In a recent petition to the office of San Francisco State University president, Les Wong, the General Union of Palestine Students is having its say, as it surely deserves.
We are writing in response to the email sent to you and others by Tammi Benjamin, AMCHA initiative. We are appalled at this blatant attack against the integrity and principled position that GUPS AMED has maintained throughout their history. We are horrified by the baseless attack and allegations of anti-Semitism that have been leveled against GUPS, AMED, and the Cesar Chavez Student Center, the organizers of the 6th annual anniversary of the Palestinian Cultural Mural honoring the late Professor Edward Said.
We are proud to continue the rich legacy of justice-centered student activism at SFSU. GUPS has historically stood for justice in/for Palestine and has linked our struggle with that of all people’s struggles for self-determination, justice and peace.
We are concerned over our own safety and the safety of our friends, allies, and all those standing in solidarity with our movement, especially when their photos and names have been posted online as if to make them a moving target for violence.
This belligerent smear campaign meant to slander the Palestinian movement on campus has directly created a hostile environment that makes it impossible for us to express our views and exercise our academic freedom.
We call upon you, President Wong, to:
Condemn this smear campaign
Uphold our academic freedom as a core value of SFSU
Ensure our safety and the safety of all
The letter written by Tammi Benjamin, the co-founder of the AMCHA Initiative and a lecturer in Hebrew at the University of California, Santa Cruz, is here, dated November 18.
List of Endorsers and Signatories:
Student Kouncil of InterTribal Nations (SKINS)
Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/a de Aztlan (MEChA de San Pancho)
Dear President Wong,What I find most unusual about this exchange is the fact that, on the one hand, we have Tammi Benjamin, an academic in the California University system alerting the SFSU administration to violent threats against Jewish people on its campus and GUPS, those making the threats, suggesting that Jewish objection to anti-Jewish violence is somehow unfounded.
We are the co-founders of AMCHA Initiative, an organization dedicated to investigating, documenting, educating about and combatting campus antisemtism.
We are writing to you regarding an event that took place at SFSU last Thursday as part of the General Union of Palestine Students’ 6th Annual Palestinian Mural Celebration entitled “We Speak for Ourselves; Honoring our Forebearers”.
During the afternoon, as part of the day’s programming, there were tables set up in Malcolm X Plaza for art projects. On the tables were cans of spray paint and stencils. One stencil was an image of Leila Khaled, a member of the U.S. State Department-designated terrorist organization Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The PFLP was responsible for several plane hijackings, suicide bombings that killed several Jews, and the assassination of a Jewish member of the Israeli Knesset.
Another stencil bore the words ”MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS KILLED COLONIZERS“. In the context of the day’s events honoring the Palestinian Mural’s subject Edward Said, who notoriously accused the Jewish state of being “colonialist”, the stencil clearly refers to the killing of Jews.
These stencils were used to make signs carried by students in the plaza. (You can see pictures of a stencil and sign below).
Rhetoric that glorifies and honors the murderers of Jews is antisemitic.
GUPS received several thousand dollars to mount this program from the Associated Students, Inc. and the Cesar Chavez Student Center, as well as the co-sponsorship of the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative in the College of Ethnic Studies.
We would like to ask you the following questions:
1) Is it acceptable behavior for GUPS, a University sanctioned and funded student organization, to run an antisemitic on-campus activity that encourages students to glorify the murder of Jews?
2) Is it acceptable behavior for AMED, an official academic unit, to sponsor an event that includes an antisemitic on-campus activity that encourages students to glorify the murder of Jews?
Your reply is of interest to many in the Jewish community.
Please note that Jewish community leaders from across the state have been copied on this email.
We look forward to your reply in the near future.
Tammi Rossman-Benjamin Co-founder, AMCHA Initiative
Leila Beckwith Co-founder, AMCHA Initiative
CC: CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White CSU Board of Trustees CSU Interim General Counsel Andrew Jones Professor Rabab Abdulhadi, Senior Scholar, AMED Kenneth Monteiro, Dean of College of Ethnic Studies Andrenike Hamilton, President SFSU Associated Students, Inc. Guy Dalpe, Managing Director Cesar Chavez Student Center California State Senator Leland Y. Yee (San Francisco) California State Senator Mark Leno (San Francisco) California Assembly Member Philip Y. Ting (San Francisco) California Senator Carol Liu, Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Education California Assembly Member Joan Buchanan, Chair of the Assembly Education Committee California Jewish community leader.
It's fascinating, really.
Let's take a gander at the central assertions of each party.
Tammi Benjamin says this:
Another stencil bore the words ”MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS KILLED COLONIZERS“. In the context of the day’s events honoring the Palestinian Mural’s subject Edward Said, who notoriously accused the Jewish state of being “colonialist”, the stencil clearly refers to the killing of Jews.Does anyone suppose that when the General Union of Palestine Students refers to "colonizers" that they don't mean the Jews of the Middle East? In what other way can this possibly be taken? Furthermore, of course, even if "colonizers" refers to say, Anglos in North America, or Arabs outside of Saudi Arabia, surely calling for the murder of any despised group, even Jews, is not appropriate on American university campuses.
This is Benjamin's concern and it is my concern, as well.
The Jews of the Middle East represent 6 million people and control .5 percent of the landmass. They are surrounded by 400 million Arabs who, for the most part, do not want them there and who do not accept Jewish sovereignty on Jewish land despite 3,500 years of history on that land.
In response, GUPS writes this:
We are horrified by the baseless attack and allegations of anti-Semitism that have been leveled against GUPS, AMED, and the Cesar Chavez Student Center, the organizers of the 6th annual anniversary of the Palestinian Cultural Mural honoring the late Professor Edward Said.How can these criticisms be baseless when we have a photograph of a student holding up one of GUPS signs calling quite specifically for murder?
"My Heroes Have Always Killed Colonizers."
Well, just who are these colonizers in need of killing?
I have to say, the Nazis thought that my family was pretty much in need of killing and they did an outstanding job of it in the Ukrainian town of Medzhybizh in July of 1941.
We are concerned over our own safety and the safety of our friends, allies, and all those standing in solidarity with our movement, especially when their photos and names have been posted online as if to make them a moving target for violence.In other words, this organization calls for violence against Jews and then, given the slightest push-back by a female Jewish academic in Santa Cruz, suddenly feels that it is threatened by violence?
Given the history of hostility toward the tiny Jewish minority at San Francisco State University such a claim is fairly hysterical. It is nonsense. The fact of the matter is that it has traditionally been the small Jewish minority at SFSU that has been threatened with violence by young Arab student radicals who do not believe that the State of Israel should ever have come into to being to begin with.
Dusty from Pro-Israel Bay Bloggers has created a blog called San Francisco State Unbecoming.
On November 7, 2013 the General Union of Palestinian Studies at San Francisco State University set in motion a chain of events that served to highlight the intolerance, the bigotry and anti-semitism of their group. This site will be an archive of what transpired afterward.I would encourage you guys to check it out and use it as an archive and resource for those who want to get involved in this conversation.