Breslin live in conversation with Ralph Benmergui

A special live taping of our podcast ‘Not That Kind of Rabbi’.

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