Nathan Bentolila
UC Berkeley student and president of Tikvah: Students for Israel Nathan Bentolila

UC Berkeley, wake up: SJP peddles hate, not justice

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Students for Justice in Palestine is preparing for its annual national conference on the UCLA campus Nov. 16-18. The event page for “Resistance in the Face of Adversity” states at the outset that “Zionism is perverse in all aspects of Palestinian life.”

It is time to expose this organization for what it really is — and what it is not. SJP was founded at UC Berkeley in 1993 and today has more than 200 campus chapters. Its sole purpose at Cal and elsewhere has been to defame and delegitimize the Jewish state. Under the guise of social justice and human rights, SJP aligns itself with student justice groups across the country, from Brown to NYU to Cal, using them to promote its own agenda. In the latest example, SJP and Jewish Voice for Peace are co-sponsoring a “Vigil for Pittsburgh and Gaza.” The original post, which was later deleted, said the event would remember “those lost to violence and hate” at Tree of Life synagogue and “the Palestinians killed by settlers and Israeli state violence” in October.

Let it be clear, there is nothing “just” about Students for Justice in Palestine, and it in no way engages in actual social justice.

SJP explicitly states that it has no intention of engaging in constructive dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian students. At Cal, SJP has consistently ignored such efforts. Its members snubbed Palestinian human rights activist Bassam Eid when he visited Berkeley in 2017, and later in the year it ignored an invitation to attend a talk by a panel of Palestinian and Israeli minorities speaking about coexistence in Israel.

From opposing the invitation of Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz to refusing to distance itself from the notorious anti-Semitism of co-founder Hatem Bazian, SJP repeatedly has exposed its bigoted motives. Last year during “Palestine Solidarity Week,” it even held an event titled Why We Can’t Eat Hummus Together.” Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

SJP does not even serve the Palestinian people! Instead it endorses policies that keep the general Palestinian population in a perpetual state of poverty and remains silent as Palestinian leaders in Gaza and the West Bank brutally oppress and deprive their people of the most basic human rights.

So, what purpose does SJP actually serve? Why aren’t its members fighting for what the Palestinians actually need?

It’s very simple. SJP isn’t pro-Palestinian or pro-justice. It is anti-Israel and anti-Semitic, and its true objective on campus is to alienate and demonize Israel and Jewish students. “We know that Zionism is ethnic cleansing, destruction, mass expulsion, apartheid, and death,” the national SJP website states in its conference “themes and goals.” It goes on to offer reason for hope because Zionism is also “a human ideology and a set of laws that … can be destroyed.”

As Martin Luther King Jr. put it, “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You are talking anti-Semitism.”

SJP distorts the truth and glorifies violence and racism against Israelis and Jews. Still don’t believe me? All you need to do is look at who the group honored at its annual gala at UC Berkeley in 2017: Rasmea Odeh, convicted of murdering two Israeli civilians in a supermarket in 1969; Leila Khaled, who took part in a plane hijacking in 1969 and attempted another in 1970; and Fatima Bernawi, a Palestinian terrorist who tried to blow up the Zion Cinema in Jerusalem in 1967. All three are convicted terrorists from organizations that seek Israel’s destruction. Glorifying people with blood on their hands is a demonstration of SJP’s malicious agenda.

It baffles me how some of the most progressive campus activists have been fooled by such a hateful and bigoted group. I never thought that I’d have to point out these blatant displays of racism and straight up Jew-hatred to the brightest students in the nation … but I guess hatred is not obvious to all.

UC Berkeley, wake up.

Nathan Bentolila
Nathan Bentolila

Nathan Bentolila is the 2018-19 StandWithus Emerson Fellow at UC Berkeley and the president of Tikvah: Students for Israel. He is a junior majoring in bioengineering.